A Quick Guide, Important Information About Sewer Line Repair Work

Sewer Service
February 17, 2012

by David Balkan

sewer pipe coupling

An overview of sewer line repair work

sewer repair
Manhattan Sewer Repair

Sewer line repair work actually needs more research and information before proceeding than a complete sewer replacement. Sewer repair work requires pinpointing the problem and exactly where the house sewer runs – As opposed to a sewer replacement where the starting point of the house sewer is clearly evident. This often results in funds being spent of video cameras and drain cleaning contractors instead of the required repair work itself.

An inaccurate assessment of the sewer problem using inadequate or incorrect information can lead to unnecessary sewer work. This frequently results in incorrect work orders and wasted money.

How do you know if you need a sewer line repair ?

clay pipe
Broken old clay pipe

This may sound like a silly question, but really isn’t. Many times a  specialty video camera will be placed down the house sewer in order to convince a property owner that a sewer line repair is needed. Common sense should dictate that your decision to have your drain line repaired is not solely based on a sewer camera video report -but homeowners get duped on a regular basis nonetheless.

If you have frequent and recurring sewer backups due to a defect in the drain line the inconvenience may legitimately warrant that sewer line repair work be done. Naturally if a stoppage cannot be cleared it is a safe bet that sewer repair work is needed. But once again be reminded to never proceed with sewer line repair work solely based upon the findings of a camera. Additionally it is a bad decision to throw good money after bad by proceeding with water jetting, larger drain cleaning machines, etc. when it is clear that structural defects exist with your sewer pipe.

A sewer video camera greatly magnifies the image and can completely misrepresent the condition of the house sewer. Never repair or replace your house sewer solely based upon the findings of a sewer video camera.

How to properly prepare before excavating

Because a sewer line repair work demands knowing where the sewer runs and where the defect is certain leg work has to be done.

  1. NYC DEP sewer records must be obtained.
  2. A sewer sonde (pipe locating device) must be used to pinpoint the location of the house sewer line.
  3. A drain cleaner must carefully mark out the suspected distance from the house trap where the sewer problem starts.

Taking all available measures still cannot assure that the point of the defect has been accurately located or that multiple defects in the system don’t exist.

How to perform a sewer line repair properly

Domestic Pipe
Domestic Extra Heavy Cast Iron

Any sewer line repair or sewer replacement requires NYC DEP permits and a site inspection from a city inspector. In addition all excavations 5′ or deeper must be shored up using approved lumber or other approved materials.

Of vital importance is the material used. It is strongly suggested that domestically produced extra heavy cast iron pipe be used for a sewer repair – it is a superior material. When differing type sewer pipe is used in a repair there are approved specialty fittings that must be utilized. As an example if the existing house sewer is clay and extra heavy cast iron is used to repair a section, then a specialty fitting must be used to transition from the two different types of sewer pipe.

sewer pipe fitting
Specialty cast iron fitting
sewer pipe coupling
Specialty sewer pipe clamp

A final bit of advice

Always get a quote for a full sewer replacement when you get a quote for a sewer line repair. It will serve two purposes.

  1. The price difference between the two types of sewer repairs might not be as large as you imagine. It may make sense to do the complete sewer line replacement and receive a long term guarantee.
  2. You will have an ironclad quote up front in case a repair cannot be completed as anticipated.

When it comes to subsurface plumbing additional knowledge can go a long way in preventing unnecessary costs and unanticipated aggravation.

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David Balkan

David Balkan is the CEO of Balkan Sewer And Water Main, the largest and most trusted service in New York City. David is extremely active in various NYC plumber organizations being the Chairman of the Subsurface Committee in the Master Plumbers Council, and Vice President of the Subsurface Plumbers Association. In addition David’s expertise is respected by officials of New York City agencies such as the NYC DEP, NYC DOB, and the NYC DOT. He frequently provides valuable input on a variety of industry related matters.

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