Tips To Help You Replace Your Home's Broken Main Sewer Line

When your home's main sewer line becomes damaged or collapses, you need to have it replaced as soon as possible. With the right knowledge and tools, you can do some or all of the replacement work yourself. Here are some tips to help you complete this repair.

Prepare the Excavation Site

Once you have determined your sewer main needs replacement, you need to find and mark your sewer line's location in your yard. You may already have a plumber at your home who discovered your sewer main has become damaged. If so, ask them to complete this service. The plumber can run a camera into your sewer line, using a radio transmitter to track the camera's location below the ground. Then, the plumber will use their transmitter locator over the ground to locate the pipe's location, marking it with spray paint. You can also use the camera to locate the pipe's damaged section so you know where to excavate to replace the broken sewer line.

Next, you will need to call your local utility companies so they can come out to mark the location of their buried utility lines in your yard. It is a good idea to know where all utility lines are buried so you don't accidentally cut into them. You may also want to remove any vegetation and landscaping from the area of your yard that will be excavated to preserve it and replant it after the work has been completed. Last, make sure you get a permit from your city office to do sewer repairs on your property.

Excavate the Trench

During the excavation of your yard above the damaged pipe, you may need to remove concrete. You can rent a jack hammer or use a sledgehammer and break apart the concrete. Try to keep intact as much of your concrete surface as possible by only breaking apart and removing the concrete that is in the way of your excavating.

Now you can excavate down to where you sewer main is buried. If you have experience running heavy equipment, you can rent a small excavator. You can also ask others to help you do the work manually with shovels. One home renovation expert reports digging an eight-foot sewer trench by himself with a shovel to a depth of four feet and a width of three feet in approximately six hours. Be sure to have a chainsaw, yard clippers, or a hand saw nearby to cut through any roots in the soil. 

If you don't want to do the work yourself, you can hire a professional equipment operator to excavate with a small excavator. Just be sure to verify the operator has insurance against any damage they cause during the excavation work. No matter who does the digging, place the excavated soil away from the trench so it doesn't interfere with your work.

Your home's sewer main will be buried at a more shallow depth next to your home, then slope downward to the city's sewer line. You may find your sewer line at a depth of anywhere from 18 inches to four feet.

Remove and Replace the Pipe

When you locate your sewer pipe, remove it from the trench. You can use an electric handsaw to cut any hard-to-remove sections of pipe. Replace your sewer line with new four-inch wide PVC pipe, priming each of the ends with purple-colored PVC primer, then applying PVC glue. 

Be sure to position the bell-shaped end of the new pipe at the higher end of your sewer line, nearest your home. This placement will prevent any sewage from leaking from the connection. Also, make sure the sewer line slopes appropriately down to the city sewer line connection. The recommended pitch for four-inch sewer pipe is one-eighth to one-fourth-inch for every foot of length.

It can be helpful to fill sand under the newly-installed pipe to prevent damage to the pipe from sagging under the weight of the soil during back filling. Before you bury your new pipe, have a plumber inspect the work for approval to make sure no problems will arise from the repair. Replace all the removed soil, covering the top with the original topsoil, then replacing the landscaping.

Using these tips to follow the proper process, you can save money by replacing your own sewer line.

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