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What Causes a Broken Sewer Line?

By June 17, 2024No Comments

Sewer line breaks should not be underestimated, as they can cause major harm to the building and its inhabitants or tenants. Knowledge of what leads to a damaged sewer line can enable a homeowner to be on the lookout for signs of damage or take necessary precautions to avoid such situations.

In this blog post, we will explore the common causes of broken sewer lines, their symptoms, and preventive steps you can take to protect your plumbing system.

1. Tree Root Infiltration

Sewer lines often break due to tree root interference, and this is one of the most frequent issues. Tree roots will follow the natural path to water sources, and your sewer line is an easy target often. Roots can penetrate the narrowest crack or the tiniest joint and gradually widen it to the extent that it becomes a threat to the sewer line.


Slow drains

Gurgling noises from toilets

Frequent clogs

Wet patches in your yard


Plant trees and shrubs away from sewer lines.

Regularly inspect your sewer line with a professional plumber.

Use root barriers to protect your pipes.

2. Aging Pipes

The pipe has a definite lifecycle, and its quality may be easily compromised by its age. The older sewer lines are more prone to cracks, breaks, or corrosion if it is made of clay or a cast iron pipe. The duration of a sewer pipe is relatively difficult to determine but may approximately last between 50 years and 100 years based on the used material.


Recurring sewer backups

Foul odors

Visible corrosion on exposed pipes


Schedule regular inspections to monitor the condition of your sewer pipes.

Consider replacing old pipes with more durable materials like PVC or HDPE.

3. Ground Shifting and Settling

Physical shifts in the terrain may exert a lot of strain on sewerage systems and consequently develop cracks or breaks. Compelling forces like soil erosion, earthquakes or construction activities nearby could be the reasons for the shifting of the ground.


Sudden unexplained wet spots in your yard


Misaligned pipes


Ensure proper landscaping and drainage to minimize soil erosion.

If you live in an area prone to earthquakes or heavy construction, have a professional plumber assess your sewer line’s stability.

4. Poor Installation or Design

Lack of proper installation or poor sewer lines’ design can cause the lines to have a short lifespan. Some problems that can cause broken sewer lines include instances where the pipe slope was installed wrongly, or adequate bedding was not provided or low quality material was used.


Frequent blockages

Uneven water flow

Visible defects in the plumbing system


Hire reputable and experienced plumbing contractors.

Ensure that all installations meet local building codes and standards.

5. Heavy Machinery and Construction Work

The current construction projects in your surroundings are prone to causing direct harm to sewer lines. Activities such as construction work using heavy machinery, digging, or drilling can also exert mechanical force on the pipes, causing some to burst or develop leaks.


A sudden drop in water pressure

Unexplained puddles or wet spots

Sewer odors


Before any major construction work, have your sewer lines marked and protected.

Communicate with contractors about the location of underground utilities.

6. Extreme Temperature Changes

Sudden changes in the temperature are likely to cause the ground to shift and create pressure on sewer lines. These include freezing and thawing cycles in which pipes break and crack.


Reduced water flow during cold weather

Visible frost or ice on exposed pipes

Unusual noises from the plumbing system


Insulate pipes, especially those in unheated areas.

Keep a slow trickle of water flowing during extreme cold to prevent freezing.

7. Clogs and Blockages

Habitual sewer clogs and blocks create continuous pressure build-up within the line, which can result in the line breaking apart. Some of the detected causes are grease accumulation, objects that should not be flushed, and the buildup of sludge.


Slow-draining sinks and tubs

Toilet backups

Foul odors from drains


Avoid pouring grease down the drain.

Only flush toilet paper and human waste.

Use drain screens to catch hair and debris.

8. Chemical Drain Cleaners

Acid and chemical drain cleaners can be helpful in solving simple and minor drain issues; however, they are highly damaging to pipes. The harsh chemicals employed may cause the pipes to deteriorate, which in turn results in cracks and breakage.


Recurring clogs despite using cleaners

Corroded or damaged visible pipes


Use mechanical methods like plungers or drain snakes for clogs.

Opt for eco-friendly or enzymatic drain cleaners.

Early Detection and Professional Assistance

The simplest and most effective way to manage sewer line problems is to identify such problems in their initial stages before allowing them to develop into major catastrophes which can adversely affect the structural stability of the property. It is, therefore, important to employ the services of a professional plumber for the purpose of conducting regular maintenance and check-ups since this may help discover such issues before they worsen further. Here are some tips for early detection:

  1. Regular Inspections: Homeowners should set an annual or bi-annual appointment with a licensed plumber to assess the status of the sewer line.
  2. Video Camera Inspections: Some modern plumbing companies use video camera inspections to give the client an actual view of the condition of the pipes inside.
  3. Hydro Jetting: This method involves using pressurized water to remove debris and accumulation from pipe walls, preventing breakage.


Learning the factors that lead to the failure of a sewer line will assist homeowners in taking adequate measures in handling their plumbing systems. Several cases that result in sewer line damage include root penetration, pipe corrosion, pipe bursting, pipe corrosion, and inadequate installation. Understanding what different symptoms mean and applying measures to prevent these unpleasant situations will help you prevent radical disruptions and additional costs in the case of a broken sewer line in your home.

If you suspect any issues with your sewer line or want to schedule a routine inspection, contact Umbrella Waterproofing. Our team of experienced professionals is dedicated to providing top-quality service to keep your plumbing system in excellent condition. Don’t wait until it’s too late—ensure the health and safety of your home today.