The ability to differentiate between home repairs and improvements that you can make yourself and those that will require the help of a contractor is a very important skill to have. Not only will this skill prevent you from spending more money than you need to on professional services, but it will also help you to avoid costly mistakes by attempting DIY projects that are out of your league. It is my hope that this information contained in this blog will help you to obtain this skill. More importantly, it is my hope that once you have identified a project you wish to take on, this information in this blog will help you to get the job done.
If you recently bought an older home that you believe was thoroughly inspected by a home inspector prior to closing, there's one thing that may not have been included in the inspection process—the sewer system. In many cases, home inspectors don't inspect sewer systems because they are under the ground and, therefore, difficult to inspect.
Homes built in the late 1800's to early 1900's typically have clay pipes. If your home was constructed during this time frame, it's a good idea to have your sewer lines fully inspected and repaired or replaced as necessary. Here's what you need to know.
Clay Pipes Are Susceptible to Damage
A clay pipe system is comprised of sections of pipes that are joined together. Over the years, these joints may have shifted, even if just slightly, which could cause leaks and root infiltration at the separation. When tree roots grow into pipes, it can cause a blockage. When roots grow into clay pipes, it can cause the pipes to break similar to how tree roots can break up a sidewalk. Also, clay pipes can get crushed by roots growing nearby.
At some point in the future, if it hasn't happened already, damages to the clay pipes of your home's sewer system can cause the sewer to back up into your home. It can also cause slow-moving drains and sewage leakage into your yard. Therefore, even if there isn't a problem with the sewer system at the moment, it's very likely to happen at some point in the future.
Health Risks of Sewer System Damage
Of course, sewage backing up into your home can lead to water damage and make for a stinky situation. However, more importantly, exposure to sewage can have serious health implications for you and the other members of your household. Raw sewage contains organisms that can cause health conditions such as campylobacteriosis, cryptosporidium, E. Coli, Giardia, Hepatitis A, Shigella, and Solmonella. While there's no doubt you would take every precaution possible to avoid accidentally ingesting sewage, accidents do happen.
More likely, a sewage backup in your home would result in your exposure to sewer gases, which cannot be avoided as easily. Sewer gas can contain a mixture of various gases that can cause serious health risks, such as ammonia, carbon dioxide, hydrogen, hydrogen sulfide, methane, and nitrogen. Exposure to high levels for prolonged periods can be lethal. In fact, a Missouri woman died after breathing in sewer gases that came from her kitchen sink.
It's also important to know that the hydrogen sulfide and methane in sewer gas are explosive. If you do smell sewer gas inside your home at any point in the future, do not light any candles or cause any sparks. Leave the house immediately and call a sewer repair service.
Mitigate the Risks by Inspecting & Repairing the Sewer System
Instead of taking the chances of having a sewage backup occur in your home, hire a sewer repair service to inspect the sewer system and make repairs or replace as necessary. They can insert a camera inspection device into your home's sewer system to inspect the piping from the inside. Depending on the conditions they find, they may be able to remove roots and make repairs from within the pipe without digging up your yard.
Have the service replace the system entirely if the damage is extreme. While there are trenchless systems that are commonly used today to replace sewer lines, this likely will not be an option for you if there is severe damage to the existing system because trenchless systems are placed inside existing pipes. With severe damage to a sewer system, your yard will need to be excavated to remove the damaged pipes.