If you get lucky, your sewer line problem will be a minor one. It may simply be a clogged drain or stopped-up toilet that is easily fixed with an over-the-counter remedy.
But sometimes the problems don’t go away or they come back repeatedly. Perhaps your toilet blocks up time and again, you have wastewater backing up into the tub, or you smell sewer smells in your yard or home. You may even see bits of toilet paper in the yard. All of these are indications that you need the help of a sewer line contractor.
Repeated wastewater backups and main line clogs may require sewer line repair or replacement.
No matter where you live in Marin County, whether in San Anselmo, San Rafael, Larkspur, Mill Valley, Novato, Sausalito, Fairfax, Belvedere or elsewhere, handling sewer line problems is no fun.
So what should you do?
The articles below will get you started in researching, interviewing and hiring a local sewer line contractor to solve your problems.
When You Need to Hire a Sewer Line Company
The sewer line is the main plumbing pipe that carries wastewater from your house to the public sewer system.
You may find it an unwelcome surprise as a homeowner, but you are responsible for the sewer line from the house to where it connects with the public system—typically where the sidewalk hits up against the property line. If you find that you do have a sewer line issue, and it affects more than a small segment 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 segment 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.
What makes a sewer line go bad?
Like everything in your house, the sewer line has a life expectancy and will need to be replaced periodically. Sewer pipes made from clay or other vitreous material are especially likely to get damaged.
But other forces are at play, too. The freezing and thawing of the earth can affect the pipes in the ground, causing them to shift or to sag. Sagging, or bellying, occurs when earth is pushed out from underneath the pipes. At times, poorly installed pipes are offset – they don’t lie straight, so it’s easier for blockages to form. Trees and shrubs are constantly seeking out 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 over time can make it easier for blockages to form.
How Significant is my Sewer Line Problem in Marin County?
If you do believe you have a sewer line problem, don’t wait on bringing in the expert advice you need. A sewer line contractor or a plumber who takes care of sewer lines will be able to help you. Your sewer line contractor should identify the problem first.
Many sewer line repair companies should have a camera they can use to view the interior of the sewer line and locate exactly where the problem is. At times, your sewer line contractor may need to jet the pipe to clean it first before using the camera. The camera should be used so that the contractor is not guessing about the problem.
Look around your property for cleanouts. You many have more than one. They are very useful when you need to work on your sewer line. A cleanout is a capped, or lidded, pipe that gives access to your sewer line. You can look for the clean out in your yard, particularly near to where the bathrooms are located.
A small number of houses have the cleanouts inside, perhaps behind the toilet, though this is not usual. When you don’t have a cleanout, the sewer line contractor will have to access the sewer line through an interior fixture, such as a toilet, or through a roof vent. These latter methods are more costly than using a cleanout.
You may be able to opt for a sewer line repair once the problem is identified. Or you may be up for a complete sewer line replacement. In general terms, if the problem is located in a specific area, it may be possible for the sewer line contractor to patch the pipe. The patch will replace the damaged area of the pipe with a new piece of pipe. In some cases, a patch makes perfect sense.
Keep in mind, though, if it seems as though you will have to keep patching the sewer line, that effort can be as costly as or more costly than replacing the entire sewer line, since you have to keep opening and closing the access every time you have a patch applied. The decision to patch or replace really depends on the severity of the damage; your sewer line contractor should be able to assess and offer recommendations.
What Does it Take to Fix my Marin County Sewer Line?
You may feel a bit of dread at the thought of a sewer line repair. You might have an image of your yard or driveway being torn up, with trenches all over the place, with a project that goes on and on. On occasion, you will need a trench for a repair. But fortunately, there are also other techniques that your sewer line contractor may be able to undertake.
One such option is CIPP, or cured-in-place-piping, which is an alternative to trench repairs. This trenchless sewer repair process begins with a hydro-jetting, where highly pressurized water is used to clear the pipe. A PVC-saturated liner is then fed down the pipe, using a machine. Once the liner has been set in place, a bladder is sent down to puff out the liner while steam molds the PVC liner to the walls of the existing pipe. Once the new piping 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 in some cases, using access from cleanouts or from manholes in the street. In other cases, some excavation may be required, but it is significantly less than the full-trench approach.
Another trenchless replacement technique is called pipe bursting. In the pipe bursting technique, two holes are typically needed at the start and end of the sewer line’s length. A bursting head is inserted. The bursting head is a device that will break apart 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 follows the same path as the pipe being burst apart. Most often, the old pipe that was burst apart is left in the ground.
What Else Affects my Marin County Sewer Line Repair?
In most cases, your choice between trench or trenchless sewer line replacement or repair will be reached in concert with recommendations from your experienced sewer line contractor. You should always work with a licensed sewer line contractor or plumbers.
Some companies advertise specifically as sewer line contractors and some advertise as plumbers who work on sewer lines. Either way, the company must have a California state contractor’s license and display that number in its advertising. The plumber’s license is called a C36, and the sanitation system contractor’s license is called a C42. All licensed contractors are tested by the state and must be bonded.
No matter where you live in Marin County, whether in San Anselmo, San Rafael, Novato, Larkspur, Mill Valley, Woodacre, Tiburon, Sausalito or beyond, ask your sewer line 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.
Besides a licensed sewer line contractor and a permit, you need to make sure the materials used in the repair or replacement are appropriate. Most areas have codes that dictate the types of materials allowed. Some specific kinds of pipes may be banned for use as a sewer line – many places do not allow clay pipes because they break easily, for example. In other cases, specific types of plastic are ruled out. 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.
There are a few unfortunate circumstances that will drive costs up. Sometimes trees have to be removed and the stumps ground out, if the trees run along the same line as your sewer pipe. Obviously, 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.
If you have an older home or home not built to code, the gas lines may be too close to the sewer line. If this is the case, you could incur extra costs as the sewer line repair contractors will have to be much more careful.
Another consideration is how far away 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.
Sometimes a sewer line contractor will tell you they can save the tree or shrub that is causing the problem with the sewer line. 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 take the time to question your sewer line contractor closely about how he or she plans to save the trees or shrubs. Also ask about the possibility of future root intrusion, if you do want to save the trees or shrubs.
Marin County Septic Tanks and Sewer Conversions
Some houses do not use the public sewer system but use a septic system instead. In a septic system, the sewage is piped 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 refilled.
Sometimes, a city or other local government mandates that 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, since the public sewer system can be more convenient than pumping a septic tank. If you need to convert from a septic system to the public sewer system, a sewer line contractor can help.
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