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The state of your sewer line

Although not the most glamorous of topics, your sewer line condition is extremely important. And it is becoming more important every day as our homes age. Because failed sewer lines can cost you thousands in repair or replacement costs, inspecting your sewer line should become part of your home’s annual maintenance plan.

If you live in a home — or are looking to purchase a home — built prior to the 1980s, the sewer line is more than likely made of clay pipe. And unfortunately, clay piping does not age well. As our wonderful expansive Kansas soil shifts, these sections of clay pipe move right along with it causing separations and, in some cases, a break. Because clay sewer pipes were assembled in sections, the joints are susceptible to tree root intrusion as well. As tree roots seek water sources throughout the year, a sewer line can become a wonderful water supply. The roots can then cause clogging of the sewer line or can grow to the point that they cause a major separation.

I have written about sewer line maintenance before, so why am I revisiting this topic this week? It is because just this week, two of our sewer line inspections (where a professional runs a camera from the house to the city’s sewer main) have revealed broken sewer lines. As with most home conditions, it seems that sewer line problems reveal themselves slowly and then they fail suddenly. I do not want you to suffer this fate.

So what should I do, you ask? Many plumbing companies now have the technology to scan your sewer line. I would recommend you partner with one and have them out once a year. You might consider scheduling them at the same time that you have your heating and cooling system serviced. This will make it easier to remember.

I must say that I am always a little leery of a company that inspects something that also sells the solution to any deficiencies they may find. For that reason, I would suggest a third party company, such as Hydrophysics of Kansas City. We have worked with John at Hydrophysics for years. He is extremely knowledgeable of sewer line construction and he will provide you with a DVD of the scan. I know, a DVD of your sewer line…yuk. It’s not for movie night at the house with popcorn, but it is helpful for monitoring the condition of your sewer line over time.

If the scan does detect some potential future problems, at least you can start budgeting for a replacement at some time. Many cities have also partnered with insurance carriers to provide sewer line coverage with a very low annual premium. This can be a great addition to your sewer line maintenance plan. Please note that pre-existing conditions are not covered by these policies.

My last word is to the future home buyers out there. Regardless of the age of your potential new home, I would strongly suggest that you choose to do a sewer line inspection on any home. The cost of the inspection could save you thousands in the long run. And in some cases, a home’s sewer line can run under the driveway or under a patio or deck. In these cases, not only do you get to replace the sewer line, you also get to rebuild a driveway, patio or deck. The cost of this one repair can snowball quickly. So don’t get caught with your pants down. Pun intended.

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