Sewer Backup and Inspection

sewer service camera

How Best to View a Sewer Backup

A sewer backup that causes you to call for sewer service is one of the more unpleasant experiences a homeowner can face. This happens when wastewater cannot drain away due to a blockage in the sewer lateral or other damage caused by a break in the pipe itself. Disagreeable odors aren’t the worst of it. A sewer backup is potentially damaging to your health, as it can expose you to bacteria and generally unsafe contaminants. 

If you have a sewer backup and are in need of sewer service, a video camera inspection is the best way to identify the problem. By inserting a camera into the sewer pipe you can locate the precise location of damage, eliminating time and guesswork to initiate proper repairs.

Of course, prevention is always the best way to avoid the need for sewer service. However, even with proper maintenance and drain and sewer pipe care, age and nature take their toll. In this post, we will discuss:

  • What is a sewer lateral
  • Signs of a blocked sewer lateral
  • Common causes of sewer backup that require sewer service
  • Preventative maintenance to avoid the need for sewer service
  • Why a camera evaluation is an easy way to identify what is causing a sewer backup problem and save money on your sewer service.

What Is a Sewer Lateral?

Sewer laterals run underground to carry wastewater from your home to the main sewer line in the street. While maintenance of the main sewer line is the responsibility of the municipality, sewer laterals are the homeowner’s responsibility. If there’s a problem with the main sewer line, the city fixes it. If it’s the sewer lateral, you are responsible for the problem. Something you obviously want to avoid.

There are two types of laterals –  a lower sewer lateral and an upper sewer lateral. The lower sewer level is closest to the street and runs from the property line to the public sewer main. A cleanout pipe is located near the property line. As you might imagine, this pipe acts as an access point to remove clogs. The upper sewer lateral is the length of pipe from the property line to the home. 

Signs of a Broken or Blocked Sewer Lateral That Require Sewer Service

Indications you have a broken or blocked sewer lateral that require a sewer service include: 

  1. Slow draining sinks, toilets and showers.
  2. Water damage to the house foundation.
  3. Standing water in the yard.
  4. Noticeable increase in pests, bad odors and/or mold.

What Causes a Sewer Backup?

The older the sewer lateral, the more likely it is to crack or break. The average lifetime of a private sewer lateral depends on the pipe material. Old clay pipes are particularly susceptible to joint failure as they age. Cast iron pipes last about 30 to 50 years. Most new constructions use high-density polyethylene (HDPE) pipe. This material offers high durability, low cost, faster repair, and more than 100 years of useful life.

Still, whatever the material, pipes can break for a number of reasons, including intrusive tree roots and shifting soil from erosion. Iron pipes are subject to corrosion, calcification and scale build-up that can result in blockages. 

And then there’s the people problem. You shouldn’t put things down your drains that can block or harm your sewer line. These include feminine hygiene products, hair, grease, food scraps (unless you have a garbage disposal unit installed at your kitchen sink and even then, it’s not always the best idea), baby wipes and even certain kinds of heavy toilet paper.

Preventative Measures to Avoid Sewer Service

Sewer backups are largely avoidable if you clean your sewer laterals once every eighteen to twenty-four months. This requires a professional plumber to complete this sewer service. Regardless of whether you clean out your lines or not, a video inspection is highly recommended to identify potential cracks that could lead to sewer backups.  

During a sewer service video inspection, a high-resolution camera is passed through your sewer pipe, the same way a cable is run through the pipe to clean it. The camera can view inside the sewer line for any visible breaks, root infestation, grease build-up, rust build-up, and/or sags in the pipe.  

In addition, you want to avoid clogged drains in your house. Because drains that clog regularly lead to sewer backups. While it may not be possible to prevent every clog from occurring, you can take steps to prevent most of them. Here are some tips:

Give your pipes a good cleaning once a month. Hair, grease, and other gunk build up in drains over time. Use a non-corrosive drain cleaner that uses safe bacteria to clear away grit and grime. You can also pour a little baking soda into the drain and follow with hot water, which not only cleans but also counteracts odors! Keep your sink pop-up stoppers clean of hair and debris as well.

Block debris from entering pipes. Hair is the most common cause of a clog. Prevent its descent into your plumbing by using a simple mesh drain screen for your tubs and showers. Do not forget your laundry room, too! Install a lint catcher on your washing machine hose to prevent lint from entering your drain. These fixes cost you less than $10!

Flush drains regularly. Hot water helps break up oils in food products and clears out potential clogs. Run hot water with some vinegar down your drain regularly. Occasionally flush a large flow of water (5 gallons) down sinks or bathtubs.

Do not dump grease down the drain. Your grandma was right – collect your grease, do not dump it. Grease is one of the worst things you can put in your pipes. When it cools, it congeals, and other things easily get stuck in it. This is one of the most common causes of clogged drains.

Give your garbage disposal a rest. While grinding up food and coffee grounds in the sink may be convenient, it can cause plumbing issues. Collect waste and compost it instead. Keep your garbage disposal clean with a special brush or grind up some ice cubes with salt to cut grease and clean the sides.

Do not throw things down the toilet. This includes dental floss, hair, wet wipes, feminine hygiene products and cotton balls! These all cause clogs. Just use the trash can

When to Call a Plumber for a Sewer Service

While you can take steps to unclog a drain, a sewer backup is a much bigger problem. 

Call a professional plumber with the tools to properly identify all issues contributing to the sewer backup using a comprehensive video inspection.

You might think a camera evaluation is overkill, but it’s not!  A camera inserted into the interior of the sewer pipe sends back live images of exactly what is going on in your sewer system. 

Proper sewer service requires a camera evaluation of the sewer lateral system. First the sewer line is cleaned. Keep in mind that cleaning is not always the same as fixing the cause of a sewer backup.

You may not want to look. But Ongaro and Sons technicians are specially trained to look. 

Our camera inspection equipment includes locators to determine the precise place and depth of the sewer line damage from above ground, allowing for spot repairs, if possible. Video inspections also show root intrusion, separated pipes, offset pipe joints or broken pipes. It can also offer proof if the entire pipe requires replacement.

The camera doesn’t lie! It tells us what we need to know to fix exactly what is causing a sewer backup. So you won’t be calling us back after we complete your sewer service. Don’t blame us if you skipped the camera evaluation!

Contact us with any questions or to discuss your sewer service needs, and experience 100% customer satisfaction. As always, we promise a fast and dependable service, minimal disruption of your residence or business, and free estimates. 

In the event you require sewer pipe replacement, we use trenchless pipe replacement. This requires digging only at each end of the existing sewer pipe, creating minimal disturbance to your landscape, driveways and sidewalks. In some cases your house may not be a good candidate for trenchless pipe replacement, in which case we make every effort to return your landscape, driveway and sidewalks back to the condition it was prior to the work.