Commercial Construction & Contracting Resources

Think You Might Have a Cracked Sewer Pipe? Here’s What To Do

Posted by Tim Klingel on July 9, 2018

Here in central Ohio we are often called on to repair a cracked sewer pipe. Our freeze-thaw-freeze winter weather cycle can cause great underground upheavals, leading to stress fractures in the underlying pipes.

Tree roots can work their way into the pipes, causing damage as they grow and expand. Older pipes may become brittle, or could experience rust and corrosion that weakens their effectiveness.

How Can You Tell if It’s a Cracked Sewer Pipe?

Cracked sewer pipes typically don’t show up until they become a problem. Typical problems include:

  • Poor pipe drainage
  • Sinkhole
  • Standing water

For example, if you see a sinkhole or sunken area in the ground outside, you might have a problem. If there is a lot of water in your yard, and it hasn’t rained recently, you know that water is coming from somewhere other than the sky.

What to Do Next

If you notice one or more of these symptoms of a cracked sewer pipe, here are the steps to take:

1. Make Sure You Really Have a Cracked Sewer Pipe

There might be something else going on that's causing your problems. The only way to be sure of what you’re dealing with is to verify you actually have a cracked pipe. This is best done with camera technology to be able to see into the pipe.

2. Troubleshoot Minor Problems

If there are no cracks, the pipe might just be blocked. This might be alleviated by using solutions that dissolve the blockage, sending a snake through the pipe, or sending water through the pipes via high-pressure sewer jetting.

3. Consider Repair Options

If you believe the crack is at one location, you can probably dig up the sewer pipe and repair that section. All you’ll need to do is install a short length of pipe, using repair sleeves to connect.

You must first contact Ohio Utilities Protection Service before you dig. If your inspection reveals problems at multiple points, you'll probably have to dig up the whole pipe and relay it completely.

Cracked Sanitary Sewer Pipe Vs. Cracked Storm Sewer Pipe

It's important to remember the difference between a cracked sanitary sewer pipe and a cracked storm sewer pipe.

The sanitary pipe carries sewage from your home or business to the treatment plant, while the storm sewer carries rainfall and other drainage.

Unfortunately, the sanitary sewer is a more complicated repair. The amount of digging required is usually more extensive because the pipes are deeper, especially if you're in an area that has basements where laterals can be 9-11 ft. deep. It takes longer to get down to this depth, whereas the storm sewer pipes are usually laid at a depth of about 4 ft.

You also have to be aware of local regulations regarding sanitary sewer repairs, which can make them more complicated. Columbus, for example, will not let you cut the pipe and allow raw sewage to seep into the ground. You'll need a bypass line so sewage doesn't get into your trench and a truck with a holding tank to contain the excess.

Dealing with a cracked sewer pipe can be a messy business, so it's always best to proceed with care -- and call an expert.

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Topics: site work, underground utilities, civil construction, Ohio construction

Written by Tim Klingel