Wastewater disposal is something most people don’t really think about. Unless your toilet won’t flush or your sewer line collapses, plumbing is one of those things that homeowners take for granted. But have you ever wondered how your home sewer system actually works?
By understanding how your plumbing and sewer systems are put together, you can become more aware of where problems are likely to occur. This can make it easier to make a decision about whether you need to call a plumber for sewer repairs, sewer cleaning, and other services.
At A1 Sewer & Drain Services, our staff of experienced NJ plumbers has been working with residential and commercial sewer systems in New Jersey for decades. We serve our local community with fast, quality drain and sewer repairs, cleaning, installation, and more. To find out more, call us any time to talk to an experienced sewer service contractor about your sewer cleaning and sewer repair options.
How Residential Sewer Systems Work
The journey of water through your home plumbing system begins in the city water mains. A main water line, located underground, brings clean water into a house or building. An average American family uses about 400 gallons of water a day. Then, the water splits in two ways. One set of pipes goes to the hot water heater, while the other carries cold water to sinks, showers, and other fixtures.
After you’ve used water to bathe or wash dishes, it becomes wastewater. Inside of sink and shower drains, you’ll find a u-trap. This traps a small amount of water, shielding the drain opening from unpleasant odors from the pipes below. After going through the u-trap, the water continues its journey through large drain pipes. Eventually, all of your home’s drains lead to the main sewer lateral. The sewer main line usually runs all the way across your property, connecting your house to the city’s sewer system. Eventually, it will reach a wastewater treatment plant.
Common Drainage & Sewer System Problems
Sewer lines and drainage pipes have different sets of problems than most of your typical household plumbing pipes. It’s not uncommon for NJ homeowners to occasionally need sewer cleaning or sewer repairs, to remove debris or patch holes in the sewer pipe. Occasionally, you may even need partial or complete sewer replacement for a severely damaged pipe.
Here are some of the most common problems with home sewer systems in New Jersey. These problems can be resolved with professional sewer repairs, sewer cleaning, or sewer pipe replacement from an experienced local sewer plumber.
Inflow & Infiltration in the Sewer System
Unlike indoor water pipes, which are almost always filled with water, the sewer lateral is rarely full. If you have a broken sewer pipe, wastewater leaks out while stormwater and groundwater leak in. This extra water coming in through holes and cracks can can lead to sewer backups by overflowing the pipes.
Sewer lines installed beneath a creek or a street are at particular risk for groundwater infiltration. They tend to be at the lowest point in the surrounding area, putting them at risk. Heavy rain also increases the threat of groundwater infiltration in a sewer system. Inflow and infiltration during a storm can add up to 3,000 gallons of storm water per person, per day, as can snow melt in the spring.
Tree Roots: A Lurking Threat to Your Sewer System
Another major threat for the sewer main line is tree root incursion. Trees can have root systems that extend for up to 7 times as far as the height of the tree itself. A 50-foot deciduous tree has roots that extend over 100 feet from the base. Just because trees aren’t right next to your sewer line, it doesn’t mean that their root systems can’t cause problems.
When a sewer pipe has small holes or cracks, moisture escapes into the cooler surrounding soil. The water and nutrients inside your sewer pipe are very attractive to new root growth, as it provides exactly what the roots are “looking” for. Small shoots enter the pipe through the cracks or holes. For a while, the roots aren’t really noticeable, but as they continue to grow, they can block off the sewer line. Tree roots are also likely to increase the size of any existing holes or cracks, potentially breaking the pipe apart.
Tree root incursion is best solved with professional sewer repairs. First, sewer service plumbers will use hydro jetting to remove the roots themselves. The high-pressure water streams are strong enough to break tough tree roots apart into tiny pieces, which can be safely washed away.
Once the roots have been removed with sewer cleaning, contractors will repair any holes or cracks in the pipe. This usually involves pipe lining, a sewer repair method that installs a resin liner that covers holes and stops leaks. Severe damage to the sewer main line might require sewer replacement in some cases.
Sewer Cleaning for Clogged Sewer Lines
Tree roots aren’t the only thing that can clog your sewer pipes. Paper and cotton products are also big offenders. Many manufacturers label things as “flushable,” like baby wipes or feminine products, but they’re really not. Anything that isn’t toilet paper won’t break down quickly enough, and can accumulate inside the pipe and clog it.
Clogged sewer lines can cause wastewater to flow back up the pipes, flooding areas near your drains with nasty sewage. Professional sewer cleaning is required to remove obstructions inside the pipe, so that water can flow freely.
Sewer plumbers use hydro jetting with high-pressure water to break apart and wash away clogs in the sewer line. The process is quite quick, and usually resolves the problem. Unlike snaking a drain, which only pushes debris, sewer cleaning with hydro jetting physically breaks material apart. Hydro jettting equipment typically puts out about 15 gallons per second of water, at about 400 PSI. The pressure is sufficient to break apart even tough tree roots, and the process has a very low risk of causing or exacerbating any damage to the pipe.
After jetting, sewer camera inspection equipment can be used to look for cracks or other damage to the pipe, which can be fixed with sewer repairs.
Sewer Repairs for Cracked, Broken, or Collapsed Sewer Pipes
Along with getting clogged periodically, sewer pipes can also crack or break. Serious damage to the sewer pipe is usually noticeable to homeowners right away, often with multiple clogged drains and other sudden plumbing problems. Broken sewer pipes need to be fixed right away with professional sewer repairs.
Some of the warning signs that you might need sewer repairs for a broken main line include:
- Bathtubs and showers that won’t drain
- Gurgling noises from toilets and drains
- Sewage backing up into toilets and bathtubs
- Sewage odors in the basement or yard
- No water in the toilet
Sewer pipes can crack and burst for a variety of different reasons. Some of the most common causes of sewer system problems with the main line include:
- Poor maintenance and clogs. Sewer clogs can exert outward pressure, potentially cracking the pipe. Regular maintenance, including sewer cleaning and sewer inspection, can help prevent broken pipes.
- Tree root incursion. As discussed above, tree roots can cause serious sewer problems.
- Frozen soil. During the cold New Jersey winters, the ground often freezes and thaws repeatedly. This can crack or burst sewer pipes.
- Corrosion. As old metal pipes age, they’re prone to ongoing corrosion from rust, bacterial hydrogen sulfide, and other causes. Eventually, the corrosion wears through the pipe, creating holes where water can leak out.
There are a couple of different ways to fix a broken sewer pipe. Different kinds of sewer repairs work for different types of damage, so plumbers will generally use sewer camera inspection to investigate the problem before fixing it.
Options for sewer repairs can include:
- Pipe lining. Pipe lining is a common sewer repair technique that can quickly fix leaks and cracks in a sewer pipe. When the pipe still has structural integrity, it may not need to be replaced, just patched up. Pipe lining uses cure-in-place pipe (CIPP), which is usually made from fiberglass cloth and coated with resin. The liner is pulled into place inside the pipe, then hardened with heat or UV light. This creates a “sleeve” inside the pipe that covers holes and cracks, stopping underground water leaks and keeping tree roots out. Sewer pipe lining allows plumbers to fix a pipe without needing to excavate and access the pipe directly. The process is carried out through small access points, minimizing damage to lawns and landscaping.
- Pipe bursting. Pipe bursting is suitable for sewer replacement for severely damaged pipes, which can’t be fixed with a pipe liner. Although heavy machinery is needed, pipe bursting is a trenchless sewer repair technique that doesn’t require an extensive excavation. Using a large hydraulic bursting head lowered into the sewer line, a severely fractured pipe is broken apart completely, and the fragments are pushed outward. The back of the bursting head is attached to a new section of pipe, which is pulled into place where the old one was. Pipe bursting can replace up to 400 meters of pipe, although loose soil or a high water table can be an obstacle.
Trenchless sewer repairs can often be completed in less than a day, and don’t require any excavation that could ruin your lawn or damage your driveway.
Sewer Replacement for a Damaged Sewer System
Sewer service plumbers can replace a sewer lateral using pipe bursting or traditional sewer excavation. Sewer replacement is often needed for seriously damaged pipes. This can include pipes that were seriously damaged by tree root incursion, as well as old metal pipes that have undergone corrosion.
When buying an older home in New Jersey, it’s often a good idea to get sewer camera inspection before moving in. Many houses have ancient sewer lines, including cast iron or even 1940s tar paper Orangeberg pipe, which are at a high risk of failure. You may need sewer replacement before moving in, with newer pipes that will hold up for decades without any problems.
Septic Systems: An Alternative to a Typical Home Sewer System
In some rural and suburban areas, municipal sewer systems aren’t readily accessible. Septic systems provide a small-scale solution for safely disposing of wastewater by letting bacteria break it down. A concrete tank holding 1000-2000 gallons provides a place for solid materials to be decomposed by anaerobic bacteria. The liquid flows out into a drainfield, where remaining organic material is broken down by soil bacteria.
Septic tanks need to be emptied periodically, since sludge can overflow and clog the leach field piping. Ground settling or corrosion can also impact the pipes in the septic system, and they may eventually need to be repaired or replaced. Eventually, concrete septic tanks will also corrode. The bacteria that break down the sewage naturally emit hydrogen sulfide, which then converts into sulfuric acid that eats away at the inside of the tank. These problems usually require professional septic tank repair.
Calling a Local NJ Plumber for Sewer & Drain Repairs
Need sewer repairs or sewer cleaning for your home sewer system? At A1 Sewer & Drain Services, we’re always available for fast, reliable solutions for sewer problems in north NJ. With 24 hour emergency sewer repairs, we’ve always got you covered when things go wrong with your home sewer system.
Whether you have a clogged sewer main line, cracks in the sewer pipe, or a completely collapsed sewer line, we can have experienced NJ sewer plumbers at your door in less than an hour for fast, effective sewer repairs. We’ve dealt with hundreds of damaged sewer lines, and we can always fix or replace the pipe to solve the problem.
We provide a full selection of commercial and residential sewer and drain cleaning and repair services, including:
- 24 Hour Emergency Sewer Repairs
- Sewer Cleaning & Hydro Jetting
- Sewer Replacement
- New Sewer Installation
- Drain Repairs
- Drain Cleaning
- Septic Tank Repair
- Septic System Installation
- Backflow Valve Installation & Testing
For great drain or sewer service today, give us a call at 201-645-0888.