How to Identify the Symptoms of a Sewer Line Break

identify broken sewer line

The sewer line is a part of your house. Just like your roof, your doors and your windows – it serves a particular function and purpose. If left unchecked, breaks and fractures can cause a lot of distress and property damage. Learning how to identify the symptoms of a sewer line break can prevent these issues.

Common Symptoms and Solutions

When you’re troubleshooting to determine if there is a break, you’ll want to be aware of the following symptoms and remember some of these tips to help you make informed decisions around next steps and who to call.

1. Pipe Erosion and Water Leaks – A sewer line break can disrupt the even flow in a pipe and cause erosion to develop both in the interior of the pipe and all around its exterior. In compromised areas, water leaks outside the pipe, draining and soaking the ground above and beneath it. Also, as the moisture naturally flows back into the pipe, water drags the surrounding soil with it bit by bit. This creates a void in the ground area surrounding the pipe and that space can become a nightmare for your home – from cracks in your concrete foundation, pathways, and driveways to an open invitation for rodents and other critters to nest and feed.

Remember that the earth expands and contracts naturally every day and is always in motion. If you combine that with gravity-fed running water in and out of a break, or simply a heavy autumn rain and massive erosion, your property can be at risk for damages. 

Black mold in the corner of room wall

2. Mold Growth in the Basement – Another symptom of a sewer line break is the presence of moldy areas in your basement. A sewer line break could present the perfect elements for mold to take over—moisture, darkness, and bacteria. Clogged or backed-up drainage around the base of your property due to a line break could trap moisture weeping through a building’s surfaces and increase the possibility of mold growth. Backups from a line break will almost certainly occur in the lowest drain connection to the sewer lateral, and replacing a sewer line in the basement or underneath your property’s foundation can be tricky. So, you’ll need to know for certain if that is what you’re dealing with. If you start to see, what looks like, stained wet spots on the base of your walls or lower areas of the house in general, have your sewer line checked for breaks or fractures.


3. Sewer Gas Odors – If you’re experiencing sewer gas odors, chances are there may be a break in your sewer line. Your private sewer lateral should be both air and watertight. So getting wind of something not quite right could indicate a problem. If your neighbors are asking a lot of questions about funny odors around your property, it’s time to investigate and have a sewer camera inspection.

Sewer gas can be flammable, so calling a sewer professional like Pipe Spy as soon as you become aware is the safest way to go. Periodic inspections, proper care for your pipes and early maintenance to manage small pipe breaks or root intrusion will save you money and time; and will keep your home’s pipes in good condition for years to come.

How to Troubleshoot Your Sewer Line for Symptoms

Knowing what to do when there is a problem can save you from more severe property damage should a break in your sewer line occur. The three most important things you should know if a break happens:

  • If you suspect something has gone wrong with your sewer, get a camera inspection; a good inspection will tell you exactly what and where the problem is.
  • A crack in the line might not be the only issue. If there is a crack then water is getting through to the exterior of the pipe. This could cause erosion around the exterior of the pipe. Causing slopes or even potholes to occur.
  • Get the issue repaired as soon as you can. A small crack can turn into a HUGE issue if left ignored for too long. Just because its not causing an issue right now, doesn’t mean it wont turn into an issue when you have a house full of guests.

We recommend checking your sewer line whenever you notice a change in function or discover some of the issues we’ve listed above to make sure your line isn’t damaged in any way and your pipes are clear of debris clogs and blockages.

We’ve put together a short, quick checklist of symptoms of a sewer line break to help you recognize when there may be a problem:

• slow draining in the toilet, bath, or shower
• recurring clogs or backups with gritty or muddy water
• unusually green plant life during drought season
• foundation, wall or pathway surface cracks
• rodent or insect infestation with no obvious source
• mold or mildew in the lower areas of your property
• a sulfuric gas smell similar to rotten eggs

Need help clearing out your backed-up sewer? Pipe Spy is here to help. We’ve serviced the Bay Area for over 20 years, and all replacement work comes with our three-year service warranty. Call 510.465.3000 or contact us today to request a quote.