Sewer Backing Up?

Sewer backing up causing you grief?  Let’s take a look at what might be some affordable solutions to these common sanitary side sewer problems.  If you have a septic system, some of these sewer line problems may also apply to you. (These issues would be for the pipes running from your house to your septic tank).

Clogging issues are common with Orangeburg and Clay pipe.

Due to the physical nature of these pipe types, clogging issues are relatively common when dealing with Orangeburg and clay side sewer pipes. Let’s take a look at each one separately so we better understand what we are dealing with, and the fastest, yet most economical repair solution.

Orangeburg Pipe Faults and Hazards

Orangeburg pipe has a history of failures, and the Great Pacific Northwest is not immune.  Orangeburg was touted as being a long-term viable solution for sanitary sewers and water supply delivery systems.  Of course, as we now know, this simply wasn’t the case. Failures are due to many factors, but let’s focus on just a couple of the more common reasons for failure while understanding the harsh environment to which a sanitary sewer system is subject.

Side Sewer Systems Live in a Nasty Environment

The nasty environment the side sewer lives in is brutal.  On the ‘outside’ you have soils that could be acidic, which would affect the outside of the pipe inward, then you have possible sharp rocks, boulders and other possible foreign objects.  These foreign objects could be chunks of concrete, old rebar from demolished buildings, glass shrapnel, chunks of steel etc.  Add to this ‘filled’ mix, the continuous heavy weight burden the pipe continually placed under.

Corrosive Gases

The inside of the sanitary sewer system is not kind either.  On the upper portion of the pipe are corrosive gases that constantly eat away at the pipe, thus weakening it.  Once weakened, these areas are prone to further destruction from sharp rock puncturing the sewer line and we haven’t even discussed tree roots yet!

Tree roots totally engulfed this piece of Orangeburg pipe causing catastrophic failure.
Total failure of this Orangeburg pipe was caused by the defective nature of Orangeburg pipe along with the never ending forces of tree roots.

Orangeburg pipe is more susceptible to these environmental forces because of the weak makeup of the pipe.  Orangeburg pipe is made up of many layers of bituminous fibers bonded together with a coal tar matrix of sorts.  This ‘layering’ is cellulose fibers along with asbestos are rolled, thus forming a pipe shape.

The problems start when the pipe starts to delaminate or is punctured by sharp rocks or tree roots.  The problems are sometimes started when the homeowner has the sewer lines cleared because of clogs. 

When a rooter machine clears a sewer line, the cutter bits wear the interior of the Orangeburg pipe.  If the sewer line is cleared enough times from root intrusions, the pipe becomes very thin.  This eventually leads to pipe failure because of rocks penetrating the thin Orangeburg, or tree roots have ‘sensed’ the moisture in the thinned pipe walls and enters the pipe and then destroys it.

Imagine the forces caused by tree roots that uplifted this sidewalk panel.
Imagine the forces caused by this tree against this sidewalk. Just imagine those forces working against your sewer line.

Clay Pipe Sewer Pipe

Clay sewer pipe itself can last a great deal of time.  Clay pipe is composed of a fired vitreous clay with a glaze coating.  This coating, along with the firing of the clay makes a very impervious sewer pipe that can hold up pretty well against the corrosive nature of sewer gases.  So what is the issue with clay pipe and why is it failing?

Clay Pipe Failures

Clay pipe failures stem normally stem from the mortar that connects the clay pipe sections together.  After time, mortar crumbles.  You can see with this almost any aged concrete block wall or longstanding chimney.

Clay pipe connection failed due to aging mortar.
This clay pipe connection didn’t stand a chance against the powerful forces of tree roots that seek moisture.

Tree roots seeks out moisture from the sewer line and the mortar is no competition to hungry tree roots.  When tree roots infiltrate clay sewer pipe, total destruction is almost guaranteed. The only solution for total pipe collapse is replacement.  If the homeowner can act before total collapse of the sewer pipe, the pipe can normally be lined or replaced through a process called, pipe bursting.