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Common Signs of Sewer Pipe Damage

Most people spend little time, if any, thinking about the sewer line installed to their home, but ‘out of sight, out of mind’ is not great advice when it comes to your household plumbing. Hidden leaks can cause significant property damage and dramatically increase your water bill. Perhaps more importantly, when left un-repaired, they can cause serious health problems. And while we rarely think about the sewer line to our home, a broken or damaged sewer pipe can be every home-owners nightmare.

Your home’s plumbing system takes a lot of abuse, and the sewer line takes the brunt of that abuse. It stands to reason that your plumbing system is going to experience problems at one time or another. Sewer pipes act as a conduit for the removal of waste materials, meaning they’re responsible for removing the unpleasant and nasty matters out of our home. In particular, sewer pipes take care of wastewater and bits of debris contained within the water.

What Are Sewer Pipes Constructed From?

In homes built before the 1950s, sewage pipes were manufactured from materials like clay, cast-iron, and a fiber conduit known as Orangeburg. While you may still see cast iron sewerage pipes today, most homes now use ABS and PVC pipes. Cast-iron is still popular because of its strength and there’s little likelihood of overloading cast-iron pipes because they can easily handle the pressure. In fact, you should be glad if you have a cast iron sewer pipe installed in a home you purchased, or perhaps you even requested one during the construction of your home.

When it comes to sewer pipes, leakage can be a major problem; it can very significantly affect your home, everyone inside your home, and everything around your home. 

Below we’ve listed the main signs that your sewer pipe has sustained some type of damage. These signs are also the reasons why you should contact a leak detection service to determine the exact problem.

Slow-Moving Water Inside Your Home

One of the main signs of drainage problems in your home is when you notice that water is draining from your sink, handbasin, shower etc. much slower than before. While this is a common issue and many homeowners ignore it as a problem that will clear up by itself, in reality, if these small clogs happen frequently enough, they can cause damage to your sewer pipes. This is even more true if chemical cleaners are used to clear small blockages because those same cleaners can damage sewer pipes. A slow, clogged drain infers that there’s a blockage somewhere; we suggest you call a professional before it leads to a sewage backup.

A Gurgling Toilet

You could have a broken sewer line if you notice that your toilet makes an unusual noise, a kind of gurgling sound, after flushing. This gurgling occurs because air is trapped and then abruptly released, meaning there’s a leakage that’s allowing air, or sewer gas, into your sewer line. The gas becomes trapped because there’s a blockage in the venting system itself. Instead of the sewer gas going out the usual exit, it detours via the toilet bowl. While a gurgling toilet is not indicative of a broken pipe, it could mean you have a clogged pipe, which could end up damaging the pipe if it persists.

Mineral Deposits Appear Around Household Drains

When household water from sinks, toilets, bathtubs, and so on are draining slower than usual, you may begin to notice white-coloured mineral deposits around the surfaces of these fixtures. While these mineral deposits are not a major problem and can easily be cleaned up, it does suggest that something may be wrong.

Changing Water Levels in Toilets

When you notice changing water levels in your toilets, it could be a sign of a damaged sewer pipe. Of course, it could also be a sign of a malfunctioning toilet, in which case the problem will identify as the standing water being abnormally low or abnormally high. You may also notice a change in water levels if the toilet has not been used. Unfortunately, you won’t really know whether the issue is related to the toilet or a damaged sewer pipe unless you get it checked out.

A Strong Smell of Sewage in Your Home

When your household plumbing is working correctly there should never be any odor emanating from your drains. If you do begin to notice a strong sewerage smell in your home it’s time to determine what’s happening with your pipes, because when the pipes in the system itself are in good working order you will never detect any sewerage smell. Your sewer system is specifically designed to be an airtight system, and if left even slightly open it will release a very unpleasant odor.

Sewer gas smells like rotten eggs, and that’s because it contains hydrogen sulfide. You may be tempted to ignore the odor because it’s only a lingering smell in your basement, but we now know that extended exposure to sewer gas can lead to bouts of dizziness, sinus infections, headaches, bronchitis, and even pneumonia. Even your pets will be adversely affected by the sewer gas. 

We therefore suggest that you don't ignore the smell and take immediate action to avoid any damage to your home or health issues with your family.

Mold or Mildew on Ceilings, Walls, or Floors 

Noticeable wet spots on floors, walls, and ceilings of your home can be a sign of a broken water pipe or collapsed sewer line.

The growth of mold and mildew is a clear sign that there’s an over-abundance of moisture and that your sewer lines are leaking somewhere behind your walls. When this occurs, it means the humidity level has risen to a point where mold is happy to grow. Because we quite often see mold fungus on all kinds of surfaces, including our homes, you may not immediately recognize that these are signs of trouble. What we need to understand is that mold needs moisture in order to thrive, and mold is a sure sign that you may have a damaged pipe. 

If you have mold growth in your home in addition to a sewer odor, it’s highly likely that there’s a break in your sewer drainpipes. If you do notice mold in your home, it’s really important that you take action immediately. If not attended to straight away, infiltration from a water or sewer line can instigate the spread of mold and mildew fungi, whose spores can create a number of mild allergic reactions - like a rash and runny nose - and serious reactions like shortness of breath and even asthma attacks. 

Both elderly and young people living inside the home could be seriously affected by mold, so you need to seek help and get to the root cause of the mold as quickly as possible. In addition, the mold spores can damage the interior, exterior, or foundation of your home because of their ability to eat through organic building materials. Failure to address the leak will encourage mold to return and take over your home.

Rodent and Insect Infestations

Rodent and insect infestations are, unfortunately, another sign that your sewer line needs repair. Local pests typically look for areas where there’s a lot of moisture, which is precisely what you get with a damaged sewer line. Think about pests, like cockroaches and rats, that lurk in the damp corridors of city sewers – you don’t want that in your home! The pests will access the sewer line through small holes, breed in the stagnant water, and suddenly you have a rodent or insect infestation. Also keep in mind that these sewer-dwellers carry diseases, so you should avoid any likelihood of this ever occurring in your home by ensuring your broken or damage sewer pipe is replaced or repaired as quickly as possible.

You Notice a Patch of Lush, Green Lawn

One of the more obvious sign of a damaged sewer pipe is when you notice that you have a patch of lovely green lawn. While your lawn may look great, the ramifications of a damaged sewer pipe won’t be so great. As you can imagine, the contents of your sewer pipe make an ideal lawn fertilizer. Both water leakage and the substances in the wastewater leaking from your pipes helps your lawn thrive. So, if you notice that you have an especially green and healthy patch of lawn, take a closer look to determine if you may have a damaged sewer pipe.

If you should notice puddles in your yard, it could be that a sewer-pipe leak is causing water to build up. If there’s a nasty smell in addition to these puddles, you need to contact a plumber immediately. These stinky puddles will attract pests like rodents and mosquitoes which could eventually find their way into your home.

Indentations and/or Soft Spots in Your Yard

A sewer line leakage allows water to continually seep into the soil, softening up the ground. If this continues for a period of time, you’ll start creating holes or indentations on the ground just by stepping on it. Moisture will ooze from the ground because it’s become saturated, causing the soil to become displaced – basically, the top layer of the ground will sink in. You’ve probably got a broken or damaged sewer if you’re noticing clear indentations on your lawn. 

These damaged areas are dangerous for pedestrians as your shoe or foot could easily catch in a hole. And again, these holes and indentations make wonderful nests for the pests we never want to see in our homes. 

Damage to the Asphalt, Foundation, or Walls

A broken sewer pipe is probably the reason behind the cracks forming in your house foundation or in your driveway. The deterioration, perhaps even sinking, of your pavers or asphalt occurs when the sewer travels underneath your pathway or driveway. 

Because we now know that the water coming from the broken sewer pipe is dramatically softening the soil, it’s eventually going to weaken the foundation of your home. You built your home on solid ground, but that ground has now gone soft and mushy. At first you may notice that the foundation appears uneven, but eventually you’ll see cracks starting to appear. 

If you suddenly notice new cracks appearing in your walls, it could mean there’s a leaking sewer line beneath your home that’s causing cracks in the foundation. Get help immediately for this problems to prevent foundation or structural damage to your home.

This is why broken sewer pipes must be fixed immediately. Yes, it may be costly, and it will certainly be inconvenient, but these will be nothing compared to what you’ll be required to pay if your home’s foundation is severely damaged.

Why Do Sewer Pipes Break?

The two main reasons why sewer pipes connected to your home may become damaged or break are –

  • Age: Your home’s sewer pipes will last a long time, but they won’t last forever. With natural wear and tear, the sewer pipes will eventually stop working to full capacity and therefore require attention.
  • Clogging: Pressure building up near where there’s a blockage leads to pressure building, and all that excess pressure can cause the pipe to burst.

In Conclusion

While we don’t expect you to constantly think about the sewer line to your home, we do suggest that you act quickly if you notice any of the signs mentioned above. While a damaged sewer pipe is an inconvenient expense, it can cause serious problems to both your health and your property if not rectified quickly. Yes, your drainage system could well function effectively for a few days following a sewer line breakage, but eventually the problems will start showing themselves.

You need professional assistance if you’re experiencing any of the above issues with the sewer system of your home or business premises. An occasional clog can occur, and these often clear themselves, however, a clog that affects all the drainage outlets of your home or office are probably due to a broken sewer line. You need professional assistance.

If you have any sewer-related problems, please call ProForce Plumbing on 833-877-3278. We’re at your service!

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