Here in San Diego, every property with plumbing has what is known as a sewer lateral. Whether you own a single-family home, condo or business facility, your property will have this crucial pipeline. Here’s what you need to know about sewer laterals and what they mean for you as a property owner.
Sewer Lateral Basics
Basically, the sewer lateral is the pipe that connects your property’s plumbing to the district’s main sewer line. This is how all of the sewage your house produces, whether from toilets, kitchen sinks or other drains on your property, gets carried away from your home for treatment and processing.
Depending on how your property is situated in relation to the sewer main, the pipes could connect in a number of places. Typically, this connection will be in the middle of the street in front of your property, falling outside of your property line. In some cases, the connection could be in an easement, a shared access point on someone else’s property. For homes in more remote locations outside of the city center, the connecting point could even be in a canyon.
In addition to the sewer lateral and connection to the sewer main, your property will also have a cleanout. This is the main access point to your sewer lateral and is used for cleaning and maintaining the piping, as well as troubleshooting any issues. In the event that a blockage forms in your sewer lateral, the cleanout is where your plumber will gain access to the line so that they can inspect it and clear out the obstruction.
In most cases, the cleanout is located within a few feet of your home or business facility. Sometimes, though, it is at the edge of your property line, close to the street. In any case, a cleanout typically looks like the end of a pipe, and it always has a cap on the end to seal it off. This cap must always be securely in place, unless your plumber is servicing your sewer lateral, to prevent any leakage.
Most of the time, the cleanout is located just underground, with a cover over it and the surrounding hole. This serves to protect it from the elements and to prevent anyone from trying to mess with your sewer line.
Sewer Lateral Responsibility
As the property owner, it is your responsibility to keep your sewer lateral in good repair. Even if a portion of your sewer lateral falls outside of your property line, you are still responsible for arranging and covering the costs of any repairs. The sewer lateral is your responsibility all the way from your home or business to the connection point with the sewer main.
Any time you are experiencing issues with your sewer lateral, you should call a licensed plumber immediately to prevent further complications, which can escalate your costs very quickly. Your plumber will access your sewer lateral through the cleanout to get rid of any blockages that are interfering with its operation.
After clearing your lateral, your plumber will then conduct a camera inspection of your piping to verify that everything is flowing smoothly. They’ll also be able to see if there are any cracks or breaks anywhere in the piping and can alert you to any areas that could become troublesome in the future. If your plumber does find any cracks or breaks in the pipe, you’ll be responsible for handling the repairs of any portion of the pipe that falls between your home or business and the property line.
If there are any cracks or breaks within the lateral that fall outside of your property line, you’ll need to coordinate with the appropriate city and county officials to arrange the repairs, though you are still responsible for the cost of repairing the pipes themselves.
For starters, your plumber will need to file a Plumber’s Report with the city’s Sewer Emergency Line, which can be reached at (619) 515 – 3525. A representative from the city will come to your property to investigate the damage within 24 hours. For any repairs to pipe sections that are under public roads, you’ll also need to obtain an Excavation Permit from the county before your plumber can get to work on the repairs.
Because you’ll be responsible for maintaining your sewer lateral over the years, it is important to assess the condition of the pipes before purchasing a home or business facility, as this information could influence your decision as to which property to buy. Any time you buy a property, you should always have a professional inspection completed before you make your final decision. This will alert you to any potential issues that could arise in the future.
However, most standard home inspections don’t include the sewer lateral, only the pipes within the home itself. You should have the lateral and the connection to the sewer main inspected by a licensed plumber before you enter into a purchase agreement. What you don’t know could end up costing you a small fortune in the long run if the previous owners did not properly care for the plumbing.
Sewer Lateral Maintenance Tips
Sewer lateral repairs can be quite costly, so it is crucial that you properly maintain your pipes. In addition to the costs involved, issues with your lateral could result in sewage leaks, posing a threat to both public health and the environment. All of that waste can leak into the groundwater, potentially making it unsafe for you and other local residents.
Most importantly, your sewer lateral needs to be cleaned regularly to prevent debris from building up and causing blockages, both in the lateral itself and within your property. Aim to have your lateral cleaned once a year to remove any buildup that has formed before it becomes a full blockage. You should also have your plumber complete a sewer camera inspection every three to five years to assess the condition of the pipes themselves.
These are just basic guidelines to get you started. If the drains in your home seem to get clogged frequently or you notice the smell of sewage in and around your property, you may need to have your pipes cleaned and inspected more often. Your plumber can advise you as to the best maintenance schedule for your particular property.
Common Causes of Sewer Lateral Damage
The most common causes of damage to sewer laterals, and to plumbing pipes in general, are tree roots and cooking grease. Many people don’t realize that the roots of a tree grow outwards as far as the tree’s branches reach, not just down underneath the tree trunk. When planting trees on your property, be sure to take this into consideration. Think not just about the size of the tree now, but the size it will reach in the future.
Cooking grease is another common threat to your plumbing. You should never pour cooking grease down the drain. Although it may seem like liquid in the frying pan, as the grease cools, it hardens, and it can leave that residue on the insides of your pipes. Over time, as you pour more grease down the drain, it will continue to build up, ultimately leading to blockages.
Instead of pouring your cooking grease down the drain, store it in a container until it has cooled, then throw it in the trash. If you would prefer to recycle your cooking grease, you can save it up to bring to the Miramar Landfill Recycling Center for processing. If you do accidentally pour cooking grease down your drain, flush it immediately with water for several minutes to dilute the grease and help it move through the pipes as quickly as possible.
Finally, avoid flushing anything down your toilet other than your waste and toilet paper. This includes things like tampons and pads, baby wipes, paper towels and solid objects. Children are notorious for putting unusual items in toilets to see if they will flush, so if you have kids, be sure to educate them about proper toilet behavior. They need to be aware that the toilet is not a toy or a place for their other toys.
Have Your Sewer Lateral Inspected by a Professional Plumber
It is important to always work with licensed plumbers for your sewer lateral needs. This will ensure your safety and the quality of the workmanship. Here at San Diego Pipelining, all of our plumbers hold the necessary licenses to operate in the county, and we encourage our team members to engage in ongoing education to ensure they stay up-to-date on the latest trends.
If you are in need of sewer camera inspection, we’ll be happy to help you out. We’ll walk you through the results of our inspection so that you know exactly what we found. In doing sewer repairs, we utilize trenchless technology, causing minimal damage to your property and saving you money in the process. We welcome you to get in touch with us to learn more about our plumbing services. Call now to book your first appointment with one of our expert plumbers.