Water Main vs Sewer Line

2018 Dec 13
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Sometimes the most important parts of a home are the mechanisms and systems we don’t always see. Homeowners should know about two critical parts of their residence

  1. The water main
  2. The sewer line.

These two components are part of the most vital systems in the home, the fresh water source, and the means of removing liquid and solid waste from the home. Malfunction of one or sometimes both of these together are relatively common emergencies that can cause a lot of damage and expense if not properly maintained. You don't want something like roots in your pipes like this!

Water main

The water main is typically the means by which most urban and suburban homes receive fresh water from a city, county, or other public source. The water main is a pipe that can be as small as .75” or as large as 1.50” inch wide. It’s regulated by a water meter that records your usage of water each month and can be turned off with a main valve.

Your main valve will effectively stop the flow of all water to your home, including your sinks and toilet tanks, so be sure to familiarize yourself with its location in the event of an emergency such as a flood or break somewhere. Most water main valves are in the basement or front/side of the home. The water main valve should always be turned off and on slowly and with care, and checked regularly to ensure it is functioning properly and in good repair. Valves can become damaged suffer wear and tear over time, and if you suspect your water main valve is old or needs replacement, consult a plumber to inspect, evaluate, and repair if necessary. As always, George Brazil is here to help!

Unless you have a septic system, your sewer line is the means by which liquid waste from your bathrooms, sinks, kitchen, and washing machine leave your house to the municipal sewer system. Most regions utilize both a storm water system and a sanitary sewer. Storm water lines are going to be where the gutter drains in your sidewalk and street drain to, and your sanitary sewer is where the more noxious and contaminated waste water goes.

Sewer line

The sewer line typically leaves your home at a slanted angle to optimize flow. Most of your plumbing waste pipes will go to a large main drain and then out of the home into the main sewer line. The first sign of a sewer problem is often the smell. Your sinks, tubs, showers and toilets also have a curved little section of pipe called a trap that keeps the smell from coming back into your room. These will often collect clogs, hair, and other debris. Sometimes they might even catch something precious such as jewelry that might have fallen down the drain too!

The portion of your sewer line that runs from your home to the street line is almost always the homeowner’s responsibility. You probably know a friend or family member whose main ruptured at one point or another and had to repair it. Frequent causes of this problem are tree roots in your yard growing into the pipe or other age-related decline in function. Thankfully new technology allows a trenchless repair to sewer line damage by trees but this is done by a professional plumbing service. Clogs in a sewer line should never be addressed by the homeowner. Smaller clogs of the pipes within the home and traps below sinks can often be cleared out by the homeowner but pay close attention- if you see water going down one drain, and causing another to back up, a toilet repeatedly flooding or other unusual issues it could be an indicator that the main drain is not functioning properly and may have a clog or another malfunction. It is never something you should ignore or hope will go away on its own. Main drain clogs can be serious resulting in wastewater backing up and contaminating your home. The clean-up from a black water/sewage flood or leak can be expensive to clean up correctly as sewage and wastewater can be extremely hazardous and cause a lot of damage.

Take care of your water main and sewer lines!

Prevention is key to maintaining a healthy plumbing system in your home. It is critical to be mindful of what goes into your plumbing. What are you pouring down your drains? Nightmare formations of grease, hair and sanitary products are not just a problem in New York City sewers, they can happen in your home too on a smaller scale. Avoid pouring grease, cooking oil and other things that may congeal in your pipes. Maintain your garbage disposal properly and read the directions for it carefully about what can and cannot be run through it. And perhaps the biggest culprits of all- wipes and women’s sanitary products—should never ever be flushed. Even if the box the product came in says “flushable,” if it does not easily dissolve in water between your fingers, it should go in the trash, not your sink, toilet, or drain. Use a diaper genie or other means of disposing of your wipes and other products so your plumber won’t have to show them to you on the sewer camera clinging to the insides of your pipes sending sewage flooding back into your basement!

Regular inspections and maintenance, such as a yearly snaking out of your drains by a licensed plumber can help you spot problems before they get bad. When planning what trees to put in your yard, consider planting sewer-safe trees or replacing your trees every 8-10 years to limit the potential for roots to take over your sewer lines.