Should You Repair a Clay Sewer Line or Replace With Cast Iron

When dealing with broken sewer lines many of our customers are looking for the most cost effective option. If the sewer line has been determined to be broken, sagging, has a “belly” or cracked at a specified location, many homeowners are most interested in repairing the one section of pipe. Their theory is to keep the cost down and worry about any additional repairs in the future.

When dealing with clay sewer lines this theory goes out the window. The general rule of thumb is if a clay sewer line is broken in one location, there is a good chance that the sewer line has several other problems throughout the pipe from the house, to the street. The property owner will end up spending double, and sometimes 3x as much money when repairing the sewer line at different times, as opposed to replacing the sewer line at one time.

What can go wrong with a clay sewer line repair?

Recently in Brooklyn we were hired to repair a sewer line 16’ out from the trap which marked the problem to be on the public sidewalk. As per contract we excavated at the 16’ mark and once we opened the pipe for repair the crew noticed that the sewage was not flowing out to the street. We proceeded to snake the line from the open excavation and continued to hit an obstruction 15’ further out in the street.

The old clay sewer line beneath sidewalk

The old clay sewer line beneath sidewalk

Roots pulled out from sewer line

The cause of secondary obstruction

The property owner’s initial response was, “why didn’t the plumber realize there was another problem out in the street”? Again, another common question but the issue is that the plumber who initially determined where the problem was could not pass the 16’ mark on the sidewalk, there was no way for the plumber to determine that there was another problem. It was up to the homeowner to avoid assuming the risk of this happening and did have the option to hire for the entire sewer line installation. Unfortunately the property owner now had to pay a premium if he wanted the sewer line to be replaced in full due to the way the job was setup, and the additional time on site.

New cast iron pipe is installed

New cast iron pipe is installed

Recently in Queens we performed a sewer line repair for a clay pipe in the roadway, once the street was opened we tested the water and were able to observe that there was an issue under the sidewalk that was causing a restriction from the normal flow of sewage. We were able to determine that roots were growing through the pipe under the sidewalk. This was not causing the majority of their sewer backups however, it was getting worse and we estimated that this section of pipe would have to be replaced within the coming year.

 

Roadway ready for new cast iron sewer pipe

Roadway ready for new cast iron sewer pipe

Preparing pipe for install

Preparing pipe for install

New cast iron replaces old clay pipe

New cast iron replaces old clay pipe

The property owner on this location had actually discussed the two options in extreme detail and felt that the repair was the best option at this time. Where he was not happy that the sewer line had a secondary issue, he assumed full responsibility and opted to wait for the second portion of the pipe to be repaired later in the year.

This location was a single family residence with one elderly lady living in the house, due to the amount of water being used it was a better financial decision to wait for another backup before spending money.  In other scenarios where there is a fully functional house with multiple people, there may not have been another option but to replace the entire sewer line to avoid a complete flood or failure of the sewer line.

If you should have any questions regarding your sewer line please feel free to contact our office