5 Main Signs of a Collapsed Sewer Line (Check This First!) (2023)

Are you looking to find what are signs of a collapsed sewer line? Keep reading to find out.

We use the plumbing systems in our homes without thinking too much about them. We overlook how these inventions have bettered our lives drastically by ensuring hygiene and proper disposal of waste. As a result, our homes are more comfortable and our health has improved significantly. All these achievements are possible due to modern plumbing systems.

You don’t think much about where waste goes until you face a problem such as collapsed sewer line under house. [1]

This is where you probably become interested in how your plumbing works. You will want to know how to tell if sewer pipe is leaking and how to repair it.

Before you check for signs of collapsed sewer line under house, let’s find out more about this important underground pipe.

What is a sewer line?

5 Main Signs of a Collapsed Sewer Line (Check This First!) (1)

The main sewer line is precisely what you think it is. It is the big pipe that collects all the wastewater from your home to the main sewer under the street. The main sewer channels all the waste from sinks, toilets, and tubs from your home.

Even if the sewer line is connected to the city sewer system, you are the one responsible for potential problems. Whether it’s a blockage or worse, a collapsed sewer line, you will have to call the plumber. You will have to get the problem fixed at your expense.

The most common types of sewer lines

Depending on the age of your home, it will have a different type of sewer line. All types are functional, but each comes with its specific problems and repairs. [2]

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  • Clay sewer lines

Clay pipes are the oldest types of sewer lines and are found in older properties built before the 1950s. The material is actually called vitrified clay pipe (VCP) and is made from a mixture of clay and shale. The blend is set at a high temperature to transform it into inert ceramic.

Clay pipe has a long lifespan, but is susceptible to root infiltrations. Their joints are not reliable against water and tree roots are attracted by the leaking water. The result is sewer line damage. Regular sewer cleaning is recommended to eliminate invading roots.

  • Cast iron pipe sewer lines

Also found in old homes, these sewer line type is better at protecting itself from roots. It can also withstand ground movement such as earthquake and cold.

But nothing is perfect, and even sturdy cast iron pipes rust and corrode in time. With severe rusting, entire portions of the sewer line can collapse.

  • Orangeburg sewer lines

This kind of pipe is made from bituminized fibers of wood pulp and pitch, pressed together. Their popularity soared in the 1800s, with Orangeburg being used late into the 20th century (as late as the 1970s). Its main advantages were the small weight and the easiness of use. [3]

Drawbacks of this sewer line type include the tendency to fail due to the brittle nature of the material. Most plumbers recommend replacing Orangeburg even if you don’t have any problems.

  • PVC sewer lines

The most common type of sewer line pipes today is plastic (polyvinyl chloride). PVC provides the largest number of advantages compared to other sewer line types:

  • Lightweight
  • Easiness of use
  • Resilience
  • Relatively good resistance to root penetration
  • Long lasting

Potential problems are caused by severe ground movements and improper installation.

Common main sewer line problems

5 Main Signs of a Collapsed Sewer Line (Check This First!) (2)

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Most homeowners fear sewer line problems because fixing them is expensive and disruptive. These pipes are hard to see and reach and fixing them is a challenge. Knowing what are the most common problems affecting sewer lines can help you be proactive:

  • Clogs

Clogs are quite common and occur easily. They happen if you throw solid items in your toilet, such as feminine care products or diapers. Disposing of waste correctly is the best prevention for clogs.

  • Tree root growth

Avoid planting trees close to your sewer line. They will provide fresh air but in time they can scavenge your pipes. Tree roots cause some of the most expensive repairs, so check the location of sewer lines before planting trees in your yard.

  • Lack of maintenance

You regularly clean your sink drain when it starts to get clogged. But do you do the same for your main sewer line?

The sewer line should ideally have a sewer clean-out – a small portion enabling you to access the pipe. This way, you can eliminate blockages through the clean-out.

  • Leaking joints

This happens when seals between the sewer lines have broken – as a result, water leaks into the ground.

  • Bellied pipe

When a section of the pipe has sunk into the ground, waste will converge in that area. This belly in sewer line may cause standing water and further damage of the sewer pipe.

  • Collapsed pipe

The most dreaded sewer line problem occurs when soil has shifted or the pipe is so cracked that it eventually breaks.

Keep on reading to find out how you can recognize a collapsed sewer line.

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Signs of a collapsed sewer line

5 Main Signs of a Collapsed Sewer Line (Check This First!) (3)

Sewer line problems can develop unnoticed until the pipe is too damaged to be fixed. A collapsed sewer line will result in costly and inconvenient repairs. Best is to recognize the signs of a damaged sewer line before it collapses:

  • Clogged drains

Every single drain in the house communicates to the main sewer line. This means that a major sewer line problem will affect every drain in your home. You will notice the toilet doesn’t flush properly. The shower doesn’t drain, and the sinks don’t drain either.

The thing to remember is that several drains or all are affected when your sewer line has problems.

On the other hand, symptoms can be intermittent – you might flush now and next morning problems appear again.

Additional signs that the sewer line is in trouble are:

  • Gurgling toilet when the washing machine is running
  • Waste coming back after you flush the toilet
  • Overflowing drains

A plumber can use a specialized snake, possibly with a camera on, and inspect your sewer line. Professionals can solve clogs without having to dig up the entire line.

  • Foul odors

A functional sewer line should be able to move waste away from your home and into the main system.

The presence of foul odor in your drains is a sign of trouble, most possibly a crack in the sewer line. This issue should be dealt with immediately to prevent contact with airborne bacteria.

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  • Slow drains

Before clogging, you may notice that water slowly drains off from your sink and other fixtures. If homemade solutions or chemical cleaners don’t work, you should call a plumber.

Be cautious with the use of chemical cleaners, as they can contain harsh substances which cause corrosion.

  • A soaked lawn

Do you know how to tell if your sewer line is leaking? Sewer line leaks will definitely reflect into your lawn. Water escapes from the main pipe and makes its way to the surface, onto your lawn. A soaked lawn with puddles is definitely a sign of a damaged sewer system.

More subtle signs are lush spots in your yard, with green grass while the rest of the lawn is dry. This is because water and organic matter in the sewer line make plants thrive. Get it solved as this is not a recommended irrigation method.

  • Broken concrete slabs

These signs appear due to the ground settling and shifting beneath concrete. A collapsed sewer line can even move the soil supporting the foundation and cause cracks in your home.

How can you repair a collapsed sewer line?

5 Main Signs of a Collapsed Sewer Line (Check This First!) (4)

Many homeowners in trouble inquire about collapsed sewer line repair cost. The cost of repair depends on the extent of damage.

All in all, you should understand signs of a collapsed sewer line first.

When the sewer line is collapsed, the only fix is replacing it, hopefully without having to dig too much. In order to replace a collapsed sewer line under house, you will have to complete the following steps:

  • Diagnosing the problem based on the signs presented earlier
  • Assessing the location of the sewer line
  • Deciding whether a plumber is required
  • Digging up to the collapsed line
  • Making sure no appliance or fixture is dumping water while working
  • Removing the damaged sewer line from both ends
  • Fitting the new pipe using the right glue compound
  • Testing the new assembly after the fittings have dried

Bottom Line

A collapsed sewer line under house doesn’t have to be a catastrophic event. If you follow our instructions on how to find signs of a collapsed sewer line, you can reduce disaster that may happen. [4]

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Now you know how to tell if sewer line is leaking and ask local plumbers about collapsed sewer line repair cost. If you decide to do the repair yourself, be prepared with a new pipe, cutting tools, a shovel, and patience.


5 Main Signs of a Collapsed Sewer Line (Check This First!)? ›

Four of the most common signs of a broken sewer line include multiple slow drains, foul smells inside the house, mold or mildew in the basement, and an increased presence of pests. Plumbing-related issues aren't always easy to spot – especially ones that occur underground.

What are 4 signs that your sewer line is broken? ›

Four of the most common signs of a broken sewer line include multiple slow drains, foul smells inside the house, mold or mildew in the basement, and an increased presence of pests. Plumbing-related issues aren't always easy to spot – especially ones that occur underground.

What happens when a sewer collapses? ›

If the pipe is collapsed or clogged, then the water has nowhere to go. It then reverses and uses the path of least resistance. That's likely the lowest drain in the basement. If the pipe is collapsed and there is access to the dirt surrounding the pipe, the dirt will slowly absorb the water, and the water recedes.

How do you tell if sewer line is clogged or broken? ›

Signs of a Clogged Sewer Line
  1. Multiple Fixtures Are Draining Slowly. ...
  2. Gurgling Sounds in Different Drains. ...
  3. Plunging Becomes a Common Chore. ...
  4. Water Backs Up the Sewer Line Cleanout. ...
  5. Your Drains Are Starting to Smell. ...
  6. Your Yard Is a Mess.
Nov 9, 2021

What are the symptoms of sewer? ›

Symptoms of headache, nausea, dizziness, or drowsiness may indicate exposure to an odorless gas like methane or carbon monoxide, or to hydrogen sulfide, which smells of rotten eggs. Anyone experiencing severe symptoms should seek immediate medical care.

What is the average life of a sewer pipe? ›

Clay pipes typically last between 50-60 years, while PVC pipes are expected to last 100 years before requiring replacement.

Can you get sick from a broken sewer line? ›

Sewage contains harmful microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses and protozoa, which can cause illnesses like gastroenteritis. Sewage overflows can be caused by damaged or blocked plumbing, sewerage system backflow, septic tank damage and flood water.

What causes sewer pipes to collapse? ›

Underlying Causes Of Collapsed Sewer Pipes

Tree roots seeking out water are attracted to the available moisture in the sewer line and grow into the pipe through joints. As the roots grow they weaken the joint allowing wastewater to escape and erode the soil around the pipe creating a belly that results in collapse.

What is the best way to fix a clogged sewer line? ›

High Water Pressure with Baking Soda and Vinegar

To do this, use a 2:1 ratio of vinegar to baking soda, and mix it into 60 gallons of water. As you pour the water down the drain, use a drain snake or plunger to dislodge debris that is blocking water flow.

How do you clear a main sewer line clog yourself? ›

Steps For How to Clear A Main Sewer Line Clog
  1. Loosen the Drain Pipe Cap (aka Sewer Cleanout Pipe) ...
  2. Remove Cleanout Cap, Allow Water to Backflow to Opening. ...
  3. Insert the Snake into the Sewer Line Pipe Opening. ...
  4. Run the Tool Until All Clogs are Gone. ...
  5. Clean Up and Replace Sewer Cleanout Cap (Don't overtighten.)
Mar 20, 2019

How do I know if my underground drain is clogged? ›

To check if you have clogged underground drains, the first place to look is at the bottoms of all the downspouts around the home. When underground drains are clogged, you will often see the water gushing back out of the drainage pipe and spilling out of the adapter seams.

Can you fix a collapsed drain without digging? ›

One method is to reline pipes. This versatile technology allows us to repair pipes without needing to dig. Firstly, high pressured water is flushed through the damaged pipe to remove debris, sludge and any scale.

How are collapsed drains fixed? ›

Blocked drains can be a hassle to deal with, but a collapsed drain can bring major disruption to your property. Repairing a collapsed drain usually requires a CCTV survey and some excavation work, lifting out the damaged pipe and installing a new one in its place.

How do you deal with a collapsed drain? ›

When an old drain pipe collapses, the best solution is to have the drain completely replaced. After all, with a drain so old it has completely collapsed, there's nothing to be done but replace it with a new pipe system that will last for another few decades.

How do I know if my water line goes through the slab of my house? ›

Signs You Have a Slab Leak
  1. Sudden spikes in your water bill.
  2. The sound of running water when pipes aren't in use.
  3. Moisture or mildew under carpeting.
  4. A moving water meter dial when pipes aren't in use.
  5. Standing water around the perimeter of your house.
  6. Unusually low water pressure.
  7. Cracks in your baseboard or walls.

How do you fix a leaking main water line? ›

It is done by removing the damaged section of the water main and replacing it with a new strip of modern pipework, and generally on a single leak a point repair will be sufficient in stopping the leak.

What causes a main water line to burst? ›

As the ground around a pipe freezes and heats, the pipes expand and contract – sometimes causing a rupture. Pressure changes can also occur when fire hydrants are either opened or closed too quickly. This is called water hammer. When the pressure inside a water main changes, it can cause the pipe to burst.

How long does it take to get sick from sewage exposure? ›

Symptoms typically develop 4 to 7 days after exposure and may last 1 to 3 weeks or longer. Most infections are uncomplicated and resolve completely. In a few cases the bacteria can spread to the bloodstream.

What is the main smell of sewer? ›

Sewer gas produces a very distinct rotten egg smell, caused when organic materials break down and decompose to form hydrogen sulfide. If you're unsure about the smell coming from your drains or sewers, call a licensed plumber who can perform an inspection or clear and clean blockages.

How much does it cost to replace a toilet drain pipe? ›

Cost of Drain Pipe Repair and Replacement

You can estimate an average cost between $250 and $1,250 with the national average around $700. These estimates are for replacing a smaller section of drain pipe.

What causes main sewer line to break? ›

Common causes of sewer pipe damage include: Sewer pipe rupture due to shifting soil, settling, increased traffic on the ground above, or use of heavy construction equipment above ground. Corrosion of an older pipe, causing the pipe to break or collapse.

What causes a sewer line to break? ›

The leading causes of stoppages are tree roots and cooking grease. Maintaining your home's plumbing system clean and open can save you a great deal of money and eliminate the aggravation of a sewage backup. Here are a few simple tips: Never pour cooking grease down the drain.

How serious is a crack in sewer line? ›

Cracked sewer pipes can emit foul odors, lead to insect and rodent infestations, cause mold and mildew growth, and create a dangerous living environment if not properly repaired.

How do I know if my main line is clogged? ›

Here are a few signs that it's your main line that's clogged.
  • Multiple slow-running drains. If more than one drain is running slow, it's probably not a coincidence, but an indication that one clog is causing issues for all of them. ...
  • Water backing up into other drains. ...
  • Gurgling sounds. ...
  • Sewage odors coming from the drains.

How do I keep my main sewer line clear? ›

7 Tips on How to Maintain Your Sewer Line
  1. Tip #1 Limit Food Down the Kitchen Drain Line.
  2. Tip #2 Properly Dispose of Non-Food Items.
  3. Tip #3 Use One-Ply Toilet Paper.
  4. Tip #4 Flush the Plumbing System.
  5. Tip #5 Set Toilets to High Volume Flush.
  6. Tip #6 Tend to Your Roots.
  7. Tip #7 Naturally Clean Your Plumbing System.

How do you know if pipes need to be replaced? ›

5 Signs It's Time to Replace Your Plumbing
  1. LOW WATER PRESSURE. If you notice a decrease in your water pressure, this could be an early warning sign of plumbing issues. ...
  2. LEAKS. Leaky pipes don't give off a lot of warning signs. ...
Apr 27, 2018

How long do pipes last underground? ›

It's no secret that copper plumbing pipes are the go-to option when it comes to installing underground water lines. This is because copper pipes generally last 50 years or more.

How often do you need to replace a pipe in your house? ›

The lifespan for the most common residential plumbing systems are:
  1. Brass: 40 to 70 years.
  2. Copper: 50 or more years.
  3. Galvanized steel: 20 to 50 years.
  4. Cast iron: 75 to 100 years.
  5. Polyvinyl chloride: Indefinitely.


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