A clogged sewer can become a horrible and smelly situation when left unchecked.

Multiple connecting lines to sinks, tubs, and toilets all start backing up all at once. Waste water from your toilet starts coming up through your bathtub. That meatloaf you threw down the garbage disposal last night is now oozing up from the bathroom sink. It’s a nightmare you’d never wish on even the worst of your rivals.

And that’s before you see the repair bill.

So what does all this standing water mean? What do you do now?

At this point, you’re in need of some professional plumbing help. Maybe you’ve already called someone, and are waiting for them to get there already…

At this point for you, it may be useful to know why and how this problem can occur. Here’s some handy information about standing water in your sewer line, how sewer bellies develop and are dealt with.

Most Common Reason for Standing Water in Sewer Lines

Sewer bellies.

No, that’s not a new jelly bean flavor.

Sewer bellies are the most common reason for standing water to develop in your sewer line.

Essentially, a sewer belly is a bend or break in your sewer line that disrupts the flow of water, and creates a backup. Once the belly develops, it allows for water and debris to clog up at the break, and back up your entire system.

How Do Sewer Line Bellies Develop?

So let’s start with the basics.

You’ve got a single sewer line that connects from all of the plumbing lines in your home, to the main sewer system. This is where all of the waste water flows out of your home. Everything from your tub, sinks, garbage disposal, and everything in between.

The sewer line operates on gravity. It moves the waste water from the higher ground, AKA your home, to the sewer line below at a gradual slope.

This is where the sewer line belly can begin to develop and cause problems. The soil or earth surrounding the pipe may not be compacted tightly enough around it, which creates issues over time. Without proper compacting, the pipe can sag and settle lower than intended. This can create a pond-like low spot in the line that can interrupt the natural flow of water.

The water then typically escapes the pipe, and pools in the immediate area, creating a water belly. This is an ideal spot for more water, sediment, and debris to build up a clog.

Sewer line bellies can develop with any combination of the following ways.

  • Tree Roots Growing over the Line
  • Warping from Sun & Heat
  • Warping from Rainy & Cold Weather
  • Earthquakes
  • Improper Planning
  • Improper Bedding Compaction
  • Incorrect Slope
  • Cheap Materials

You’ll want a professional plumber to do sewer camera inspection to diagnose the exact cause of the backup. Sewer camera technology allows the technician to snake the camera into your sewer line. This way, they’re able to see if your line has been bellied or channeled, which is a separate issue entirely.

Sewer Channels vs. Sewer Bellies

Sewer channels produce the same effect as water bellies, but they are totally different at their source. Sewer channels typically allow water to escape at a seam between two pipes where the line has sagged low.

Sewer channels occur through a couple of different ways.

Due to weight changes and age, the pipe can collapse and buckle on itself. Sometimes the pipe can be made of a material that will buckle after time, like Orangeburg piping. Orangeburg pipes, used prominently on the East Coast in the 60’s and 70’s, were made almost entirely out of paper and tar. They tended to only last around 30 years before channeling began.

Other times, they begin when water starts to slice a channel through the pipe, much like the formation of a canyon or a gulch. The pipe then erodes away slowly, creating a larger and larger hole for water to escape and pool. Typically, by the time a backup is noticed, the pipe may be mostly eroded already.

How Water Bellies & Pipe Channels are Repaired

As each case is unique, depending on the layout of your home and its connection to the main sewer line, there is no singular approach to fixing your sewer line. However, there are typically two ways of going about it, and what your city plumbing and water ordinances dictate for water and plumbing will determine the final method of repair.

  • Sewer Line Bellies
    • Typically, repair will involve digging into the landscape to get to the pipe. Since this does not require the entire pipe be replaced, a relatively small hole will need to be dug.
    • A new pipe can be fitted over the sagging area after removal of the bellied pieces. Gravel and soil can then be properly compacted around the new pipe to prevent any further shifting and settling.
    • Trenchless repair is typically not recommended for water bellies, due to the source of the issue being the surrounding area of the pipe, and not the pipe itself.
  • Sewer Channels
    • Trenchless sewer repair is our recommendation for this issue.
    • A portion of, if not the whole pipe itself needs to be completely replaced. This is because part of the pipe has eroded away, and is allowing water to escape and pool.

So what kind of damage do you have?

A plumber can determine the exact cause of your blockage with a sewer inspection service. Video inspections are the most efficient way of doing so, as they require no intrusive digging or damage to your property. They also provide a good, clear look at what and where the issue can be. This helps provide an accurate estimate of what your repairs will ultimately cost.

If you’re experiencing standing water in your sewer line, why not give us a call to see if you need an inspection. We’ll be happy to assess your situation.