Some sewer problems are relatively minor. You have a clogged drain or toilet. You can pour chemicals down the drain, or plunge the toilet to clear obstacles.
But sometimes, the problems persist. Your toilet blocks on a pretty regular basis. You have wastewater backing up into the tub. You smell sewer smells in your yard or home. You may even see toilet paper in the yard.
All of these are signs that you need the help of a sewer line contractor.
These signs indicate that your sewer line, rather than a simple blockage, might be at fault. The sewer line runs from your house to the public sewer system. It may be an unwelcome surprise to some homeowners, but the homeowner is responsible for the sewer line from the house to where it connects with the public system—usually around the sidewalk area.
If you find that you do have a sewer line problem, and it affects more than a small portion of the line, it makes sense to get in touch with your city or area government to see where the city takes over responsibility for the pipe. You may need to coordinate with the city so that you fix only the portion of the sewer line that you are responsible for. You want to save yourself both the cost and the liability of working on more of the sewer line than you are responsible for.
So, what causes the problems with a sewer line? Well, like everything in your house, the sewer line has a life expectancy and will need to be replaced at some point. Sewer lines made from pipes of clay or other vitreous material tend to be especially vulnerable to damage. But other forces are at play, too. Freezing and thawing earth can affect the pipes in the ground, causing them to shift or to belly, if earth is pushed out from underneath them.
Sometimes, the sewer pipes are offset – they don’t lie straight, so it’s easier for blockages to form. Trees and shrubs are constantly in search of water, and their roots can penetrate the pipes. Even very fine roots can make it easier for blockages to form, wreaking havoc with your sewer line. Dumping lots of grease down a drain can make it easier for blockages to form over time. In addition to age, these are some of the causes of sewer line damage.
How Big is my Sewer Line Problem in Alameda County?
When you do see signs of a significant sewer line problem, you should call in the experts. A sewer line contractor or a plumber who specializes in sewer lines will be able to help you. Your sewer line contractor should look for the problem, first. Firms should have a camera they can use to view the interior of the sewer line and locate exactly where the problem is. Sometimes, your sewer line contractor may need to jet the pipe to clean it first before using the camera.
It will help significantly if you can find a cleanout for your sewer line – in fact, you may have more than one. A cleanout is a capped, or lidded, pipe that allows access to your sewer line. You should look for the clean out in your yard, especially near to where the bathrooms are.
A few houses have the cleanouts inside, for example, behind the toilet, though this is unusual. If you don’t have a cleanout, the sewer line contractor will have to access the sewer line through an internal fixture, such as a toilet, or through a roof vent. These latter methods are more costly than using a cleanout.
Once you’ve identified the problem, you will need either a sewer line replacement or a sewer line repair. In general terms, if the problem is located in a specific area, you may be able to have the sewer line contractor patch the pipe. The patch will replace the damaged area of the pipe with a new segment of pipe. In some cases, a patch makes perfect sense.
Keep in mind, though, if it looks like you will have to keep patching the sewer line, that can be as costly as or more costly than replacing the entire sewer line. The decision to patch or replace really depends on the severity of the damage.
What Do I Need to Do to Fix my Alameda County Sewer Line?
Sewer line repairs evoke fear because we have an image of our yard or driveway being torn up, with trenches all over the place, with a project that goes on and on. Sometimes, you will need a trench for a repair. But fortunately, there are also other options that your sewer line contractor can offer you.
One trench alternative is CIPP or cured-in-place-piping. This trenchless sewer repair technique begins with a hydro-jetting, where highly pressurized water is used to clean the pipe. A PVC-saturated liner is then fed down the pipe, using a special machine. Once the liner is in place, a bladder is sent down and steam molds the PVC liner to the walls of the existing pipe. Once the new pipe is cured, the bladder is removed. The new liner forms a strong pipe that resists cracking, roots, and other stresses.
It’s possible that the CIPP process can be performed with no excavation, using access from cleanouts or from manholes in the street. In some cases, some excavation may be required, but it is significantly less than the full-trench approach.
Another technique that is often touted as a trenchless alternative is pipe bursting. With the pipe bursting technique, two holes are typically needed at the start and end of the sewer line run. A bursting head is inserted. The bursting head is a device that will break up the existing pipe in the ground. As the bursting head moves forward breaking up the pipe in front of it, it drags a new pipe along behind it.
The new pipe then follows the same path as the pipe it is replacing. Typically, the old pipe that was burst apart is left in the ground.
What Else Can Affect my Alameda County Sewer Line Repair?
Choosing trench or trenchless sewer line replacement or repair will be a decision you make in concert with recommendations from an experienced sewer line contractor, most likely. You should always look for a licensed sewer line contractor or plumber. Some advertise specifically as sewer line contractors and some advertise as plumbers who work on sewer lines.
No matter what, sewer line contractors in Alameda County must have a license from the state of California and display it in their advertising. The plumber’s license is a C36, and the sanitation system contractor’s license is a C42. Licensed contractors are tested by the state and must be bonded.
Regardless of where you live in Alameda County, whether in Berkeley, Oakland, Fremont, San Leandro, Hayward, Russell City, Union City, Pleasanton, or another area, ask your contractor about permits. Most areas require permits for sewer line work. Your contractor should be able to help you with the process of getting the permit.
You’ll also want to pay attention to the kinds of materials being used for your sewer line repair or sewer line replacement. Most areas have codes that dictate the types of materials allowed. Some specific types of pipes may be banned for use as a sewer line. Your sewer line contractor should be able to knowledgably discuss with you the kind of pipe being used and its conformance with your local codes.
You may find yourself running into increased costs in a couple of circumstances. If there are trees in the way of working on the pipe, and the trees have to be removed and the stumps ground out, this will add to the sewer line replacement cost. In most cases, your gas and clean water lines should be placed well away from your sewer line. I
f you have the unfortunate case of an older home or home not built to code, and the gas lines are close to the sewer line, you could incur extra costs as the workers have to be much more careful. Another consideration is how far the hook-up to the public sewer system is. If it is far from your property line, you may end up digging into the road to reach it, which will increase costs.
Some sewer line contractors promise to fix the sewer line without damaging trees or shrubs that run along it. If the trees or shrubs are causing the problem with their roots, at least some of the roots will have to be removed. Be sure to question your sewer line contractor closely about how it will be possible to save the trees or shrubs and about the possibility of future root intrusion, if you do want to save the trees or shrubs.
Septic Tanks and Sewer Conversions in Alameda County
You may be using a septic tank currently. In a septic system, the sewage is moved out of the house and stored in a tank. The tank must be occasionally drained, at the homeowner’s cost, so that it can be used again.
Sometimes, a city or other local government will require users to move from a septic system to a sewer system. Or the homeowner may decide to make the switch once the city sewer is available. If you need to convert from a septic system to the public sewer system, a sewer line contractor can help.
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