Root Intrusion Causes Sewer Line Collapse

For Scott S., the problem started with a slow drain.

First, he noticed the slow drains in the basement bathroom of his Reisterstown, Maryland, home. Then, a few days later, while Scott was doing laundry, water began coming up out of the bathroom shower and toilet.

"Water came out of the shower and out of the laundry room, now the basement is moldy, I'm replacing the drywall and the carpet," Scott said.

At first, Scott didn't contact HomeServe, because he'd forgotten that he had a plan, and, instead, tried to find his own contractor.

"I really don't want to say too much about it," he said. "It wasn't a good experience, so I decided I needed a second opinion, and that's when I remembered I had HomeServe, so I gave you a call."

HomeServe dispatched one of its pre-vetted, local network contractors, Operation Home Services, Inc., to diagnose the issue with Scott's drainage. Technicians snaked the line, then sent a camera down the sewer line, only to discover that 10 feet of the sewer service line collapsed because of root intrusion. Additionally, there wasn't a clean out, an access point outside that allows plumbers to clean the line or examine it with a camera without having to pull a toilet, in the home.

The culprit for the collapsed line seems to have been the shrubbery in Scott's front yard. Root intrusion is often an issue with sewer lines, especially terra cotta lines, such as the ones that were installed in Scott's home when it was built in 1964.

“I don't have a plumber," he said. "I've had plumbers come to the house in the past, but it was very difficult to get them to come out.”

"They had a good idea of what happened," Scott said. "The damage was caused by the bush right in front of my front window."

Roots seek out the warmth, nutrients and water in sewer lines, and they can infiltrate through either cracks or joints in the older terra cotta pipes. Once the roots find their way into the line, they continue to grow until they block the line or cause it to crumble and collapse.

Once it was determined that the line collapsed, the contractor replaced the 10 feet of sewer line that collapsed with PVC pipe, including having to cut through Scott's driveway and repair it after the work was complete. A clean out access also was installed, and the total cost for the repair was nearly $5,000 – money Scott didn't have. "I don't know how I would have paid that," he said. "I didn't have the savings for that."

Scott noted that the entire experience with HomeServe went smoothly, and the contractor had communicated well with him and kept the work area tidy.

"I don't have a plumber," he said. "I've had plumbers come to the house in the past, but it was very difficult to get them to come out."

He is glad that he had learned about HomeServe early last year and enrolled in the service.

"The letter just said that your insurance may not cover your exterior lines, and I thought that, I don't know that I am covered for that," Scott said. "And, you know what? My house is older, and it might be a good thing to have this, it's not expensive. And it turned out it was a good thing to have."

Published March 23, 2022

HomeServe USA