Why Use a Sewer Video Camera for Sewage Backups?

Thousands of homeowners throughout New York City require some form of sewer maintenance on a weekly basis. Most commonly the homeowner or tenant begin to sense an unusual odor or see sewage backup up in the area where their sewer trap is located.

Backed up sewer in house

The next step is usually calling the same drain cleaner that has been serving the property for the previous 5 years, at this point it has become routine for him to show up within two hours, clear the sewer line with a snake and move on until he is called back within a few weeks or months. He may use a sewer snake or a water jet if needed.

Spartan 758 Water Jet

Spartan 758 Water Jet

Sewer snake's ready for use

Sewer snake’s ready for use

The problem in this scenario is that nobody is identifying the actual problem and continues to put a “band aid” on the situation. There are valid cases that may require us to perform a routine cleaning, due to a buildup of grease or wet wipes stuck in the pipe. However, we find that 50% of the time there is either a separation, break, roots or belly in the sewer line which is causing the backup, and will not be resolved until there is a permanent resolution. In most cases the permanent resolution will result a sewer line repair, which will be explained later in this article.

Camera inspection scenarios explained

Tree roots clogging the sewer line is a common cause for sewer line backups and most of the time can be treated with a sewer snake or water jet. The problem for some homeowners occurs when the roots have grown too thick and have not been treated over the years. Once tree roots enter a sewer line, they start to flourish due to the nutrients found inside of a sewer pipe (oxygen, water and minerals), these are the exact nutrients needed to survive and in many cases the roots will continue to grow and completely clog the pipe.

Roots clogging sewer line

Roots clogging sewer line

In a situation like this the roots may only be removed by a sewer line repair or full sewer line replacement. if a repair or replacement is completed, it is very important for the owner to schedule some form of a maintenance plan to avoid any future issues. In theory the roots should not grow into the sewer line however, we at Harris always advise to play it safe, even if it is every 18 months.

Pipe repair shows roots in sewer line

Roots blocking clay sewer line

The Broken house sewer trap tends to be more of a challenge than one would predict. In many cases the drain cleaner will report back to the home several times over a few week period to only find out that there was nothing wrong with the pipe going out to the street. The entire problem was at the point of entry which many drain cleaning companies fail to inspect.

Corroded sewer trap

In this case the trap was extremely corroded and the waste/paper towels were getting stuck in the edges of the corroded trap. The problem was only exposed once the trap area was excavated and exposed.

When a sewer line is damaged by others everyone starts to point the fingers at each other and is usually only identified by the homeowner if they live in the house and are aware of recent work completed in front of their house by another utility contractor. The camera inspection may not identify that a pole broke the sewer line but will clearly show that the pipe has been disturbed.

utility pole installed through sewer line

In this case there was no denying, the utility attempted to install their pole and ended up breaking the homeowners sewer line. In this scenario the owner hired Harris to repair the pipe and had to file a reimbursement claim with the other utility company.

The back pitch or belly of a sewer line usually occurs if the sewer line was not installed properly from the start or if the surrounding ground has settled over the years. There are two options to fix a back-pitched or belly of the sewer line. First it is most important to identify where the problem has occurred and at this point we can determine if a partial replacement will resolve all future problems. If there are several problem throughout the pipe, it is in everyone’s best interest to install the entire sewer line to avoid any future problems.

back pitch or bellow of sewer line explained

A cracked or separated pipe is usually pretty easy to identify with a camera inspection, as long as the pipe does not have water sitting. If there is sitting water in the pipe, it must be removed temporarily, just to get a clear picture when utilizing the sewer camera.

Cracked sewer pipe below ground

It is not as often but it is common but a sewer snake can get stuck in a sewer. This usually occurs when there is an existing crack or separation of the pipe and the end of the snake gets stuck and cannot be removed until the grounds are excavated. This also may happen with the actual camera head itself which tends to be very expensive, most plumbers will arrive on site for the day of repair just to retrieve their equipment that was stuck in the pipe.

In the scenarios mentioned above the sewer pipe is usually beyond the point of being cleared with a snake or water jet and must be repaired for a permanent solution.


“Why pay for a sewer repair if I can pay a few hundred dollars to clear my sewer?”

This is a common questions we receive from our customers after understanding the details of what a sewer line repair or replacement entails.  It is first most important to understand the financial side of each option. Many homeowners will continue to pay for sewer cleaning or water jet services over the years and end up paying more for these services than the actual repair would have cost. We always advise our customers to have a camera inspection completed to assist in obtaining factual information on their sewer line. The camera inspection is very telling, and will assist most owners in making a smart financial decision specific to the severity of their sewer line problem.


What does a sewer repair look like?

Digging for sewer with backhoe

The standard sewer line replacement requires a backhoe to excavate down to the sewer line.

Shoring hole for safety

Once the crew digs beyond 4′ they will begin shoring the excavation for safety.

Preparing for new cast iron pipe installation

Now we begin working by hand to prepare the grounds for piping.

Laying 8" cast iron pipe

And finally the piping installation begins in preparation for the DEP inspection.

Watch our step by step video displaying a sewer line installation here


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