Sewer lines often follow the old saying, "out of sight, out of mind." Your home's sewer line is always hard at work, and just like anything else, it can break down from external and internal influences. If you're experiencing difficulty with your sewer line or are just wondering if it will need repairing or replacing in the future, then consider these three things that can damage or destroy a sewer line.
Many people don't realize it, but trees are actually a big problem for sewer lines. The large roots of trees can grow deep underground until they reach the sewer line. From there, there are two possibilities. The first is that the tree's roots simply collide with the sewer line and eventually start to puncture it from gradual force. In the other scenario, some tree roots actually purposefully break into sewer lines. Trees are very good at finding sources for food and water underground, as they need to in order to survive. Unfortunately, the waste that's going down your sewer line can attract tree roots, especially if you have microfractures in the sewer line already.
Once this happens, the tree roots will continue to grow into the sewer line, widening the hole it created and also creating a blockage in the line, which can cause plumbing problems indoors.
Another problem is whenever the earth moves. Typically, this means an earthquake. Even small earthquakes can cause the ground to shift enough to cause damage to a sewer line. Since sewer lines are stiff and not meant to be flexible, if one end of the sewer line is higher, lower, or further to the left or right than the other end, it can cause fractures or full breaks in the sewer line.
However, sometimes earthquakes aren't even necessary for this to happen. Many homes shift over time, causing the tell-tale creaking and popping of floorboards to happen and cracks to develop in walls. If the house moves, so does the start of the sewer line, which can create enough of a shift to cause damage to the pipe.
Finally, simple age can cause a sewer line to break down and collapse. The constant weight of the earth above it and the fluid running through it will gradually cause the materials it's made out of to start degrading. Usually, this takes decades, but if your house was built a long time ago and hasn't had its plumbing overhauled since, your sewer line may not be in the best shape. This also puts it at a higher risk of developing severe damage from the above two problems.
If you're concerned about the structural integrity of your sewer line or are having plumbing problems that don't get better when you clear the drains indoors, it's time to call a sewer line repair technician.