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What Causes Sewer Lines to Collapse?

What Causes Sewer Lines to Collapse?

Total sewer line collapse isn’t common, but you shouldn’t act as though it could never happen to you. The majority of residential homes in America are connected to a municipal sewage system by sewer lines.

These pipes are sturdy and built to withstand wear and tear. But certain things can cause sewer line collapse, and there’s very little you can do about it. Learn the causes of sewer line collapse, how to spot obstructions, and keep All Dry USA on speed dial in case you’re in need of a clean-up job.

Causes of Collapsed Sewer Lines

There’s much you can do as a homeowner to protect your pipes. Be careful what you flush down the toilet, for starters. If you have a garbage disposal, don’t flush things like cooking fat, rice, coffee grounds, or fibrous vegetables into it. Also, if your pipes are old, have them regularly checked out.

One other thing you can do to lower the chances of sewer line collapse is to learn about its leading causes.

Tree Root Incursion

The leading cause of sewer line damage and collapse, and the cause homeowners fear the most, is tree root incursion. It’s not because tree root incursion is the most damaging but because it’s so difficult and expensive to combat.

Trees adapt to dry climates and adverse soil conditions through hydrotropism, in which the roots tunnel and wriggle around until they find fresh water. What better source than your water main?

Roots can penetrate pipes and grow into them without causing a significant blockage. But over time, they may choke the pipe, invade it too considerably, or even burst open the sides.

Misaligned or Offset Pipes

Another cause of pipe collapse is pipes that are not fitted or aligned properly. The passage of time and subterranean pressures can suddenly cause ill-fitted and misaligned pipes to burst, hemorrhage, or otherwise malfunction.

The resulting leak can range from as harmless as a slight stream into the surrounding soil to a torrent that can expose you to the dangers of sewer gas.


Aged Pipes

Old pipes are another issue. Plenty of pipes connecting homes to their municipal sewer systems were laid around World War II and manufactured even earlier. You can imagine what could go wrong with these pipes.

What you might not imagine is that many pipes from this era were made from a material called Orangeburg, which is essentially paper-thin layers of wood compressed together and then sealed with a water-resistant binding. Homeowners across the country have been having problems with Orangeburg pipes, as they simply weren’t built to last.

Ground Movement

Even outside of earthquake country, the ground beneath us shifts constantly. Of course, earthquakes, tremors, and sinkholes can cause instantaneous damage to pipes. But the slow shifting of the ground, buckling and releasing during temperature shifts, for example, can damage pipes.

Telltale Signs of a Collapsed Sewer Line

Knowing what can cause sewer line collapse isn’t enough. You have to learn the telltale signs if you want to spot it before it becomes an unmanageable situation. We’re here to help!

Frequent Drain Backups

There are many reasons why you might be experiencing drain backups. But if they start to become habitual, you might consider having your sewer lines checked out. Other reasons for a frequent sink backup could include:

  • Your sink pipes (not your sewer pipes) are clogged.
  • Your dishwasher sends too much water down the tubes.
  • The washing machine has a clogged line.
  • The venting system for your pipes has an obstruction.

If you’ve ruled out all of these possibilities, it’s time to call in a trusted professional.

Fixtures Clogging Up

A compromised sewer line won’t just impact your sink, although the sink is where you’ll see it most easily. Appliances and fixtures like a washing machine, a shower, and even a toilet can all suffer due to sewer line failure.

Toilets are an excellent bellwether for the overall health of your pipes. You can try the balloon test to check for a blockage; otherwise, we highly recommend calling a professional like All Dry USA.

Unusual Noises or Odors

Sewer blockages can produce foul or otherwise odd odors and sounds. The pressure of gas trying to escape through a too-narrow hole can create a high, whistling noise. You may also hear a gurgling sound long after draining your sink or flushing your toilet.

As for odors, waste and sewage can produce extraordinarily unpleasant smells. When line failure occurs, that foul-smelling sewage can leak out into the lawn and bubble up through the drains.

Wet Spots or Puddles on the Lawn

If waste and sewage begin to leak out from a collapsed sewer line, it may seep up to the surface of your lawn. If you start to see wet spots or puddles on your lawn, you may be seeing the result of days of leakage. Take appropriate action as soon as possible!

What Should I Do if My Sewer Line Has Collapsed?

If you notice any of the signs above, you may have a collapsed sewer line on your hands. Call a plumbing professional and explain the severity of the situation. Any trained professional will understand this is a drop-everything-and-run-level emergency, so there should be no problem getting a plumber to your home ASAP.

They may need to call reinforcements or even coordinate with the city to dig up the water main. But in other instances, they’ll only need to drag a shallow hole to remove the blockage or fix the break.

Need Water Damage Restoration? Call Us!

If you’ve suffered water damage from a collapsed sewer line, call All Dry USA. Our highly trained specialists can meet all your water damage restoration needs – with care and expertise. Plus, we’ll assess your home for possible mold remediation services. No job is too small or too big for All Dry USA.


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