There are many different factors that must be taken into consideration when replacing or repairing a sewer line in NYC. It is important for the homeowner to understand the pros and cons of each option and not solely base the decision on a dollar amount. An uneducated decision may lead to spending unnecessary amounts of money on your sewer line over time.
Where is your pipe broken?
If the sewer line is broken at the city connection (AKA spur connection) or near the foundation wall of the house (trap or pipe at foundation wall), it may make sense to make a repair of the pipe if there are no other sections of the pipe that are disturbed. If the pipe is broken somewhere in-between the city sewer and the house, it becomes a lot more risky to locate exactly where the break is and exactly where to repair the pipe. This may lead to unnecessary amounts of excavation resulting in a lot of broken concrete, disturbed areas of your property and additional cost. Even if you have had a camera inspection to locate the break, it is still risky to solely rely on the video as there are sections of the pipe that may be broken but not apparent in the video. When repairing a section of you sewer line there is a good possibility that you may have to repair another section of the pipe at some point in the near future. In this case it is highly advised to replace the entire sewer line from the city connection to the house.
What is the cause of your broken sewer pipe?
If roots have entered the sewer line and cannot be removed by using a sewer snake or a water jet, the only permanent solution is to replace the entire sewer line. Once roots have entered the sewer line there is no way to prevent them from continuing to grow, even if removed with a water jet, the roots will grow back in a short period of time. Repairing a section of pipe in this case may relieve you from sewer backups for a period of time but will only serve as a temporary solution for the inevitable.
If the existing sewer line is made of clay it is highly advised to replace the entire sewer line, clay pipe has not been used for sewer line installations since the 1950’s and is no longer a DEP approved pipe for sewer installations in NYC. If you have a clay sewer line it is guaranteed to be a very old pipe and near the end of its life span. A repair can be made with clay pipe but is not suggested due to the age and durability of the pipe. If the sewer line is made of cast iron it may make more sense to discuss a sewer line repair with a licensed plumber. If the pipe has been broken by “other” such as another utility contractor working in your area, a broken light pole or a tree that has fallen, it may make sense to repair the section of disturbed pipe pending some of the details mentioned earlier in this article.
Repairing a section of a sewer line is not always a guarantee that your sewer backups will be resolved. If you have recently had a camera inspection or a snaking of the sewer line and the sewer snake or camera continues to get stuck at 15’, it would make most sense to repair the pipe at 15’ – how do you know the condition of the sewer line past 15’? In many cases the repair at 15’ will be completed to then find out that there is another break or a belly in the sewer line at another location.
It is important to understand the finances behind your decision; it is always advised to obtain an estimate for the sewer line repair as well as replacing the entire sewer line to understand the long term cost benefit of each option.
The average sewer line repair will cost almost half the amount that the full replacement will cost however, when repairing the sewer line you will be left with 3/4 of an old sewer pipe waiting to fail. Repairing two or three separate sections of the sewer line at different times may very well end up costing more than the original quote to replace the entire sewer line at one time.