Underground Sewer Line Problems and Solutions- Part 1 of 3

Before completing your home or bathroom remodeling project, make sure that your existing underground sewer lines are in good condition. This is especially important if your home is over 50 years old. A video camera is used to do this.

Home remodelers and builders often don’t consider the adequacy of existing water supply and underground sewer pipes in their remodeling plans. Underground sewer lines may be at the end of their useful lives after operating for over 50-60 years. So when you add bathrooms and additional appliances you could have a problem.

Checking inside of sewer line for cracks and breaks with sewer video cameraA good plumber with the aid of a video camera can literally determine the condition inside the underground sewer pipe.

The video camera will show you places in the pipe that are cracked, broken, or clogged. They can also be used to ensure that any items that were clogging your pipes have been removed.

The video camera consists of a flexible rod with a specially designed, high-resolution video camera on its tip. The video cameras for residential use are smaller, but are similar to the cameras used by cities to inspect sewer lines. The tip also has a strong LED light. Together these are inserted into the pipe for inspection. As the rod is pushed through the pipe, the waterproof camera records its progress and findings. Video images are transmitted to the camera operator and can be saved onto a videotape for a permanent record.

Shortly after completing our renovation, we experienced problems with our under grown sewer line. This began when we had the dishwashers in both the upstairs and downstairs kitchens going and we were hand washing the fragile items in the sink. We started hearing the gurgling sound from the new, downstairs bath. Water was backing up in the pipes! We quickly turned off the water and watched the level slowly return to normal. Then we called our plumbing contractor.

Diagnosing the Problem
The next day the plumber showed up, removed the downstairs toilet and snaked out the line all the way down to the sewer main. He cleared it, but something just didn’t seem right. He had brought along a video camera.

Grease and grime in cast iron sewer pipe from decades of useI watched as he pushed it into the hole in the floor where the toilet had rested.

For a short distance everything looked perfect – the new PVC pipe was as clean as the day it was installed, but then we reached the point of connection with the house’s 50-year old cast iron sewer pipe. What we saw was quite a different story.

The sides of the pipe were caked over with what the plumber explained was the grease and grime and other trash products from decades of cooking. We knew exactly where in the pipe this was because the camera records the distance on the video camera.

As the camera moved its way down the pipe the situation got worse until it appeared that the camera suddenly seemed to take a dive under something. The plumber washed out the pipe a number of times, but it appeared that after years of wear the pipe had developed a break in its bottom.

Forcing the camera past this point the pipe looked about the same until we were within twenty feet of the main. Again it seemed that the camera took a dive and that there was another break. The bad news was that this break was under the brand new, 5-inch, 4500 psi concrete driveway that we had poured only a couple of months earlier.