Underground and unnoticed, sewer pipes are often neglected. It is not until something goes wrong and sewage is backed up onto someone's lawn, into their basement or in the middle of the city, that many homeowners and officials even give these lines a second thought. A regiment of cleaning and repair, when necessary, can keep the pipes flowing and avoid a nasty ordeal.

Why Clean and Repair Sewer Lines?

When a sewer line becomes clogged, waste begins to back out of the plumbing. This waste comes with a horrendous smell and creates unsanitary conditions as it backs up onto your lawn, in your sinks, tubs, and in some cases, may even flood your basement. By periodically cleaning out the lines, you can avoid these circumstances.

Repairs to sewer lines are equally important. Cracks in the line can cause waste to seep out into the surrounding soil. This leakage can cause contamination of the water table. Through early leak detection, prompt repair negates the need for full line replacement.

Major Issues that Cause Line-Cleaning or Repair?

Pipe issues that result in the need for repair or cleaning is as simple as a neglected sewer pipe becoming damaged to a point where it is no longer usable in its original integrity or has caused further damage to the location in which it is installed, for example, a street, house or lot. One of the more predominant problems is grease. Many homeowners do not realize that our basic tendencies to draining oil from food into the kitchen sink and dumping products containing grease down a home's pipelines can create clogs later on when the oils cool and solidify.

Grease in drains is only one of the factors that cause sewer pipe damage. For areas still using cast iron pipes, a problem known as tuberculation is common. Tuberculation begins as a slimy buildup on the interior of the cast iron pipe. This slime is an indicator of iron bacteria eating away at that pipe. These bacteria metabolize ions from the water to dissolve the iron in the pipes. The result makes cast iron pipes rough on the inside, snagging anything that passes through it and causes clogs within the line.

In addition to tuberculation, tree root intrusion causes major sewer line problems. A crack or hole the diameter of hair can allow tree roots access to the water and waste flowing through the sewer line. Tree roots can infiltrate the system even if there are no trees directly on top or near the installation area, as the roots are known to travel more than 20 feet deep or across in search of nutrients. Tree root intrusion causes further damage to the line as well as clogs in the pipe.

Corrosion and scale build up are another major issue sewer lines can have. These issues occur over time as water erodes the interior line wall. The amount of corrosion or scale buildup within the pipe is proportionally related to the amount of wear on the plumbing wall.

How to Fix and Clean Sewer Line Damage

How to address these matters depends on the type of damage found inside the pipe. Cleaning grease from pipes begins with regular maintenance. Enzyme cleaners, baking soda, and vinegar used regularly can keep oil from building up and clogging the pipes. However, homeowners should avoid pouring grease, fats, and oils down their sewer lines. Instead, drain fat from foods into a metal can. Once cooled, throw the can in the trash. Wiping out greasy pans or recycling frying oils is another good way to help avoid grease build-up.

Cleaning Pipe Tuberculation

Tuberculation requires a bit more care. The use of cement mortar linings and chemical treatment can stop tuberculation from the beginning. However, if tuberculation is underway, a low-pressure cleaning solution is necessary. Abrasives with the use of abrasive jetting machinery (AJM) remove the bacterial slime from the pipe walls. Some solutions require water while other solutions do not. After completing the cleaning process, placement of an interior lining proceeds to prevent future tuberculation.

Treating Tree Root Invasion in Sewer Pipelines

In the event of tree root invasion, the first step is clearing the roots. Cutting the roots out is common for pipes made of schedule 32 or heavier plastic, cast iron or clay. Sewage lines made from corrugated iron are too thin to have the roots extracted using a cutting tool as the tool may pierce the wall of the pipe causing further damage. After removing the root, treatment of the line with a de-rooting chemical helps to slow re-infiltration. Repair of loose joints, holes and cracks are other ways to secure the line from roots. However, roots infiltrate clay pipes quickly. You may need to replace these in time.

Clearing Corrosion from Sewer Pipelines

Corroded pipes eventually need replacement. Corrosion and scale build up show how much the pipeline has thinned over time. While the use of a high-powered washer clears out the corrosion and buildup, it will weaken the walls further. Cleaning lasts for a short time, and the pipes can only be cleaned a few times before replacement is necessary.

Proactively cleaning sewer pipes keeps them in working condition. Using enzyme-based cleaners keep clogs from occurring in the first place. Having plumbing lined can help keep corrosion and roots from infiltrating the system. However, it is up to homeowners to have their sewer pipes inspected at least once every 18 to 22 months. This proactive investigation allows you to catch problems before they back up into the house or onto the lawn.