All Clear Plumbing is a leading provider of quality sewer line replacement and repair in Greenville and Anderson County, South Carolina. In addition to helping property owners maintain their plumbing systems, we help our customers make clear and informed decisions by answering their questions.
Below we have answered common sewer line replacement questions. Hopefully, you’ll find some answers, but if we missed a query – let us know!
All Clear Plumbing services the Greenville, SC and Anderson, SC areas. We have limited service in the surrounding Upstate, South Carolina but it never hurts to ask! If you aren’t sure if we service your location, feel free to reach out.
- What are the signs of a broken sewer pipe?
- What causes a broken sewer pipe?
- How do I know if I need a sewer line replacement?
- Is sewer line repair an option?
- Am I responsible for sewer line replacement if my sewer line is broken?
- Does homeowners insurance cover the cost of a sewer line replacement?
- How does a sewer line replacement work?
- What is the average cost to replace a sewer line?
- Is digging up and replacing a sewer line my only option?
- Can I replace my sewer line myself?
- How long does it take to replace a sewer line?
What are the signs of a broken sewer pipe?
Broken sewer pipes often show warning signs by causing frequent sewage backups. If you have continually gurgling toilets or slow moving drains, consider if your home is trying to tell you something.
It isn’t always easy to determine if a clog is at a fixture, like a particular toilet, or if it is your main sewer branch. One clear indicator of this is whether the backup is throughout the home or just in one area.
Another way you can tell that a backup is in your main branch is to open the cleanout pipe in your yard. Cleanouts can be hard to find at times. Look near the foundation of your home (like in the flower beds) for a four-inch pipe sticking straight up out of the ground. There should be a cap on this pipe.
The cap might be hard to open, but, if you can open it you should! If you are experiencing a whole house backup, the last thing you want to do is have that dirty water overflowing into your house. If the cleanout is open, the water will overflow into your yard first.
Standing water in a cleanout pipe is a clear sign that the mainline is backed up. Now, not every sewer line backup is the sign of a broken or damaged sewer pipe. It is just one indicator.
Short of overflowing sewage, there might be other warning signs. Sometimes, a severely broken pipe is made evident by a particularly green patch of grass or lousy sewer smell in your yard.
Note: If you are on a septic system, first consider when you last had your tank pumped. A full tank or drenched drain fields are more common causes of frequent backups than a broken pipe.
What causes a broken sewer pipe?
Whether on city sewer or septic, plenty of things can lead to a broken pipe. Most commonly, the issues are root intrusion or old, eroded pipe.
Of course, ‘broken’ pipe can be a confusing term. It doesn’t necessarily mean a complete and clear break.
A sewer line might also need replacing because of bellies or poor slope. The pipe is in one piece, but it isn’t able to function as intended.
Gravity creates bellies. When the pipe doesn’t have enough support from underneath, gravity takes its toll. Over time, the pipeline will sag and create a pocket for solids to get stuck. There is no way to fix a belly other than replacing the pipe or repairing the section of pipe.
We never like to point fingers, but a lousy slope is the sign of a poorly installed sewer pipe. You don’t need to know all of the particulars, but if there isn’t enough ‘fall’ or slope – your waste won’t drain away.
How do I know if I need a sewer line replacement?
If you’ve ever researched cold symptoms on WebMD and convinced yourself of cancer, you know that warning signs are not the same as a diagnosis! Luckily gone are the old days when you took a plumbers word for it. We have advanced diagnostic tools to provide solid proof when a sewer line replacement is needed.
Camera inspections use special equipment to make a movie of the inside of your sewer pipe. It’s not all Hollywood glamour, but it shows us essential things like length and depth. These are used to provide an accurate quote for repair.
Expect to pay an extra fee for a camera inspection. Without it, plumbers are going blind, so it is well worth the additional cost. It may also help minimize the amount of damage to your front lawn during the replacement process.
Is sewer line repair an option?
Sewer line repair vs. sewer line replacement – wording is essential here! Typically, a replacement refers to removing the entire drain pipe between the sewer tap and the house. Replacement provides you with an entirely new sewer line (or at least the part of it you are responsible for!)
Note: A sewer line replacement will not include repiping the drain lines under your house that connect to your sinks and toilets. Those drains are a separate system. When we are talking about a sewer line repair or replacement, we are referring to the primary or main sewer line that runs underground in your yard.
A sewer line repair or ‘spot repair’ is less intrusive but also less thorough. A sewer line repair is not always possible, depending on the depth and location of the issue. It may not be advisable in some situations, due to the overall condition of your pipe.
There comes the point when the cost of repairing gets so high that a replacement makes more sense. It always depends on the situation, so consult your plumber with any questions you might have. If you are curious about a repair – it never hurts to ask.
Am I responsible for sewer line replacement if my sewer line is broken?
In South Carolina, property owners are responsible for everything on the ‘lateral.’ The lateral is defined as the pipe from the house to the sewer tap.
More or less, if it is on your property, you are probably responsible for the cost. For most homes, the length of the sewer line is anywhere from 20′ – 50′. A permit is required nearly always from your local sewer district.
Depending on your sewer district, they may have additional installation requirements, like specialty cleanouts.
Every sewer district has its own rules (Yes, that can be frustrating but don’t worry – that’s our job.). If you aren’t sure who your sewer district is, look at your tax bill.
Sewer districts in Greenville County, South Carolina include:
- Wade Hampton
- City of Fountain Inn
- City of Simpsonville
- City of Mauldin
- City of Travelers Rest
- City of Greenville
- Greer CPW
- Town of Pelzer
- Town of West Pelzer
Anderson County sewer districts include:
If you are having a sewer emergency and think it is the sewer districts responsibility, they all have 24/7 emergency lines. Typically, the sewer district will only respond to water flowing from a manhole or a sewer overflow. It doesn’t hurt to try though, does it?
Does homeowners insurance cover the cost of a sewer line replacement?
Typically, no. (Sorry!)
Of course, if you want to double check call your insurance agent. It is more likely that they will cover damage done to your home from the repairs or an overflow. Coverage varies by policy.
If you have a home warranty, it is possible that it will cover a sewer replacement. Consult with your provider for details (although they will usually dictate the plumber you use. All Clear does not typically work with home warranty companies.)
How does a sewer line replacement work?
Sewer lines are typically four or six inch DWV (drain, waste, vent) type pipe that runs underground connecting your home to public sewer or septic. These days, the material is typically plastic ABS or PVC pipe designed to last fifty years or more.
In South Carolina, we typically bury sewer pipe at about four feet deep. The pipe must have a minimum fall (slope) of two percent. That equals one-quarter inch per foot of pipe.
Gravity takes care of the rest.
Armed with this information, you can probably start imagining how sewer line replacements happen. We dig.
To replace your sewer line, we typically remove the old pipe. (Once we uncover it, we are legally obligated to remove it.) Plumbers connect the new pipe to the existing input at your home and output connection at the sewer main.
Before we even start, we have to have a permit from your sewer district and a utility locate. This locate tells us where all of your other utilities are so we don’t cut them when digging. (Always call 811 before you dig!)
The replacement itself usually takes 4-6 hours. During that time you’ll see a crew of 3-5 plumbers and some big equipment. The real ‘big gun’ is our excavator.
Once we have found the connections, we have to create a trench between them for the new pipe to lay. The newly installed pipe should be well supported and have the appropriate slope two percent slope. That means it is a very carefully dug trench.
Once everything is connected, we bond any joints and test the line to make sure that our joints are holding. After a final check that everything is working as intended, we cover up the hole.
Well, kind of. I skipped a few critical steps.
First, in addition to installing the new line, we will ensure you have a cleanout. Cleanouts are outside access points to your sewer pipe for future maintenance. Essential if you ever have another sewer line back up!
If your sewer district requires a special cleanout, we will comply with their direction (note: this may affect the price of your installation!). Before we cover the pipe up, an inspector must ensure correct installation.
Depending on the availability of inspectors, this may delay us filling in the hole. Sometimes we can’t backfill the dirt until the next day. It’s up to the inspector!
Once we backfill, we do our best to get everything back to grade and lay pine-straw. The only thing we don’t do is replace your landscaping.
What is the average cost to replace a sewer line?
While individual costs may vary, national data says that the average price is about $2,500. While individual cases may vary, most replacements in our area will fall between $1,500 and $5,000. Hey – we’re average!
If you have a sewer line that runs under a driveway, basement, deck, or other obstruction – this may add to the cost of your replacement.
Is digging up and replacing a sewer line my only option?
If your sewer main is compromised to the point of a complete break, it is likely that replacement is your only option. Without it, you are facing regular drain cleaning bills and risking a sewer flood in your home.
As for how the replacement happens, excavation is the typical option but not the only one. Some companies do trenchless sewer replacements.
Trenchless work is often more expensive than trench options, due to specialty equipment involved. You will need to discuss these options with your plumber during diagnostic.
Can I replace my sewer line myself?
Excavation and sewer line replacements are among the most dangerous and physically strenuous jobs that plumbers do. The pipe replacement itself is not necessarily difficult; however, it is easy to get wrong.
Getting the slope of the pipe correct per linear foot, bedding the pipeline correctly to avoid future breaks or bellies, and adhering to sewer district regulations and permitting is a little tricky.
Sewer line excavation is not a small job – so don’t underestimate it. We would never recommend that a homeowner undertake their sewer line replacement. It’s dangerous, and you may do more harm than good.
How long does it take to replace a sewer line?
The entire process takes from four to six hours with a crew of three to five onsite. If your sewer district can’t inspect the installation on the same day, backfilling and putting your yard back to grade may extend until the next day.
When possible, we always complete a job on the same day. Crews will show up bright and early. This work is highly dependent on weather, so expect rain delays during wet weather. Sometimes the ground is even too soaked to dig after a heavy rain for a few days.
The soil in Greenville and Anderson is so dense with clay and rain adds additional weight. Excavation accidents are a leading cause of death in the construction industry, so we take worker safety on these job sites very seriously. An open trench is no joke and cave-ins can happen.
Much of the time spent on site is used to dig. Once we lay pipe, the primer and sealant at the connections have to dry before we can cover it back up.
Sometimes this is confusing to customers who see our crews ‘just standing around.’ Trust us; they earned the break. Dry time and inspection time is ‘hurry up and wait’ mode for everyone.
Other factors can increase the time spent on your sewer line replacement. If the ground is unexpectedly rocky, there is an irrigation system present, heavy utilities, or lots of roots – this can require hand-digging.
Hand digging a sewer trench is precisely as awful as it sounds! It is a lot of backbreaking work, so it may delay how long it takes to repair the sewer line.
That is why, at All Clear Plumbing, we perform a thorough diagnostic before beginning our work. While some things are impossible to predict, we do our best to anticipate digging conditions and accommodate them in our initial estimate.
Once we give you a written estimate, we will stick to that price!
How can I check on the condition of my sewer line?
You can order a sewer camera inspection at any time. Just contact us for an appointment. We always recommend that when purchasing a home in Greenville or Anderson County, you ask for a sewer inspection first.
A sewer camera inspection is not part of a traditional home inspection process. So if you are concerned about big trees in the yard or the age of the home, you might consider making this request.
We see it all the time – the old homeowners got used to ‘temperamental’ plumbing. Well, new homeowners are unaware and unknowingly disrupt the system. Once they call the plumber, they are stuck with the bill for something that should have happened ages ago.
Sewer line breaks, root intrusion, and other causes of sewer line compromise can happen at any time. When you suspect you are having sewer line issues, call a plumber you can trust to give you a thorough diagnostic, a quote they will stick by, and quality repairs that will last for years.