Clogged Sewer Lines

Common issues when dealing with clogged sewer lines

As sewer and water repair and replacement contractors, we come across some repeating common occurrences when dealing with clogged side sewer lines.  The first relatively common issue is due to tree roots gaining access into the sewer lines.  These roots are usually discovered when the homeowner has the sewer pipes cleaned and then the rooter company tells the homeowner they have a root intrusion problem.  Normally, the rooter company then clears the lines of roots and other debris,  and all is well, at least for a short time.

Tree roots got the better of this Orangeburg pipe.
Tree roots caused the demise of this Orangeburg pipe. Do you have Orangeburg pipe?

The problem with tree roots is that the roots keep infiltrating the sewer line. Eventually the roots penetrate the pipe with so much pressure, the outside of the pipe collapses inward.  Of course, in this situation, the pipe has clogged yet again.  Unfortunately, in this case the sewer pipe is beyond repair.  In other words, if the root intrusion is bad enough, the pipe is beyond simple repair and some kind of pipe replacement or liner is the only solution.  

Side Sewer Failure Due to Aging Pipes and Connections

Another scenario we run into as sewer repair contractors is that of aging sewer lines and their related connections.

There are a couple of aging sewerline scenarios that are somewhat common.  Perhaps the most common of the two would be Orangeburg pipe. 

Collapsed Orangeburg pipe section taken from Homeowners side sewer system
This aging Orangeburg finally succumbed to the pressures from the earth above the sewer line.

You have probably heard about this pipe that was manufactured with wood fiber asbestos paper with a tar type of substance.  This ‘tar paper’ was rolled into many layers to form what is known as Orangeburg pipe.   This pipe was suppose to last much longer than the original advertised lifespan.  Unfortunately, many thousands of homes are hooked up to the sewer system with Orangeburg pipe.

What is wrong with Orangeburg pipe?

Besides the limited lifespan of Orangeburg pipe mentioned already, Orangeburg pipe’s structural nature leads to its downfall.  It is the layering of this tar paper matrix that is weakened over time, especially when having your sewer pipes cleaned.  When having your drain lines cleared of clogs, the cutting head on the rooter machine cuts or wears down the pipe layers until the pipe is essentially paper thin.  At this time, the pipe breaks down and earthen mass enters the broken pipe and the line is clogged and thus needs to be replaced.

Clay and concrete aging pipe issues

Tree roots caused this side sewer clay pipe to malfunction causing the homeowner grief.
Tree roots caused the total collapse of this clay pipe.

Clay and concrete pipe as a sewer line component was  generally a smart choice by contractors in the past.  However, no matter the material makeup of the sewer pipe, the environment the sewer pipe ‘lives in’ is a very harsh environment indeed.  Of the many factors involved, the nasty sewer environment includes corrosive sewer gasses, incredible earth pressures and the ever present danger tree roots present.  Corrosive sewer gasses are in constant contact with the upper portions of the pipe and seems to degrade even the hardest fired coatings on clay pipe.

Clay pipe collapsed due to sewer gasses and tree root intrusion
Clay pipe survived quit a while before sewer gasses weakened the pipe to collapse. Tree roots helped with the demise in this situation

All sewer pipe connections are only as good as the workmanship used to install the pipe and connections.  These connections are made of rubber, cement, plastic etc. Over time the connectors degrade under the harsh environment mentioned earlier.