Maintenance is key in avoiding a sewer line backup
If you are like many homeowners, then you likely remember to address the periodic duties of home maintenance, such as having you’re air conditioning system checked, getting the gutters cleaned and winterizing your heating system. But what about having your main sewer line cleaned?
This is one of the most overlooked maintenance tasks, yet it has the potential to cause nasty water damage with expensive cleanup costs. Don’t wait to find out the hard way that the sewer needs to be cleaned.
What causes a sewer line backup?
There are many reasons why residential main sewer lines backup. Common causes are attributed to tree root intrusion, grease accumulation or pipe scale buildup. Before we discuss how often your sewer line should be cleaned, it is important for you to have an idea of the type of sewer you have.
Clay sewer lines
If your home was built before the mid 1950s, you likely have a clay sewer line. This type of sewer line was first installed using multiple sections of pipe measuring approximately three feet long with a joint at each end. With the average sewer line running 50 feet, there are a lot of joints where trees roots can enter and ultimately feed off the water in the line.
If tree roots are left to grow, they will become thick, and solids (such as toilet paper) will cling together and eventually cause a blockage. I typically recommend that these lines be professionally snaked using root cutting equipment at least one time per year.
Depending on the amount of roots pulled out of the sewer, I may suggest a strong environmentally safe chemical treatment as a follow-up to kill remaining roots and inhibit re-growth.
Fiber conduit sewer lines
From the late 1950s through the 1960s, a supposed “new and improved” sewer line was installed in residential homes. Fiber conduit, or more commonly referred to as Orangeburg, was manufactured out of rolled wood pulp and tar.
Tree root growth into these lines is rare. However, it was found over time that these lines deform in shape. Like wet cardboard, fiber conduit will slowly egg shape and negatively affect how the sewer flows.
A professional sewer and drain cleaner will choose the correct cleaning method, such as high pressure water jetting to safely and effectively clean this kind of sewer. A CCTV video camera inspection can verify if your sewer is made of fiber conduit. I recommend that these lines be cleaned at least every year, depending on how bad the line is deformed.
Cast iron sewer lines
From the 1970s up to present day, heavy-duty cast iron pipe has been the sewer line of choice. Unlike like clay and fiber conduit, cast iron has fewer joints and is incredibly strong.
The downside to this material is the formulation of pipe scale. Because the pipe is made of iron, hard rusty deposits will form on the inside of the pipe. Like barnacles on the side of a ship, pipe scale will catch solids and ultimately cause a blockage.
If your cast iron line has not been cleaned in awhile, I recommend that the line be high pressure water jetted to scour and smooth out the inside of the pipe. Moving forward, the line should be snaked one time per year.
After leaving an emergency sewer backup job, many of our new customers ask the common question, “How do I prevent my sewer from backing up again?” My response is always the same: “Maintenance, maintenance, maintenance!”
Consult a professional sewer and draining company who will take the time to discuss your options and tailor a maintenance program that is effective, affordable and will keep you flowing trouble free.