The plumbing system just keeps on working day after day and year after year. That is, until it suddenly stops working. A burst pipe or clogged sewer can result in thousands of dollars for repairs that are not covered under a homeowner’s insurance.
The cost of digging up and replacing a sewer line from the house to the street can end up costing as much as a new car. Routine maintenance and common sense can avoid costly plumbing repairs.
Just because products are labeled as being safe for septic systems does not mean that they cannot wreak havoc on some older septic tanks. A septic system relies on bacteria that digests solid wastes to keep liquid waste flowing into the surrounding earth around the tank. Harsh chemicals such as bleach, which kill the microorganisms that digest the solid waste, can cause a septic tank overflow.
The safe labeling may not apply to a home that does a lot of laundry, especially ones that use a lot of bleach containing products. Also, a biomat may form in a tank. This is a thick film of organic matter caused by a tank that does not get enough air. It coats the earthen walls that hold back liquid waste. It must be manually removed and the tank aerated.
Sewer System Inspection
One common issue is backflow from surges that occur in overtaxed main sewer lines that home lines connect to. This often occurs during a major rainstorm. Debris in the main line can be pushed into the smaller sewer lines coming from homes. This can cause slow running drains. Another issue is collapsing or separated sections of terracotta sewer lines.
Older homes have sewer lines made of ceramic pipe sections that can break or separate at joints. Nearby trees, frost heaves and repeatedly driving over the area where the sewer line runs can cause collapse or separation. Tree roots are the most common problem because they migrate toward the leaking line for the moisture. Eventually, they grow inside the sewer line and clog it. A camera inspection can spot the problem, and there are modern interventions that often do not require digging up the line.
Not every house is up to the latest plumbing codes. The codes are developed as problem areas are discovered over time. What was in effect when the home was built may not be what is needed for safety and longevity of the plumbing system today. Also, do-it-yourself home repairs and upgrades are very common, and not every repair or upgrade is done according to safe and proper plumbing practices.
A low-cost inspection from a qualified plumber can prevent costly repairs being needed later on. One example is an older style of polybutylene pipe that has been recalled but not replaced in every home. It has been implicated in burst pipes that can cause thousands of dollars of damage.
Common Plumbing Issues Homeowners can Prevent or Resolve
Inspect clothes washer hoses for swelling or bubbles. Check the water line to an ice-maker and inspect for corrosion, kinks or leaking. Inspect flexible water lines installed to faucets, toilets and dishwashers for physical damage, corrosion or signs of leakage.
Check outdoor faucets for drips, and be sure to shut off the inside valve during the winter season for outdoor spigots that are not frost-free. If a clothes washer drains into a wash basin, use a lint filter to prevent drain clogs. If a septic system serves the home, minimize the use of products that contain sodium hypochlorite (bleach) and other harsh chemicals.
The plumbing system of a home operates smoothly for years without any intervention until something serious requires repair or replacement. Often, there is additional damage caused by leaks or overflows that costs quite a bit to repair.
Simple routine inspections and maintenance can prevent expensive repairs from ever being needed. Even routine inspections completed by a qualified plumber are very inexpensive when compared to the cost of repair or replacement.
Charlie Teschner started MESA Plumbing, Heating, and Cooling in 1982. Charlie has a journeyman and master plumber’s license. He was raised with a strong work ethic and he now applies those values to tasks such as heating repair in Boulder.