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Signs Of A Broken Sewer Line

Apr 21, 2023

Signs of a Broken Sewer Line


Sewer lines are an important part of a house’s plumbing system. And whether we’d like to think about it or not, they can become as damaged as any other pipe. One of the early signs of sewer line problems is a slow drain, but there are other signs, as well as several potential causes for sewer line problems.  


Let’s look at some of the other most common signs of sewer line problems, what happens when a sewer line breaks, and how to treat damaged sewer lines.

What Causes Sewer Line Damage?

Sewer lines are used constantly, but we hardly think about them until they no longer work. Because of this, they’re prone to all kinds of problems that cause damage, breaks, leaks, and more. Damage can come from outside the sewer line (like tree roots) or from inside (like flushing big items). Here are the most common causes of sewer line damage – and what you and your family can do to prevent them from ruining your day.

Tree Roots

Trees are a beautiful addition to any yard. But the roots of trees (as well as shrubs and bushes) are attracted to the water and materials that run through your sewer lines. If your pipes are made from clay, tree roots can be especially damaging. What’s more, it’s not just your trees that can break through your sewer lines – your neighbor’s trees can also cause damage.


What you can do: You can always try using a root killer to stop the tree’s roots from growing, but only a professional plumber can repair or replace your sewer line safely. 

Corroded Pipes

Before PVC piping, sewer lines were made from cast iron. When exposed to water, iron rusts. Over time, that rust causes corrosion, which eats away at the iron, causing damage to the pipes – and costly problems for you. 


What you can do: Unfortunately, there’s no way to avoid exposing your iron pipes to water. If you experience signs of sewer line problems and you suspect that corroded pipes are to blame, only a professional plumber like the experts at CroppMetcalfe can diagnose the problem and offer solutions. 

Pipes Clogged with Debris or Foreign Objects

This type of damage comes from inside the pipes and is caused by people flushing things down the toilet that are not meant to be flushed. Remember: toilets are for human waste and toilet paper only. Flushing anything else risks causing blockages in the sewer lines that can lead to burst pipes or backed-up sewage spilling into your home.


Common causes of toilet-related sewer pipe problems:


  • Wipes (even the so-called “flushable” kind)
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Diapers
  • Garbage
  • Toys
  • Napkins
  • Paper towels

But it’s not just toilets. Pouring things down your kitchen or bathroom sink can cause major blockages, as well. Things like cooking grease can build up or solidify inside the pipes, but other obstructions can be caused by:


  • Hair
  • Egg shells
  • Coffee grounds
  • Medications
  • Facial tissues

What you can do: This one is simple: remember that toilets are only for flushing human waste and toilet paper. Avoid using even so-called “flushable” wipes and don’t use too much toilet paper at a time. Your other drains and sinks should only be used for liquids or soap. Garbage and other solids should be thrown out in the trash or recycled. Cooking grease or oil should be poured into a heat-safe container, allowed to solidify, and then thrown into the trash.

Extreme Temperatures

Although your sewer pipes might be underground, they’re still susceptible to extreme temperatures. When temperatures get too cold, the water inside them can freeze, which then expands and bursts the pipes. When temperatures get too hot and water use increases, the pipes can expand and burst from heat or overuse. Either way, you wind up with a broken sewer line.


What you can do: For very cold weather (32 degrees Fahrenheit or lower), even if it’s just a temporary cold snap, set your home’s faucets to drip. This keeps the water moving and prevents it from freezing inside the pipes. For very hot weather, try not to use too much water at once and, if you know where your sewer pipes are in your yard, try to provide some shade to keep the ground around them cooler.

Signs of a Broken Sewer Line

Because sewer lines run underground, it may be hard to know for sure if your sewer line is broken. However, here are a few tell-tale signs you might notice in and around your home.

Drain Issues

If multiple drains in your home are slow or clogged, that’s a sign of sewer line problems.

Soggy Yard

A broken sewer line will leak water (and other stuff) into your yard, causing soggy patches even in dry weather.

Lush Landscape

Similar to a soggy yard, all that water leaking out of your sewer pipes will cause extra grass growth in patches around your yard.

Funky Smells

Sewer lines are meant for human waste. If there’s a leak in your sewer lines due to a break in the pipes, you’ll smell it coming from your yard or the drains inside your house.

High Water Bills

Higher than usual water bills may mean not enough water is getting into your home because of a broken sewer line. All that water you think is coming into your house is actually leaking into your yard from broken pipes.

Insect or Rodent Infestation

Rats, mice, and insects will spot any size leak or tear in your sewer pipes and use them to climb inside and make their way into your house.

Mold & Mildew

Mold and mildew love damp places. Leaks in parts of your sewer pipe that run through your house may cause mold to grow inside your home.

What Are the Consequences of a Broken Sewer Line?

Some of the most common consequences of a broken sewer line include:


  • Raw sewage coming up and out of your drains
  • Toxic mold in your home
  • Foundational cracks in your house
  • Sinkholes
  • Breathing problems due to leaking gasses
  • Contaminated water

What Should I Do About a Broken Sewer Line?

Call a plumber as soon as you notice some of the signs of sewer line problems listed above. Small leaks may be treatable with pipe lining, which will save you from dealing with bigger problems (and repair costs) down the road.


Bigger problems – if your pipes have burst beyond repair – may require trenchless pipe replacement, which only a professional plumber like CroppMetcalfe should do.

Assess Damage with a Video Drain Inspection from CroppMetcalfe

The best way to avoid expensive damage to your property from a broken sewer line is with professional maintenance checks. CroppMetcalfe’s experienced professional plumbers will come to your home to perform a video drain inspection so we can assess the problem – including what’s causing it and how bad it is – and find a solution.


And for plumbing emergencies, we’re your #1 plumbing specialists. Our 5-Star technicians are ready to handle any plumbing emergency, big or small, 24 hours a day.

Don’t wait until it’s too late. Call the most trusted plumbers in the Virginia/DC/Maryland area today to check your sewer pipes for signs of damage. You can reach us at 1-888-559-6785 or by filling out our convenient online service form. Let us help you protect your sewer lines!


What Our Customers Say...

"I've been a CroppMetcalfe customer for 9 years and you have always provided outstanding service. I just had my semi-annual maintenance done, and I wanted to thank George for the truly outstanding service, professionalism, and excellent advice. He is definitely one of the best 5-Star Technicians I've had! Thank you CroppMetcalfe!"

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