A broken sewer line under the foundation of a house is not only an expensive problem to fix, but it also can be a hazard to your health. If you suspect your sewer line has broken and is leaking raw sewage under your foundation, you should contact your local sewer authority immediately, as there are a number of steps that will need to be taken to repair the pipe and ensure the area is not an environmental hazard.
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Why Sewer Lines Break
Sewer lines break for a number of reasons, including oxidation or rust, tree roots, and the use of heavy equipment in the vicinity of the lines. Over time, older iron and steel sewer pipes will rust and decay after being constantly exposed to moisture. Clay pipes are especially vulnerable to water-seeking tree roots. Any weakened or older line, regardless of construction material, can be crushed or damaged when heavy equipment is placed on your yard or on the ground above the line.
Confirming the Break Location
A plumber who specializes in sewer issues and repairs will be able to run a small camera on the end of a cable down your line. This will allow you and your plumber to get a better idea of where the break is and confirm that the line is in fact broken under your foundation.
Repairing the sewer line will require digging up the damaged section of pipe and, if it is placed directly under your house foundation, it may entail bracing your foundation and the involvement of an architect. Be sure to get several appraisals before settling on a contractor or plumber to repair your line; the cost difference between appraisals may be significant.
It is a good idea to notify your local sewage authority about the break. Officials there will be able to inform you about local codes and requirements following a sewage leak. You may need to pull a permit to undertake the repair, so keeping your municipality in the loop can help you to avoid a hefty fine.