What to Expect When Your Sewer Lines Need to be Replaced

what to expect when your sewer lines need to be replaced

Sewer lines are pipes that run from your house to the city sewer or to your septic tank. You may never have to think about these pipes as long as they are working properly. However, when these pipes have clogs and your wastewater is backing up into your home, they will be all you can think about! These lines need attention periodically to keep them in good working order. Clogs in sewer lines may happen naturally, so how do you know whether the main sewer line needs to be unclogged by a professional or sewer line replacement is required?

You will need to call in a Houston plumbing expert to determine where your clog is and how to get rid of it. Most clogs can be fixed by using what is called the "trench method." This is where the plumber will dig a hole in your yard above the sewer pipe. He will then proceed to fix the clog from there. Things become a bit more complicated if the expert tells you there is a need to replace your sewer lines. There are a few options for the replacement process.


When faced with the need to replace your sewer pipes, the plumber may suggest tunneling under your home. This method is quite dangerous and should be avoided. Tunneling is just what the name implies. It is a process in which the contractor will dig a tunnel under a commercial or residential building. The contractor will then crawl under the building in order to cut out the old pipes and hang the new ones from the slab foundation. There are serious safety concerns when tunneling under a home. Poor air quality and collapsing soil are the two major safety concerns.

There is also a long-term risk for your home due to compromised soil under the foundation. Once the soil has been dug from under your house, there is no guarantee that the soil compaction will support the foundation. There is no way to fit the soil compactor machinery under the slab, making it impossible to reach the original soil density.

Replacing pipe sections

One alternative to tunneling would be sewer pipe replacement, one section at a time. This process starts with the plumber determining which pipes need to be replaced. The easiest way to accomplish this is to run a camera through the pipes, looking for breaks or leaks. The flooring above the old section of pipe is broken up with a sledgehammer. The old line is cut out and replaced with new piping. This method is time-consuming and costly. There is the cost to repair the flooring in addition to the other plumbing costs. This process is also very messy in your home. Getting your home back to its original state will take both time and money.


Pipelining is a no-dig solution to replacing or repairing your outdated sewer lines. This method uses a PVC pipe known as the liner. The liner is placed inside of the old piping. There is a small void between the old pipe and the new liner. This space is filled with a watertight seal called epoxy. Test results show over 100% of the original flow capacity despite the liner having a smaller diameter. Pipelining materials are applied with minimal disruption to your property.

The liner is a continuous pipe. It is smooth with no seams or joints. Pipeliners are installed much faster with minimum inconvenience and disruption when compared to excavation. There is less damage to your property than digging inside or outside to replace your lines. It is definitely less dangerous than tunneling under your home.

This is where you may be asking, "How much does each method cost?"  Tunneling requires heavy equipment for digging. There will need to be extra manpower for crawling under the home. Finally, you will need to pay for additional permits from OSHA due to the risk factor involved with this method. This adds up to a costly repair. The cost can be upwards of $10,000. Digging into the floor of your home to replace small portions of pipe at a time will cost approximately $3,000 to $6,000. This does not include the repair of your flooring after the fix.

Pipelining will cost about the same as digging your floor up to replace the lines. The best way to avoid the high cost of pipe repair or replacement is to do regular maintenance on your sewer pipes. Find a reliable, honest plumber who can do preventative maintenance on your pipes and septic if needed. The cost you will pay to do this will be minimal in comparison with having to repair or replace the lines under your home.

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