A collapsed or broken sewer line is one of the worst plumbing problems you can experience. Not only will this issue make your plumbing unusable, but it can also result in sewage flooding your yard and/or home. Although the issue is rare, sewer lines can collapse because heavy rains cause the ground to shift and settle.

A sewer line can also collapse simply due to age, and this is especially common with old cast iron or clay sewer lines in San Jose, CA. In this article, we’ll explain the signs that can indicate that your sewer line has collapsed. This includes the options you may have for repairing or replacing the line.

Constant Sewage Backups

One of the first things you’ll notice if your sewer line collapses is that you start experiencing constant sewage backups any time you try to use your plumbing. If a sewer line collapses, all the water and waste that goes down drains or toilets won’t be able to drain out into the municipal sewer main under the street. This means the remaining section of the sewer line will quickly fill up to where the waste has nowhere to go. It will start flowing back out of your house.

Backups will occur at the drains in the home that are at the lowest height. This usually means floor and shower drains in the basement or on the main floor if the home has a crawl space or concrete slab foundation. While it happens rarely, sometimes sewage can also start backing up and overflowing out of toilets.

Whenever you start experiencing issues with sewage backups, it’s important that you stop using your plumbing immediately. If not, you’ll end up with an even bigger mess to clean up. Everything that goes down a drain or toilet will just come back up elsewhere in your home.

Sewage backups will also occur if your main sewer line is completely clogged. A plumber will first use a rooting machine to try and clear out the sewer line whenever you’re experiencing constant backups. This process will allow them to determine if the sewer line is just clogged or if it has collapsed. This is important because they won’t be able to feed the auger and cable all the way through the line if it has collapsed at any point. In some cases, they may feed a camera down into the line to check for breaks, cracks, tree roots, and other issues.

Toilets Don’t Flush Properly or Are Sluggish

Any type of sewer line problem will create various other issues for your plumbing fixtures. If your sewer line is starting to fill up because it’s clogged or collapsed, you’ll usually start noticing that your toilets are slow and sluggish or don’t flush completely. Any time you notice this issue occurring in more than one toilet, you’ll want to start regularly monitoring the floor and shower drains to see if they start backing up.

Sewage Smell Outside Your Home

Another obvious indicator that your sewer line is collapsed, cracked, or leaking, is if you start noticing a strong smell of sewage. If a sewer line is leaking, all the sewage will start to soak into the ground until it becomes quite waterlogged and starts to smell. Sewage leaking into a yard will also start to attract various pests, so this is another thing to watch for.

Lush, Fast-Growing Patches on Your Lawn

A leaky sewer line may cause the grass or vegetation near the leak to start growing faster and looking lusher and greener compared to the rest of the yard. This happens because the water nourishes the grass, and the sewage basically acts like fertilizer.

Standing Water or Soft, Spongy Ground

This issue is less common in cold climates where sewer lines are buried much deeper underground to prevent them from freezing. In San Jose, many places only require the sewer line to be buried two feet deep. Some places only require it to be one foot below the grade of the yard. When a sewer line that is shallow collapses, all of the wastewater that leaks out can make the soil waterlogged. You may start to get pools of standing water in the surrounding area. You may also find that the ground is unusually wet, or that some areas feel soft and spongy when you walk on them. These issues are likely to occur if the main water line that feeds your home leaks. You will notice a smell if the pools you see are sewage and not fresh water.

Water Seeping Into Your Home

If part of the sewer line near your foundation collapses or is leaking, it can result in water beginning to seep into your home. With a slab foundation, this means water starts to come up through the foundation floor, creating noticeable wet spots on the ground. If your home has a crawl space or basement, the water may instead start seeping through the wall of the foundation. The reason that this can happen is that concrete is porous enough that water can seep through it if the ground around it is waterlogged. This issue is rare, though. You will usually notice other issues, like sewage backups, before enough water leaks out to completely soak the ground.

Options for Replacing a Broken Sewer Line

The options you have for overcoming sewer line issues depend largely on the extent of the damage to the sewer line. The exact location is also important. If the sewer line is just leaking due to minor cracks or holes, it can often be repaired through a process known as trenchless pipe lining. This involves inserting an epoxy-coated, inflatable tube into the sewer line. As the tube is inflated, it completely fills up the pipe. It is then cured and left to harden so that the epoxy bonds to the existing pipe. It fills in all the cracks or holes. This process basically creates a durable new pipe inside the existing sewer line, which will usually last for at least 15 to 20 years when done correctly.

If the sewer line is completely broken, collapsed, or has major damage, it is often possible to replace it without the plumber needing to dig it up. Trenchless sewer replacement involves pulling a cable through the pipe that has a special bit or bursting head attached to it. This bit completely breaks up the original pipe and creates a void. The cable is then used to pull a flexible pipe into the void where the old pipe was. Once the new pipe is in place, all the plumbers need to do is dig a small hole next to the foundation and another hole in the street to attach the pipe to the home and the municipal sewer main.

Unfortunately, trenchless sewer repair or replacement isn’t possible in all situations. This means that your option may be to dig a large trench in your yard. This will allow plumbers to access the sewer line to repair it or install a new line.

Ribbs Premier Services Plumbing is a family-owned company specializing in sewer line repair and replacement in the San Jose area. We offer both traditional and trenchless sewer repair services, and our team can also take care of all your other drain, sewer, and plumbing needs. To schedule a sewer line inspection or any other service, contact us today.

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