Bloomington / Normal, IL

Working with the community... for a healthier community.

The Most Expensive Utility Repairs


By Jerry Butler, Americas Underground Solutions a Division of Americas Plumbing Company

There are two very expensive utility repairs—especially on an older home—that are usually overlooked by homeowners. Care to guess what these might be?  Give yourself a gold star if you said sewer and water service repairs and/or replacements. Many people do not realize that the homeowner is responsible for any problems to the water and sewer lines that run from the home to the city connection. Because these lines are underground, they are not something that are readily observable. Furthermore, problems such as clogs, cracks, and leaks, often develop over the course of many years, leaving the homeowner unaware of the deteriorating condition until a water or sewer pipe breaks. Repairing a faulty sewer line can be extremely expensive, often costing $10,000 or more!  Talk about a budget buster!  Generally, this type of repair is not covered by a homeowner’s insurance policy.

Water and sewer line problems are more common in older homes because the pipes were made of clay and galvanized materials that is not as durable as pvc and pex piping in more modern homes. These pipes are constantly moving due to the normal rain, freeze, thaw cycle of the ground. As the ground moves, the pipes may begin to leak at the joint where they are joined together. When a leak starts, it may settle in the ground and continue to leak and cause misalignments, or it may attract the roots from nearby trees. These roots will continue to grow and eventually cause the joints of the pipes to split apart and leak even worse. One sign of a problem is if you experience raw sewage in the form of a backup in your home or notice a significant damp spot in your yard.

The smart homeowner will take steps to determine the condition of their sewer line to make sure that there isn’t a problem developing. This is easily done by a professional plumber using a sewer camera that examines the entire system. If you are purchasing an older home, be sure to get a camera inspection of the main sewer pipe before you sign on the dotted line. If a problem is detected, then your plumber can recommend the best way to fix the problem and prevent further, more costly damage.

Sewer lines can be chemically treated to help prevent root intrusion, but the success rate is highly dependent upon the chemical being able to reach the root mass for absorption. If root intrusion is already present, sewer machines can cut roots to open the sewer line for flow, but this ultimately causes an increase in root mass. Once a root has been cut, it will form a node, and then from that node will grow more aggressive roots. However, removing and/or killing roots will not repair the pipe if it is already been compromised.

If you suspect a water or sewer problem, do not try to evaluate or fix it yourself. This is a job for a professional plumber as the repair can often be quite complex. Your plumber will evaluate the situation, determine the problem, and outline the steps needed for repair. There are many factors that will affect the cost including the location, the type of pipes, the length of the line, depth of the pipes, utilities in the way, and whether it can be repaired or must be replaced. If you’re lucky, it might only cost a couple thousand dollars.

Like most other home maintenance, an “ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  Get your underground water and sewer line checked to make sure they are clear and free from any emerging leaks that will develop into expensive repairs.

America’s Plumbing is locally owned and operated by Jerry Butler. He has over 21 years experience, provides 24 hour emergency service, and is available for all your plumbing needs. You may contact Jerry at his easy to remember phone number: 309-212-7681, e-mail, or visit his website