Broken Sewer Manhattan Quick Fix

October 4, 2019

For most people fixing a broken sewer does not happen quick enough. However, once you understand the scope of work required to fix the pipe it is easy to understand that there is a quick fix relative to the actual problem.

First, you must identify where the actual problem is. Once the Licensed plumber has obtained this information it is easy to assist with the quickest and most efficient resolution. If you are told that the problem is inside of the house and the repair must take place somewhere inside of the house, you must contact a Licensed Plumber who specializes in “internal plumbing.

If you have been made aware that the problem is anywhere from the foundation wall to the city connection in the roadway you must contact a Licensed Master Plumber who specializes in subsurface water main and sewer installations. If you already have a report or video inspection you are one step ahead and you should provide this information to the plumber. The more information you have the better to assist in the resolution and potentially even saving money.

You want to avoid assuming where the problem is without having any real facts. This common error will potentially delay your project and result in additional costs. It is common for the property owner to have an idea of where the pipe is broken yet is not 100% sure.

One scenario would be if you had someone on-site to perform a camera inspection and they think that the pipe was possibly broken 22′ out from the house sewer trap where the camera entered the pipe.  The problem is that they are not certain and are in a rush. This person may hire the plumber to excavate and repair the pipe 22′ out which is under the sidewalk to only find that there was either a small problem or no problem under the sidewalk.  They now become aware that the major problem was 32′ out which is in the street.

Sidewalk excavation for sewer repair
Sidewalk excavation for sewer repair

This homeowner is now responsible for the cost of digging and repairing under the sidewalk as well as the additional cost for digging in the roadway. In addition, the “quick fix” is now delayed by several days due to permitting and scheduling. Please make sure to gather all factual information and if you are not sure, it is a good idea to slow the process down and get a second opinion.

If you have identified exactly where the pipe is broken and feel confident in the assessment it is important to weigh the pros and cons of doing a partial repair which would be quicker but may lead to another repair in the near future.

You should try to identify the age of your existing sewer line. Unfortunately in NYC the DEP does not keep records for when a sewer mains is replaced, they only make this information available for the water main.  One way to determine the age is to speak with the previous owner of the house and ask if they ever repaired or replaced the sewer line. Another option would be to identify how long you have been in the house and recollect if any type of repair work was completed, most people recall if they had any major excavation work completed in front of their house and may have some idea how long ago.

The final option would be to identify the material of the pipe from your camera inspection. If the inside of the pipe looks like red clay it is safe to assume that these pipes are the originals from when the house was built and it may be a good idea to consider a full line replacement.

Camera inspection determines clay pipe

Now that you have an idea on the existing pipe its time to make an educated decision which may result in you selecting a more timely option than the quicker fix that was initially discussed. If the age or material makeup of the existing pipe is beyond thirty years old or made of clay, it is wise to entertain replacing the entire sewer line to avoid secondary issues that may arise in the future.

The full line sewer replacement will most likely take additional days than a spot repair of one section, in many cases the plumber may be able to resolve the bulk of the problem on day one with a temporary solution and end up replacing the remainder of the pipe over the next day(s). The plumber may not become aware of these details until he breaks ground and begins excavating on the first day.

Day 1 pipe installation

The next variable that may have an impact on how quick the sewer pipe may be repaired is the location of the broken pipe. If the broken pipe is on your property there is a good chance that it can be repaired quicker than if the pipe is broken in the roadway. These facts are dependent on the layout of the house, property, and accessibility to use a backhoe for quick digging. For example, if the pipe is located under your front lawn it is a lot quick to dig in grass for a pipe repair.

If your pipe is broken in the roadway it will most likely take more time to break the top layer of asphalt as well as any concrete base below the asphalt.  When working in the roadway you are also more likely to encounter other utilities that require the plumber to work slower and smarter.

Digging in the roadway

The depth of your sewer line is also an important fact to consider as it will take additional hours and potentially even days if the sewer pipe is extremely deep. Example- If you sewer line is 3′ deep on the property it may take a few hours before reaching the pipe to clean up, and remove the pipe for repair.

If your pipe is located 20′ deep in the roadway it will certainly take additional days to repair the pipe and there certainly is no quick fix for this!

What type of street is your house located  on?  Are you on 2nd Avenue in Manhattan or 88 St. in Queens? When working on a small and quite one way street the plumber is able to work quicker as opposed to working on a major thoroughfare which would require vehicular and traffic control.

5 Av NYC traffic control

In areas like this the job requires more attention to detail due to utilities below the roadway, traffic and the overall sub surface work conditions in Manhattan. There is still a form of a “quick fix” in Manhattan but it does require additional manpower, machinery and experience working in these conditions.

A quick fix working on a major thoroughfare cannot treated the same as a small side street in Brooklyn or Queens.


Recently in Brooklyn

A property owner had been experiencing sewer back ups for several months and assumed that it was baby wipes clogging the sewer line. She advised the tenants to stop using wipes however, the backups persisted. She had a camera inspection completed to determine that the pipe was actually broken and filled with roots.

Camera inspection determines clay pipe


She now had two options, one was to repair the pipe in this section and the other was a full line replacement. After factoring the material makeup of the pipe (clay), the fact that roots had intruded the pipe and the overall age, it was decided the replace the entire sewer line from the house to the city sewer in the roadway.

New 6″ cast iron pipe installed

The entire installation was completed over a two day period leaving for a fully functional sewer line for years to come.

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