What Are the Signs of a Broken Sewer Line?

A broken sewer line is a plumbing issue that can lead to major inconveniences and costly repairs. For homeowners, it’s essential to be able to spot the signs of a potentially broken sewer line so you can take care of the problem as quickly as possible. We’re here to help you spot broken sewer line symptoms.


We’ll give you guidance on what to do if you find a broken sewer line, how long it takes to fix it, and whether insurance will cover the repairs. We also have best practices you can do at home to help keep your sewer lines in good health for years to come. Let’s get started.


What is a Sewer Line?

In a home, a sewer line transports wastewater from all drains, including toilets, sinks, and showers, to a municipal sewer or septic tank. These pipes, buried underground, are connected to different plumbing fixtures inside the house. The flow of wastewater is aided by gravity or mechanical assistance, making it possible for the sewage to reach the appropriate disposal system.

How to Tell If a Sewer Line is Broken

Here are a few signs of a broken sewer line. It’s important to note that some repairs must be handled by a professional, which we’ll discuss in more detail later.

Sewage Backups

The sudden backup of sewage water in your home indicates a blockage or breakage in the sewer line, causing wastewater to flow back into your living spaces. This requires immediate attention to prevent further damage and potential health hazards. If you experience persistent sewage backups, it’s time to contact a professional plumber who can deal with the problem safely.

Sewer Smell

Unpleasant odors that resemble raw sewage can emanate from sewer pipes that have been compromised by leaks or cracks. These odors are often pungent and nauseating, and their persistence over time can become a major health concern. 


The accumulation of raw sewage and wastewater can also cause significant damage to the surrounding environment. Contact a plumber at the first signs of sewer smells in and around your home.

Bright Green Patches on the Lawn

When sewage leaks underground, it can act as a fertilizer, causing specific areas of your lawn to appear unusually lush and vibrant. These patches are a visual clue that the sewer line may be compromised, leading to unintended fertilization of the grass.


The accumulation of moisture caused by sewer line issues can create a mold-friendly environment. If you notice mold, particularly in areas like bathrooms or basements, it may be an indication of water leakage from a damaged sewer line. Addressing the underlying sewer problem will prevent further mold growth for a healthy living environment.

Slow Drains

When a sewer line is compromised, water and waste struggle to flow freely, causing sluggish drainage in sinks, showers, or toilets. If your drains are consistently slow despite efforts to clear them, you may have a damaged sewer line.

The Toilet Gurgles

Gurgling in toilets occurs when air is trapped in the plumbing due to a blockage or break in the sewer line. This disruption can cause air to escape through the toilet, resulting in distinct gurgling sounds. If you notice this phenomenon, it’s essential to address the issue promptly.

Multiple Clogged Drains

When a sewer line is compromised, it can lead to blockages that affect various drains simultaneously. If you find yourself contending with persistent clogs in sinks, showers, or other drains, it’s time to consider the possibility of a broken sewer line.

Cracks in the Foundation

A damaged sewer line can lead to soil erosion around the foundation, compromising its stability and causing visible cracks. Look for cracks in your foundation, especially coupled with other signs like sewage backups or foul odors. Promptly repairing the sewer issue can prevent further home damage.

Sagging Lawn or Pavement

Besides cracks in your home’s foundation, the same soil erosion can cause the ground above to sink or sag. Watch out for depressions in your lawn or pavement, along with slow drains or foul odors, as they may indicate a problem with your sewer line.


Rodents and insects are attracted to the moisture and potential food sources that a damaged sewer line provides. An increase in pests, especially in basements and crawl spaces, is a sign that there may be a sewer issue. Repairing the broken sewer line as quickly as possible prevents further property damage and eliminates the conditions attracting these pests.

Fixing a Broken Sewer Line

If you’ve noticed any or all of the signs listed above, you need to get your sewer line inspected as soon as possible. Here’s what to know about the process.

Call a Professional

Only a professional plumber can make an accurate assessment of the problem. You’ll likely be asked over the phone about the symptoms, including when you started noticing them. 


A professional plumber will usually use a specialized camera to look through your sewer lines and diagnose the location of the problem. They’ll then determine whether the problem is an easy fix, such as clearing a blockage, or whether it requires something more, like replacing the pipe.


If the pipe itself needs to be repaired or replaced, your plumber will try to use a trenchless procedure first. This includes pipe bursting or pipe lining and avoids major excavations in your yard.


In extreme cases, the pipes will have to be dug out of your yard for replacement.

How Long Does It Take to Fix a Broken Sewer Line?

The timeline to fix a broken sewer pipe can vary based on factors such as the repair method, the extent of damage, and your home’s unique circumstances. Trenchless sewer line repair often takes as little as two days to complete. 


Traditional excavations typically range from one to three days, with some cases extending up to five days. Numerous factors — including the need for permits and inspections — also influence the timeline, meaning traditional repairs typically take one to three days on average.

Is a Broken Sewer Line Covered By Insurance?

Homeowners’ insurance may provide coverage for a broken sewer line, but it often depends on the cause of the damage. Common causes like accidental events or sudden issues might be covered, but wear and tear are typically excluded. 


To ensure coverage for sewer line damage, you may need to add an endorsement to your policy or meet specific criteria outlined in your insurance terms. Review your policy details and consult with your insurance provider to understand the extent of coverage for sewer line issues.

How to Avoid a Broken Sewer Line

The best way to deal with sewer line issues is by doing your best to prevent them from happening in the first place. Call a professional plumber for regular maintenance on your sewer line.

Be Careful When Flushing

Limit flushing to human waste and toilet paper only. Avoid disposing of items like paper towels, sanitary products, wipes, or other non-biodegradable materials down the toilet. These items can accumulate in the sewer line, leading to blockages and potential damage over time.

Keep Drains Clear

Install drain sieves in sinks and showers to trap large debris like food particles and hair before they enter the pipes. This simple yet effective preventive measure helps prevent blockages in the sewer line caused by accumulated debris. Regularly clean and empty the drain sieves to keep them effective.

Know What’s Underground

Know what lies beneath your property to prevent potential damage to sewer lines. Regularly inspect the area for tree roots, particularly near utility lines. Tree roots can infiltrate and damage sewer pipes over time. If trees are in close proximity to your sewer lines, consider consulting with professionals to assess and address potential risks.


Before undertaking any excavations or landscaping projects, check for underground utility lines, including sewer pipes. A professional specialized service can locate and mark the positions of these lines. This precautionary step helps avoid accidental damage during construction, preserves the integrity of your sewer system, and prevents the need for costly repairs.

Let John C. Flood Fix Your Broken Sewer Line

When it comes to diagnosing and fixing problems with your sewer line, trust the experts at John C. Flood to do the best job. All over the D.C. Metro area, we specialize in sewer line inspections, diagnostics, repairs, and replacements. 


We never charge extra for emergencies, and our technicians are ready to help 7 days a week, day or night. Contact us today for professional help with your sewer line!

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