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Your sewer system is largely out of sight, but it shouldn’t be out of mind. When it works well, your plumbing operates smoothly. When its pipes are damaged or deteriorating, daily essentials like using the bathroom, the kitchen sink, the dishwasher and clothes dryer come to a screeching halt.

Any home over 40 years old has systems in place that are feeling their age. And the most important is the sewer lining system. You can catch problems early by having it inspected. If problems show up, you can get repairs done before your sewer pipes get clogged or stop functioning entirely. Depending on what the inspection finds, you might want to do some upgrades.

The more attention you pay now to your sewer pipes, the less you will need to deal with future inconvenience and expense. Here’s a look at what happens during an inspection and a quick rundown on upgrades and repairs.

What Happens During a Sewer Line Inspection?

Modern inspections use video cameras. These are attached to a flexible rod, along with a locator device. These devices sail through your pipes, even around corners, while a technician watches the results on a monitor above ground.

Video camera inspections are a huge advance in plumbing technology. In the not so distant past, workers had to dig up pipes, go under the house and check pipes in awkward spots in the basement, looking for leaks and signs of trouble.

Now the work is quick, less labor intensive, and from a plumber’s standpoint, much less messy. The camera sends back high definition photos that let his trained eye see the interior of the pipe.

Using these images, the technician can look for roots in the pipes, a major cause of sewer clogs; leaks and cracks; signs of deterioration like corrosion; and misaligned pipes, which can make them ineffective.

The locator device tells him exactly where the image is coming from. It doesn’t matter if the pipe is below ground, under floorboards, in crawl spaces or even in cement. The technician knows exactly where the problem is.

What Problems Require Repairs?

Common problems are:
Clogs, due to the buildup of grease and debris
Leaks from cracks or due to corrosion
Signs of deterioration, which indicates a problem in the near future
Tree roots growing into the sewer line. Roots love these pipes because they deliver a continuous stream of water. As they grow through the joint, they get bigger and bigger, causing clogs and cracks.
Misalignment, due to shifting earth

Partial clogs will eventually become full clogs, leading to backups and effectively shutting down your plumbing system. Cracks and deterioration need to be repaired for the line to function correctly. Misalignment also interferes with the smooth operation of the pipe. Tree roots can severely damage a sewer line.

What Types of Upgrades Are Available?

Modern trenchless sewer line upgrades are much less invasive than older methods, which required digging up the yard. That makes them less messy and upgrade less time-consuming. Trenchless upgrades are also more effective in handling the waste products from a home.

They are more cost-effective than conventional methods. Though they might cost 30% to 50% more upfront, they don’t require the restoration work that old methods needed.

Less restoration is needed because just one or two holes are needed to access the sewer line instead of multiple trenches. You don’t need to replace the lawn, flowers and shrubs sacrificed during the repair. With older methods, if the pipes happen to be below a driveway, patio or walkway, technicians need to cut through their surfaces to access pipes. Those types of restoration repairs add considerably to the overall cost of the job.

The new pipes installed using trenchless methods are durable, lasting decades. They require little if any maintenance, and they meet or exceed industry standards.

Are you required to make these types of upgrades? Absolutely not. You make the decision. But the inspection will give you the information you need to plan for the future of your plumbing system. It’s nice to be forewarned. Plumbing surprises are never a joy.

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