Road Work Ahead

What to Expect When Your Sewer Main Line Needs to be Replaced

Have you gotten news that your sewer main line needs to be replaced? You may not know it, but as a homeowner, you’re responsible for your sewer main line—the line that connects your home to the city main line. Everything involved with that line, from your home to the city main line is your responsibility, including the street and sidewalk if needed.

You’re responsible for any necessary repairs to the line, as well as patching the asphalt, the sidewalk, and anything else involved on the city end of your sewer main line. If it needs to be excavated for repairs, the obligation is yours to return the area to its original condition.

But what, exactly, does this involve? What happens when your sewer main line needs to be replaced? Keep reading to learn more!

Common Reasons for a Sewer Main Line Repair or Replacement

When it comes to problems with your sewer main line, there are five common culprits:

  • Root intrusions

  • Shifting ground

  • Blockages and clogs

  • Back-ups

  • Deteriorated or collapsed lines

  • Leaks

If the issue is minor enough, we may be able to clear your existing line with one of our drain cleaning machines. Learn more in one of our related blog posts: 9 Machines We Use for Drain Cleaning Every Day. If not, your line will need to be replaced.

2 Ways to Replace a Sewer Main Line

There are two different ways we can approach a sewer main line replacement: full excavation and line burst. Most homes in Colorado will eventually require a full excavation, but we detail the specifics of both methods below.

Full Excavation

orange excavator digs a trench to remove damaged sewer main line from residential front yard as workers look on

Excavating a damaged sewer main line © High 5 Plumbing

With most sewer main line repair situations here in Colorado, full excavation is often the route we have to take. Why? A lot of homes in the Denver metro area are relatively old. In fact, the median home age in Denver is 50 years (10 years older than the national average). Over time, pipes deteriorate, tree roots create obstructions, the ground shifts, and blockages can cause your sewer line to back up. The older your home is, the more susceptible it is to a damaged sewer main line.

Here’s our step-by-step process for a full excavation:

  1. Before beginning excavation, we locate all electrical and gas lines.

  2. Once the site is ready for excavation, we lay down plywood to help keep your yard in good shape.

  3. If needed, we will block off a portion of your street and have someone directing traffic so that in-street work can be completed safely and efficiently.

  4. We then bring in tractors to dig up the full length of the pipe, and we make sure to dump all excavated material onto the plywood to help protect your landscaping.

  5. We replace the old line with a brand-new pipe, from your home all the way out into the street.

  6. We call the city to do an inspection of the work.

  7. Once the inspection is complete, we begin the work of patching everything up, including your yard, the sidewalk, and the asphalt.

excavator moves dirt from hole in front yard onto plywood laid down to protect the yard and driveway

Excavated soil is unloaded onto plywood to help keep your yard tidy © High 5 Plumbing

We understand that this process can be disruptive to your daily activities, so we typically try to complete a sewer main line replacement in one day. Depending on how much asphalt or concrete needs to be patched, this can sometimes be a two-day job, but a one-day service is always our aim.

Pipe Bursting (AKA Sewer Lining)

If your sewer main line is in good condition, we may be able to do what’s called a line burst.

What’s “good condition?”

  1. Your line should have good “fall,” sometimes referred to as “slope” or “pitch.” Generally speaking, your line should have a positive (downward) slope where it falls at least ¼” per foot of pipe.

  2. Your line shouldn’t have any “bellies” or sags. A belly is a portion of the pipe that doesn’t have a positive slope. It’s a low spot that interferes with the normal flow of waste water through your line and allows stagnant water to collect and sediment to build up over time.

If your sewer main line has good fall and no bellies, it may be a candidate for replacement via line burst. In this case, we run a pipe-bursting device through your line that breaks the existing pipe and pulls a brand new pipe through the middle of the old one. The new line effectively lines the inside of the old pipe.

This method of sewer main line replacement isn’t very common in Colorado because the ground here moves so much. This movement creates “bellies” in the line which require a full excavation.

Before You Buy a New Home

If you’re buying a house, even a new one, we always recommend that you invest in a video sewer line inspection. Replacing your sewer main line can be a massive expense, so you want to make sure yours is in good condition before buying your home.

For more tips before buying your home, check out Our Home-buyer's Plumbing Checklist.

Client Case Studies

To give you an idea of what to expect for your own sewer main line replacement, here are some examples of recent work we’ve done for our High 5 Plumbing clients.

Case Study 1

This client in Arvada had a sewer line filled with roots from the tree in their yard.

front yard excavation site features orange cones, plywood, ladders, a tractor, and plywood to protect the landscaping

© High 5 Plumbing

We excavated the ground and replaced the old line with all new pipe. We even installed clean-out fittings all the way to the city tap. Once installed, we had the new line inspected by the city and county. Then, we backfilled the site.

an excavator removes dirt below a rectangle that’s been cut out of the asphalt near the city main line

© High 5 Plumbing

Case Study 2

For this client, we excavated a 10-foot section of sewer line and replaced it with new SDR (a sewer main PVC pipe) which is up to code for use underground.

orange excavator parked on sidewalk digs trench to unearth residential sewer main line

© High 5 Plumbing

We got rid of the offset on the existing clay pipe and leveled out the line. Then, we ran our Spartan 300 drain-cleaning cable down the entire line one more time and flushed it thoroughly with hot water. We returned the flow to normal and got the pipe back to 100% capacity.

looking down into a freshly excavated trench with new mint-green sewer line and a ladder resting against the wall of the trench

New SDR piping to replace excavated old line © High 5 Plumbing

As with the previous case study, we also installed clean-out fittings in the yard for easier access in cleaning the sewer line. When we tested the replaced and repaired line with water, there were no backups.

looking down into a trench where two vertical pipes are being connected to a two-way sewer line clean-out system

This line is being installed with a two-way clean-out system © High 5 Plumbing

Case Study 3

When we realized the extent to which this client’s sewer pipe was collapsed and compacted, we knew that cabling the line (with one of our drain cleaning machines) would not resolve the issue.

We excavated 15 feet of the compromised sewer. The pipe was exposed to an open section with open capacity and then inspected by camera. The camera went an additional 12 feet before dropping into a common city sewer pipe.

wheelbarrow pours dirt into trench with newly-installed sewer line and dual clean-out fittings for easy access

Another sewer line with dual clean-out fittings for easy access © High 5 Plumbing

We cleaned off and exposed the cast iron pipe from the home to allow a new 4-inch diameter 20-foot section of pipe to be installed with dual clean-out fittings. Then, we poured in pea gravel to properly grade the pipe. (Surrounding the line with pea gravel helps prevent movement of the line.) After inspection, the trench was backfilled.

backfilling a trench cut through a lawn after the sewer main line work has been completed

© High 5 Plumbing

To complete the job, we reset the bathroom toilet, replacing the wax ring and anchor bolts and adding a silicone seal around the base. We tested the work several times with no leaks or operating issues.

Summing It Up

If you own a home in the Denver area, there’s a good chance you’ll run into sewer main line issues. Whatever the cause, we’ll inspect your line and advise the best solution for replacing it, whether through a full excavation or a line burst.

And remember! Before you buy a new home, always invest in a video inspection of your plumbing, especially the sewer main line.

Hopefully, the client case studies we’ve shared here give you confidence that our experienced certified plumbing technicians will service your sewer main line thoroughly and efficiently with as little disruption as possible to your usual routine.

Request an Estimate Today!

At High 5 Plumbing, our trustworthy, reliable experts can replace your sewer main line so you can be confident that your home is in top-notch shape. Call us today at 720-330-4868 or contact us online to get your expert estimate—fair and honest every time!

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