Your sewer line is responsible for carrying waste from your home out to the main municipal sewer line under the street. Sewer lines can leak, break or clog for a variety of different reasons. Fixing a clogged sewer line is typically not that big of a deal, but repairing or replacing a broken sewer line definitely can be. If the sewer line breaks or otherwise needs to be replaced, you may have to dig up your yard. It might even require digging up the sidewalk and part of the street, depending on which part of the sewer line has the issue. This can be quite expensive, and the question is who is responsible for paying to fix the issue—the homeowner or the city? To understand this, it’s important to look at the different parts of a sewer system and where your responsibility starts and the city’s ends.
Sewer Line Layout
The main sewer line runs underneath the middle of the street and carries the waste from you and all of your neighbors to the municipal sewage treatment plant. Your house is connected to the main sewer line by the upper and lower laterals. The upper lateral pipe runs from the foundation of the house out to the property line at the sidewalk. This connects to the lower lateral pipe, which starts at your property line and runs under the sidewalk and street where it connects to the city’s main sewer line.
When Is the City Responsible for Sewer Repairs?
There is always some confusion about who is responsible for repairing sewer lines. It only makes sense that homeowners are responsible for repairing the upper lateral since this is located on their property. However, many people wrongly believe that the city is responsible for repairing the lower lateral. This makes sense since the lower lateral is on the city’s property, not yours. Unfortunately, the fact is that the city is only responsible for making repairs to the main sewer line.
Issues with the main sewer line won’t just affect your house but the entire neighborhood. If an issue with the main sewer line caused damage to the lower lateral, the city would typically repair this when they fix the main sewer line. However, this situation would be extremely rare as most problems with the lower lateral are caused by something the homeowner did. Part of the reason for this is that most sewer lines have a backflow preventer where the lower lateral connects to the main sewer line. This works to prevent sewage from backing up inside the lateral should the main sewer line become clogged or flooded.
If sewage does back up from the main sewer line into your laterals and floods your home, the city is still not responsible for any damage caused by the sewer backup. This is true even if the backup occurred due to the sewer line being flooded or overwhelmed. For this reason, it is always a good idea to install a backflow valve on your sewer line to prevent this from potentially happening.
What Costs Am I Responsible For?
If your lower lateral is clogged or broken, it happened because you put things down the toilet or drain that you shouldn’t have. The lateral could also have been damaged by roots from a tree on your property growing into your sewer line. In either case, it is your responsibility to repair the issue.
Repairing the lower lateral usually requires digging up part of the street. When this type of repair is necessary, the city will always be involved since it owns the property that will be dug up. The other reason the city will be involved is that the project will typically require closing off part of the street until the sewer line is fixed, the hole is filled, and the street is repaved.
In many cases, the city will specify which contractor you need to hire to do the digging or at least need to approve your choice of contractor. The city may also handle all of the digging and repaving of the street on its own, but they will still bill you for the work. Since you were the one responsible for damaging the lower lateral, you are the one responsible for any and all costs involved with repairing it. It doesn’t matter whether it is your property or not.
Options for Repairing a Sewer Line
In the past, the only way to repair a broken or damaged sewer line was to dig a trench to access the pipe. If the pipe is damaged beyond repair, this may still be your only option. However, there are also two different “trenchless” sewer repair options that can be used in certain situations. These options are great alternatives to traditional sewer line repair as they are usually quicker, cheaper, and don’t require extensive digging.
If the issue is in the lower lateral, you are usually free to fix it however you choose. Unfortunately, many municipalities will not allow you to repair the lower lateral in this way, which means that you will still need to pay to have the street dug up and then repaved.
If your sewer line is still mostly intact, pipe lining is usually the best option. This trenchless repair method involves running an inflatable tube through the sewer line. The outside of the tube is coated with epoxy. When the tube is inflated, the epoxy adheres to the inside of the pipe. It is then left to harden and cure before the tube is removed. The epoxy essentially bonds with the pipe and fills in any cracks or holes so that the sewer line works properly again.
If the sewer line needs to be completely replaced, pipe bursting is an option that can be done without any digging. This method essentially uses a drill bit to break up the old pipe. As the bit moves through the old pipe, the new pipe is fed behind it. Once the new pipe is in place, the drill bit is removed, and the pipes are connected. While this method is more time-consuming and more expensive than pipelining, it is still much easier than having to dig up the old sewer line.
If your sewer line is simply clogged, this can be fixed by running a pipe snake from the cleanout through the pipe. Hydro jetting is another option that can get rid of tree roots and other clogs. This involves sending a high-pressure stream of water through the pipe to blast away anything obstructions.
Professional Sewer Repair and Plumbing Services
If you are having any issues with your sewer line, the team at Bardi Heating, Cooling & Plumbing is here to help. Our licensed plumbers specialize in sewer line repairs and replacement, and we can help determine the best, most efficient, and most cost-effective way to fix your sewer line issues. If your sewer line or any of the drains or pipes inside your house are clogged, we also offer professional drain cleaning services. We can also help with any other type of plumbing repairs as well as installations and preventative maintenance. To learn more about your options for sewer line repair in Norcross, give us a call today.