What You Should Know About Private Sewer Laterals

You know your home inside and how. But how familiar are you with the inner workings under your house? Most homeowners don’t pay much attention to the sewer system on their property – until there’s a problem. Who is responsible for fixing the pipe if there’s a clog or breakage? Read on, and we’ll explain the basics of the private sewer lateral.

What’s a Private Sewer Lateral?

A private sewer lateral (often abbreviated as PSL), is an underground pipe on your property that connects the home’s plumbing to the municipal sewer main. Essentially, all water and waste that goes down a drain in your home (including toilets, sinks, and tubs) ends up flowing through the PSL. In most cases, the pipe is the homeowner’s responsibility for the length that it is on their property. 

In other words, if there’s a problem with the PSL, you will have to pay to fix it – unlike the sewer main, which is the municipality’s responsibility. This can be shocking for many homeowners when they experience an issue with their sewer line.

In some areas, the PSL is divided into two parts: upper and lower laterals. The upper lateral, which typically runs from the sidewalk to the house, is almost always considered the homeowner’s responsibility. However, in some areas, the lower lateral, which runs under the side to the sewer main, might be under the jurisdiction of the sewer authority. 

Common Problems with Sewer Lines

For the most part, private sewer laterals are durable and do not require maintenance. However, just like any pipe, they can experience clogs due to fats, oils, and greases (FOG), as well as food scraps, paper products, and other non-flushable objects. If you have trees on your front property, your PSL is also at risk for root intrusion.

The material of the PSL is also important. Older pipes made from clay or Orangeburg are more likely to crack or break than modern plastic pipes. 

Since the pipe is below ground, it’s often difficult to notice a PSL problem until it’s too late. Warning signs include slow or backed-up drains around your house or soggy spots in your front yard. If ignored, a PSL issue can result in raw sewage backing up inside your home. That’s why it’s important to diagnose and repair the problem as quickly as possible.

Fixing a Clogged or Broken PSL

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to fixing a problem with a private sewer line. Traditional methods involved digging up the whole pipe to find the trouble spot, but thankfully this invasive approach isn’t always necessary. 

Today, professional plumbers can perform a sewer camera inspection to determine the issue (broken pipe, clog, tree roots), the severity, and the location. Having that information allows the plumbers to take a targeted approach to either unclogging the PSL, repairing a portion of the pipe, or replacing the line.

Signs of Sewer Line Issues

Sewer line issues typically manifest themselves in several ways.

-Strange odors coming from drains or the yard: If you smell a foul odor near your drains, it could be due to a sewer line issue. Grease and other organic materials that are washed down the drain can accumulate and cause blockages in the pipes. This can lead to a buildup of sewage and cause odors to seep through cracks in the pipes.

-Water backup from drains or toilets: If you experience water backing up from your showers, sinks, or toilets when running water or flushing the toilet, it could be a sign that there is an obstruction somewhere along the sewer line. This can happen when there is an obstruction in the line or an area of the pipe has collapsed or corroded over time.

-Slow draining: If your drains are taking longer than usual to empty out, it could be a sign that there is some kind of blockage in the sewer line. Blockages can be caused by a variety of things such as grease, hair, and other foreign objects.

-Soggy spots in the lawn: If you notice soggy spots in your lawn that weren’t present before or seem to stay wet all the time, it could be a sign that there is a leak in your sewer line. This can be caused by a crack in the pipe or a joint that has corroded over time.

If you notice any of these signs, it’s important to act quickly and contact a professional plumber to assess the situation and determine if there is an issue with your sewer line. Ignoring these signs may lead to more serious problems down the road.

Sewer Line Repair And Replacement in The Durham, NC Area

If you suspect there’s an issue with your sewer line, or you know you have outdated pipes that are a ticking time bomb, call the experienced team at Acme Plumbing Co. We can inspect your PSL and provide guidance on what sections of the sewer line are your responsibility to repair or replace. Schedule an appointment or reach us at (919) 688-1348.

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