10 Symptoms of a Damaged Sewer Pipe

//10 Symptoms of a Damaged Sewer Pipe

South Florida homes are experiencing a large wave of cast iron sewer pipe problems due to the 25-35 Year life span of cast iron pipes. If your cast iron sewer pipes are 25 Years old or older, they could fail at any time. Your drainage lines may already be damaged by tree root intrusion, cracks, channelling, or misaligned connections before you experience complete sewer line failure. Do not let your plumbing get to the point were it fails! A failed or collapsed sanitary sewer line will cost you tremendously more to repair than proactive maintenance and repair will. This article highlights 10 tell-tale symptoms that your sewer line is deteriorating and possibly broken.

1) Sewage Backups and BlockagesSewer Stoppages and Backups

Sanitary sewer backups usually occur in the lowest open drain. A sewage backup is typically caused by a blockage somewhere in the line. If you experience a backup every time you flush or run water down your sink or bathtub drain, then the problem is likely in your main sewer line since all drains rely on the main sewer line to drain properly. However if backups are limited to only one drain then your problem is likely isolated to that drain.

Regular backups may be a symptom of broken or deteriorating sewer lines

If you experience backups or blockages regularly even after having the pipes cleaned, then you may have an underlying issue such as tree root intrusion, channelling, cracks letting surrounding soil in, or a misaligned pipe connection. These issues can be detected by getting a sewer video inspection.

2) Sewer Gas Odorsewer-odor

If you can smell sewer gas in or around your home or building, this is a tell-tale symptom that there is a crack somewhere in your sewer system. A sanitary sewer should be air tight everywhere with the exception of vent stacks on your roof which allow for the sewage to move downhill. This means that you should never smell sewer odor unless there was a crack or opening in your sanitary sewer lines.

3) Mold Problemsewer leak causing mold

In addition to sewer odor, mold growth may also be a sign of a break in your sewer lines behind your walls. There are molds that only need the humidity level to be higher than 55% to start growing. Considering that, a cracked sewer pipe behind a wall can cause the humidity levels to rise to a point suitable for a mold problem to begin. If you notice mold growth in your home accompanied by sewer odor then you likely have a break in your sewage drain pipes.

4) Slow Drain

A slow drain may be a symptom that a blockage is forming which will eventually lead to a sewage backup. If your toilet, bathtub, or sink is draining slowly even after attempts to clear the line, you may have issues such as tree root intrusion, channelling, or cracks, mentioned above in the beginning stages.

Note: Beware of using chemical drain cleaners to solve a slow drain or blockage. As the chemical sit in the pipe they will eat away at the cast iron and/or PVC.

5) Extra Green and Lush Patches in Grass

Spotting an extra green and lush patch of grass in your yard may be due to a sewage leak underground. Since sewage acts as a fertilizer for vegetation, leakage from your main line into the surrounding soil will give the surrounding grass extra nutrients that will result in a lush and extra green appearance.

6) Indentation In Lawn or Under Pavers

Another symptom of a broken sewer line is indentation in your lawn or under pavers. A cracked sewer main line that is consistently saturating the ground may cause soil to dissipate. This may cause your lawn to develop an indentation or dip above where your sewage main line runs.

7) Foundation Cracks, Settlement, and Sinkholes

Sewer leak causes foundation problems

More extreme symptoms of sewer pipe deterioration include foundation issues such as cracks in your foundation slab, foundation settlement, and in some cases sinkholes.

If the main line running under your slab develops a leak that goes untreated for a prolonged period of time, a void may develop under the foundation or in the yard. This may lead to foundation problems such as cracks in your foundation, settlement of your home or building, and potentially even a sinkhole.

If your home or building is not on pilings and you notice any of the aforementioned foundation related problems, a broken and leaking main sewer line may be a contributing factor and you should call a foundation repair specialist immediately.

Here is an example of a cracked sewer line causing a sinkhole: Broken sewer line cause of sinkhole in Winston-Salem

8) Septic Waste Pooling in Yard

An obvious sign that you may have a broken sewer pipe would be septic waste water pooling in your yard. The issue may be a broken septic tank, clogged drain fields, or a cracked main line. Often times the problem area is located directly under the pool of sewer water.

9) Rodent Problem

Believe it or not a rodent problem may be a sign of a break in your sewer lines. Rats live in sewers and can make their way from your city/main line tie-in to the pipes running behind your walls. An average rat can squeeze through a crack or opening in your sanitary sewer the size of a quarter (about 3/4 inch) and invite themselves to dinner.

Rodent In Residential Sewer Lines

Rodents are responsible for the spread of many life-threatening diseases including Plague and Hemorrhagic Fever. Certain diseases can be transmitted simply by breathing in dust that has been contaminated with rat urine or droppings as well as being directly bitten by an infected rodent.

If you have a persistent rodent problem that pest control tactics can’t seem to solve, try getting a video inspection of your sewer system to see if you have any possible entry points for rodents.

10) Insect Infestation

An insect infestation may also be a symptom of a broken sewer line. Insects such as cockroaches, palmetto bugs, and sewer flies have a much easier time getting through sanitary sewer cracks into your home than rats. According to one reference work the small German cockroach can fit into a crack in your pipes as thin as a dime, while the larger American cockroach will squeeze into a space no thicker than a quarter!

Cockroaches have many negative consequences for human health because certain proteins (called allergens) found in cockroach feces, saliva and body parts can cause allergic reactions or trigger asthma symptoms, especially in children.

Calling a pest control company on a regular basis to get rid of insects will treat the problem temporarily, however if you have a compromised sewer line, the bugs will never stop coming into your home. You will need to address their entry point which may indeed be through a crack in your sewer lines.

How to Avoid Further Sewer Pipe Damage

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms of a damaged sewer line, you should have a sewer inspection done by a qualified professional such as Pipelining Technologies, Inc. Plumbing systems can fail unexpectedly and cause substantial damage to your home. There are many methods of sewer pipe repair out there so we wrote this article on choosing between pipe lining and conventional repair, so give it a read before making any decisions!

If you need pipe repair help in South-East Florida please feel free to contact us at (561) 412-4234 or Toll Free at (855) 532-3010 or fill out our online form here.

By | 2016-11-29T13:10:28+00:00 September 7th, 2015|Sewer Repair|51 Comments

51 Comments

  1. Aaron Stephens January 20, 2016 at 12:28 am - Reply

    I noticed a green patch of grass at our family’s cabin last weekend. It seemed really out of place, so I’m glad I found this article. I imagine that I’ll need a professional to do an inspection for a broken pipe. I just hope it won’t be too much of a problem. We have another get together planned at our cabin. Thanks for the information.

    • Parker Ruiz August 29, 2016 at 10:49 am - Reply

      We are glad you found this information helpful! An out of place green patch of grass will always have a cause (likely that it is receiving extra fertilizer in one form or another). Hopefully you were able to sort everything out at your family cabin. Thanks for reading our blog!

  2. Faylinn April 7, 2016 at 8:43 am - Reply

    I knew that rats lived in sewers. I mean, anyone who has ever watched Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles knows that. However, I had no idea that they could squeeze through the cracks in the sewer and get into the house from there. Just knowing that makes me want to have my pipes checked for cracks!

    • Parker Ruiz August 29, 2016 at 10:51 am - Reply

      It is definitely a good idea to have your pipes checked every few years for possible rodent entry points. Nobody wants rats in their home! Thanks for reading our blog!

  3. Paul Langley April 8, 2016 at 5:53 pm - Reply

    Wow, I had no idea that there were so many issues with sewer deterioration. I was also unaware that sewer pipe damage had so many symptoms, but I guess it makes it slightly easier to diagnose the issue. It’s terrible that it can even cause mold to develop, because those repairs are a hassle, and can be expensive. Thanks so much for writing, I’ll have to keep an eye out for these issues!

    • Parker Ruiz August 29, 2016 at 10:56 am - Reply

      Sewer deterioration is often overlooked by many. Everyone plans to have to replace their roof eventually, but the sewer pipes often take the backseat, when in reality they should be at least as much of a priority as roofing. After all, no one will live in a house or condo without a functioning plumbing system.

      Thanks for reading, Paul!

  4. Jac July 13, 2016 at 11:00 am - Reply

    Thank you for all of the tips about sewer and water damages in the home. I have been suspecting there is some damage in my own home, but I’m not sure. Whenever I turn on my shower there is a very distinct smell coming up from the drain. Sometimes it seems to come from the water itself. Could that be water damage in the wall? Thank you!

    • Parker Ruiz August 2, 2016 at 11:52 am - Reply

      Jac,

      Thank you for reading!

      The best thing to do is have a plumber test the shower for leaks. Could be moisture getting behind a failing shower pan liner or a crack in the drain line. The P-trap should be full of water at all times, maybe check to see if leaking out (indicates a crack in p-trap).

  5. Lillian Schaeffer July 28, 2016 at 11:14 am - Reply

    This is some great information, and I appreciate your point that slow drains even after trying to clear it can be a sign of root intrusion in your sewer. The drain in my laundry room has been having some problems with backing up, and using a cleaner hasn’t really helped any. I think it’s the maple tree in our front yard again, so I’ll definitely look into having a plumber come and take a look. Thanks for the great post!

    • Parker Ruiz August 2, 2016 at 11:55 am - Reply

      Lillian,

      You are very welcome. When drainage problems keep resurfacing there is always a cause. Common causes are deterioration due to age, cracks, channeling, misaligned connections, and tree roots. And if you have tree roots, that means there are cracks or some type of opening in your pipes (a drainage system should be air-tight, no openings for roots to get in).

  6. gas plumbers August 2, 2016 at 8:30 am - Reply

    Some of these problems are just nasty. Someone has to do it. The life of a plumber is not so fun after all.

  7. Jessica September 5, 2016 at 8:47 pm - Reply

    My landlord knows there’s a problem by the just put in another sump pump to pump the water out of the basement onto the sidewalk which runs into the street to a storm drain. It clearly smells like sewage and there are sewer flies everywhere inside my house. Larva is pumping out with the water from the basement. How do I get someone to listen? So far no one has!!

  8. Jim Woodard September 19, 2016 at 12:04 pm - Reply

    Is it true that if you have some cracks in the walls of your house that a investor can tell that you have sewer leaks om the slab as opposed to needing the foundation lifted? He actually said that from the location of the cracks and the direction in which they are appearing indicate a sewer leak and that I should have it inspected with a camera to determine where it is leaking and to have it fixed. Any idea the approximate cost of having a camera run through the sewer line under the house from the access point in front of the house? Texas clay soil is notorious for house movement going from dry to wet and the 3 months we have very little if any rain during the 100 degree heat in the summer.

    • Parker Ruiz November 23, 2016 at 2:04 pm - Reply

      It is true that leaking sewer pipes under the slab can contribute to foundation problems by washing out soil and causing voids. A video inspection would be a first step in finding out. We are unfamiliar with the average pricing in Texas as we are based out of South Florida. Your best bet would be to call some local plumbers and get a few quotes. Just make sure that if you are paying for the inspection that they give you copies of the videos. Thanks for reading, Jim!

      • Howman November 25, 2016 at 11:37 pm - Reply

        Hello Parker, I was reading this comment and wanted to say that getting a copy of the video is most definitely important. most people are not even thinking about the possibility they might not use the company that did the video, I am a plumbing contractor and have had this a few times before I came to see the problem and the video is in their mind leverage to get the job so unless it is completely free then get the video. If I have the video when I get there I can access much easier to give the quote. I do not have the camera my self because cost doesn’t weigh out for me as I wouldn’t use it enough. so I just wanted to point out that you made a excellent suggestion with that and would be a good idea to drive that one in to every one because it will save a lot of them money

  9. Nancy October 8, 2016 at 10:56 am - Reply

    I have sewer water coming up from behind sewer stack in basement is this a ruptured pipe under house??

    • Parker Ruiz November 23, 2016 at 2:08 pm - Reply

      Nancy,

      A plumbing system should be air tight with the exception of vent openings and drains. If there are no vent openings or drains near the sewer water then there is a good chance that there is a ruptured pipe. We recommend getting a sewer video inspection done by a local licensed plumber.

  10. kayla October 9, 2016 at 1:19 am - Reply

    I have had a sewer gas smell in house making me and babies ill.I keep windows open but still smell bad.and horrible cough and mucus. Our batroom is on same wall as closet were the smell I strongest.my husband had went under hose and a y pipe hade broke he repaired but ground still wet could this be our issue and if so once ground dries will smell be better?

    • Parker Ruiz November 23, 2016 at 2:16 pm - Reply

      Kayla,

      If you found a broken pipe under the house that is a good start. We recommend that you get a sewer video inspection and/or a smoke test to determine if there are any other leaks. A smoke test is where a non-toxic vapor will be pumped through your pipes from either a vent stack on your roof or a clean out. If there are any cracks in your system, the vapor/smoke will manifest itself in your home. Your drainage system is supposed to be air-tight, so detecting any smoke inside will be an indicator of some type of opening/crack. Read more about smoke testing here.

      Also, if sewer water has been leaking behind your walls, you may want to have a mold inspection as well, as that residue from the sewer water will not go away on its own.

  11. Ahmad Murrie October 26, 2016 at 5:18 pm - Reply

    Thanks for all the helpful information; i do have a tree in the front of my house; i had a stoppage yesterday where my first floor bathroom started flooding and water seeping from under the toilet. so couldn’t flush or wash or do anything. a plumber came in and checked and told me i might have a cracked sewer line. so who do i need to come and check and make sure its a cracked sewer line? i’m in Alpharetta, GA

    • Parker Ruiz November 23, 2016 at 2:18 pm - Reply

      Hi there, thanks for reading our blog! To determine if there is a crack in your pipes you will want to have a licensed plumbing contractor perform a sewer video inspection. A high quality video inspection should show whether there is any root intrusion/cracks.

  12. Cornell October 29, 2016 at 10:22 pm - Reply

    My tenants neighbor is seeing water on their side in the basement I have a bathroom on the other side of their wall in my house in the basement I am not smelling anything or seeing water on my side I am getting a license plumber to buy the camera in my sewer line for cracks I just hope their problem is not my problem

  13. Jake October 30, 2016 at 9:19 am - Reply

    I had a pipe in my basement burst a couple days ago. I was also painting my bathroom on my first floor, so the smell masked it for a little while. I went to work and came home to such an overwhelming odor. Instant headache and dizzy! Now a few days later on the second floor of my home on the ceiling where the chimney is going up it is all mold and looks like water damage. It didn’t rain at all. Could this be from the sewer gas? The smell of the gas was the worst upstairs, so I opened all the windows. Smell is gone, but the patches on ceiling are still there. Help!

    • Parker Ruiz November 23, 2016 at 2:23 pm - Reply

      Jake,

      A plumbing system by design is air-tight, so if you are smelling a true “sewer” odor then that means there is an opening/crack where there should not be. A sewer smoke test will help you locate the location of any leaks so that you can make the necessary repairs. Making a small opening in the ceiling where the mold is may also reveal your problem pipe.

      Thanks for reading!

  14. Ryan December 13, 2016 at 1:28 pm - Reply

    Boy are foundation cracks a mess! And if you develop a slab leak, game over.

  15. charlene January 23, 2017 at 6:14 pm - Reply

    I have a problem with carpet being wet where anything heavy was sitting. I removed carpet from 2 rooms and I have huge cracks in my slab. I have never seen water, but if I lay something on the crack thats heavy the bottom of whatever is there will be wet. If I lay a piece of paper on the crack it will never get wet. Is it possible I have a sewer or drainage leak?? Would I have a foul smell?
    I had a plumber out, he said he does not believe I have a pipe leak. I had a roofer out and he found nothing. I checked my meter and it does not move when no water is being used in house. What is my next step?

    • Parker Ruiz January 30, 2017 at 3:10 pm - Reply

      Charlene,

      Thanks for reading! This sounds like moisture weeping up through cracks in the concrete slab foundation. This is often the case in older homes that have a missing or compromised vapor barrier. It is most likely ground water moisture coming up and doesn’t sound plumbing related. There are products on the market that can seal and waterproof cracked slabs and this may be something to research.

  16. Caden Dahl February 9, 2017 at 11:09 am - Reply

    I like how you mentioned that extra green patches of grass can indicate a sewage leak. My lawn has been fairly uniform, but there’s a patch near the street that’s much more green than the rest of my yard. I think that’s where my sewer line runs, so maybe it would be a good idea to have a professional plumber come and check it out to see if there’s a leak or another problem.

    • Parker Ruiz February 16, 2017 at 4:56 pm - Reply

      Hi Caden,

      It is certainly possible. Depending on the age of the home any number of improper connections could have been made to the city sewer and they will start to allow infiltration and exfiltration to occur in the system. A through video inspection of the entire sanitary system is a good proactive measure especially if the system is over 30 years old.

      Thanks for reading!

  17. Nicole February 9, 2017 at 11:22 am - Reply

    I am in the process of buying a foreclosed twin home that has a water issue in the basement. There is also mold in the basement that starts from the base of the floor and works up about two feet up the wall. Water enters the basement when it rains from the back of the house. The backyard does have a slope that goes towards the house instead of away from it. There also a huge tree on the side of the house where the gutter goes from the roof to the ground. The pipe in the ground is cast iron and it has the gutter going directly into it instead of being directed away from the house. There is a sump pump system but the water does not seem to be flowing into the sump pump tank which leads me to wonder if the irrigation to the pump needs to be rerouted. I am also seeing drain flies which leads me to wonder if a sewer pipe has cracked or if this is an issue from the gutters being clogged. The water at the property had been turned off for about 6 months now so I do not think this is a leak in a pipe anywhere. The previous owner did disclose that the gutters need to be cleaned and that the sump pump was not working properly (however, I poured water into the tank and it did clear it, the water that is entering the basement just does not seem to have a connection to the sump pump). We plan to open the walls after closing but really want to get someone to look at the basement to give us an estimate of how much the work might cost. Do you have any idea what the issue might be?

    • Parker Ruiz February 16, 2017 at 4:55 pm - Reply

      Hi Nicole,

      I would contact a local home inspector and have a through home inspection done to include the plumbing system. This is always advised when buying a home as there could be any number of undisclosed issues going on.

      Thanks for reading!

  18. Mrs Jones February 10, 2017 at 8:28 pm - Reply

    Out of the blue I will smell the sewage smell it appears to come out of the vents it also appears that my house is tilting or shifting what should I do

    • Parker Ruiz February 16, 2017 at 5:01 pm - Reply

      Hi Mrs. Jones,

      A vapor test will tell you if there is any sewer gas escaping from the pipe. As for the house shifting I would suggest reaching out to a foundation expert in your area.

      Thanks for visiting our blog!

  19. Amber February 26, 2017 at 10:08 am - Reply

    My boyfriend is redoing his basement. He dug up the slab to get to the main sewage line for the bathroom piping that is soon to be added. However, we started to notice the smell of sewage, and there is not small puddles forming under the main sewage line. At first we thought is was ground water surfacing, but the puddle got larger after running water/flushing the toilet. Not sure how we can fix ourselves, or how much this will cost. I assume that the smell of sewage is an indicator that this pipe is no longer air tight.

    • Amber February 26, 2017 at 10:10 am - Reply

      I meant there are puddles forming under the main line.

    • Parker Ruiz March 2, 2017 at 9:23 am - Reply

      Amber,

      Thank you for reading our blog! Without being able to personally inspect the issue in the basement, we can only recommend hiring a professional to come out and diagnose the issue and make the needed repairs.

  20. siaosi March 9, 2017 at 2:38 pm - Reply

    I would like to have my sewer checked out. It is smart to get my sewer checked out. I would want to know everything is taken care of professionally. I would not want my sewer to damage my roof like shown here in this picture.

  21. William March 12, 2017 at 4:14 pm - Reply

    We are moving to northeast Florida in a month. We are going to rent. How often was Orangeburg pipe used in Florida?

    • Craig Underwood March 28, 2017 at 3:14 pm - Reply

      Every area is different. Talk to a local plumber and have a home inspection done of the pipe.

  22. Troy Blackburn April 24, 2017 at 2:27 pm - Reply

    I never thought about how a slow drain could indicate that there could be a major problem with the sewage and that things could be seriously blocked. I’ve heard, too, that you need to pay attention to the level of water in your toilet because if it’s lowering constantly you could have drainage issues, too. I’ll be sure to remember all of these great tips and warning signs as I check my house to make sure that I’m not needing sewage repair.

  23. Ingrid July 23, 2017 at 12:32 pm - Reply

    Been having backup in my downstairs toilet about every other month after using shower upstairs. Company discovered roots in my line. They snaked it, and next day came out with a camera for line. I looked at video with them and saw a small root and crack in pipe. However, he said it appeared I had a bend or collapse further in line as water was collecting (backing) in an area. He suggested repairing only the cracked portion where roots entered. Gave me a quote. Called out another company for 2nd opinion and paid same fee. This company wants to repair pipe 30-40 feet in up to directly under my downstairs toilet costing nearly $15,000. Is that necessary?

    • Craig Underwood July 27, 2017 at 7:32 am - Reply

      Not sure how old the home is but all pipe fails over time. Yours is starting to go and already cracked in at least one place. Lining or replacing the entire line is always the best solution but you have to do what your finances allow. Perhaps a “band-aid” repair will get you by for a few years and perhaps not. Unfortunately it is a decision that only you can make.

  24. Tiana July 27, 2017 at 12:37 am - Reply

    Every time I flush the toilet I hear it dripping in my backyard, what could this be?

    • Craig Underwood July 27, 2017 at 7:36 am - Reply

      Really not much info there to go on. Is this a new occurrence? Do you have a septic tank? Where do you hear dripping? Is it a multi-story home? Etc.

  25. Jeannette vargas August 20, 2017 at 1:12 pm - Reply

    I like all the comments ,about the problems with pipes,and the advices ,I had a closing 2 weeks ago ,then we were painting and repairing somethings in the house when we flushed the toilet seemed to be clogged,we decided to put a new toilet in and discovered this root coming out of the pipe, I had a 4points inspection done and the only thing they need it was to flush the toilet to see the pre-existing problem,and I don’t how damage it’s the pipe ,we getting another plumber to check the problem,who’s going to pay for this? and what am I going to do? Any advices? I will appreciate it ,

    • Craig Underwood August 21, 2017 at 7:35 am - Reply

      Jeannette, unfortunately these stories are all too common. The home sewer system is not part of a typical home inspection nor do many realtors truly understand the underlying risks of cast iron drainage in older homes. A video inspection before closing is the only way to know the hidden risks. Now that you have closed just be thankful you found this before you replaced all the flooring etc. I can’t offer legal advice but I can advice to have the plumber inspect the entire system, not just that one line.

  26. alena August 28, 2017 at 5:18 pm - Reply

    I didn’t know that lush green grass could be a sign of leaky pipes. It does make sense, though, because it would be getting more water. I’ll have to tell my husband to look out for that when he mows the lawn because we do live in an older home.

  27. Zac August 29, 2017 at 6:17 pm - Reply

    Hello, could your drain lines under the home with a slab foundation leak without any noticeable signs causing foundation to fail?.

    I live on a hill and the street is about 15′ lower than foundation.

    And my closet sometimes smells like soil could that be apart of a drain problem?

    No back up at al.

  28. Elin September 7, 2017 at 2:15 pm - Reply

    Several sewer back ups some only 2 weeks apart. We use a rooter and pull out baby wipes ( we don’t have kids or use wipes) also for past two years we haven’t put any toilet paper in toilet for fear it was contributing. But when it backs up we get toilet paper coming up! It’s not ours! Sometimes happens during rain but sometimes not. Neighbors have a baby and I found wipes blown into our yard. City wasn’t helpful. Was able to get someone else to look a sewer paper and said it didn’t connect to anyone else’s line. If it was roots or collapsed pipe how would we be getting other people’s stuff? Even if we aren’t home to use water it can back up. At this point we feel hopeless.

    • Craig Underwood September 13, 2017 at 3:31 pm - Reply

      Elin, I would start with a through video inspection of the entire building drain. They can trace out the pipes and see where the city tie-in is and if there are any breaks or cracks. When you have the drain snaked it may be going into the sewer and pulling back debris in the city main. You said the city wasn’t helpful, did they camera their main. Are the neighbors on either side also experiencing backups?

  29. Finn Stewart September 29, 2017 at 7:38 pm - Reply

    I like how you mentioned that a sewage backup is typically caused by a blockage somewhere in the line. For the last week when I have flushed my toiled the shower has backed up. It sounds like this could be from tree roots. I’ll have to let my wife know it could be a good idea to look for a pipeline cleaner.

Leave A Comment