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A broken drain pipe can be one of the messiest plumbing problems you can encounter. Whether the break is in the basement or crawlspace under your home, in a wall or ceiling, under a slab floor of a home or business, or outside underground, it is rarely a “simple” fix. In this article, we will talk a bit about how they can happen, and what you may be faced with when dealing with a broken drain pipe.
For the sake of the discussion, we will define “broken” as not just a literal break, but as any condition that would cause sewage to leak out of a drain line.
How It Happens
Knowing how your drain pipe can get to a point where it is leaking sewage all over the place can be very important when deciding upon a method of repair. Is it a “fluke” that once repaired has a small chance of reoccurring, or is the break the first sign of more problems yet to come? Seeing as how the cost of cleaning up the sewage, in some cases, can be more expensive than the repair itself, the answer to that question is an important consideration when deciding the best avenue for repair.
Here are some of the most common causes of drain pipe “breakage”:
Corrosion – This is the most common for homes with galvanized drain lines with cast iron fittings. Whether they are above ground in your crawl space, or underground (like under your slab home), these “breaks” can take a few forms. The most common problem is that corrosion starts to eat away at the galvanized pipe, right at the cast iron fitting. This will usually start with the galvanized pipe leaking, and it can actually completely break free of the fitting.
Something else that commonly happens is that the galv pipe will grow thinner and thinner in certain sections, and finally leak. This situation is one that will often begin with a single drain pipe, and eventually they will all follow suite. If you have this going on, a proactive approach that deals with all of your drain plumbing may be the best course of action.
ABS Breaks – There was a time, many years ago, where a certain brand of ABS pipe was known to break, right at the fitting, after a few years or so. Most of those problems have been addressed by now, but it still happens on occasion. More often, however, an ABS break is caused by too much stress being placed on the pipe, usually due to improper installation, or bad strapping.
Unless you suspect that you may have faulty ABS, the best thing to do here is have the piece replaced and properly strapped. Then expect the plumber to inspect the rest of the pipes to make sure that the rest of them are properly installed and secured.
Root Intrusion – This is most common in main sewer lines, but can pop up in other underground pipes as well. For information on the best way to deal with this issue, please refer to our Tree Roots article, or our Rooter Service article.
What to Expect When Dealing with Broken Drain Pipe Repairs
If you have found that you have a broken drain pipe, the first thing to realize that the section of the pipe that is broken needs to be accessed. Sometimes that involves removing sheetrock or other wall covering. Sometimes that might involve digging, or even breaking concrete, or just being able to crawl under the home (using a crawl space).
The important thing to remember is that, while it is possible to theorize the possible cause, a plumber can only truly see the repair that needs to be made once he can actually see the breakage. To do that, and give you a proper repair estimate, he must first be able to gain access.
The second thing to consider is cleanup. For instance, if the break is in your crawl space, that crawl space is probably filled with raw sewage. Often, that sewage will need to be removed before the plumber can gain access to the break. It will also need to be sanitized for the health and safety of everyone in the home. This can be a fairly expensive part of the job, which is why it is always better to be proactive in your repairs.
Even if the break is underground, that sewage infested mud needs to be disposed of, and new fill added. While the pipe itself may only require a simple repair, the cleanup can take hours. Still, the cleanup is a very important part of making these repairs, and should not be overlooked.
There are, of course, other considerations as well… too many to list, with regards to how much of the affected pipe should be replaced, whether or not the fittings should be replaced as well, etc. Still, we hope that we have helped to enlighten you a little more in the realm of broken drain pipe repairs.
If you have questions that have not been answered in this article, or if you think you might have a broken drain pipe, remember… Gogo Rooter Plumbing is only a phone call away!