In the first 18 months of living in my house, I've already had 4 sewage backups in my basement. Luckily the basement is not finished and I've caught the backup each time before it became a large problem (only an inch or two of water within a couple feet of the drain). The basement layout with the sewer line looks like this:

Basement sewar layout

The city has come and inspected the city's portion of the sewer (from the cleanout to the street) with video and confirmed that this part of the sewer is OK - I did not see any roots or collapses in the video.

The distance from the drain where the water backs up to the cleanout is about 30ft, and each time I've augured the drain I've had to put about 30ft of line down it, which leads me to believe that the backup is occuring very close to the cleanout. A plumber told me the distance might not be a good indicator of where the problem is since I might just be pushing the blockage down the sewer until it comes to a spot where it can clear. I've also opened the cleanout while the backup is occurring and verified that I don't see any water movement down in the drain.

A plumber I've used a number of times tells me that this is caused by a belly in the 4" clay sewer, though I've also wondered if perhaps there is a collapse at the connection point and not in a straight part of the sewer line. He quoted me $3,500 to break up the concrete in my basement and lay down a new sewer. This is obviously an expensive and messy operation that I'd like to avoid if possible. I was advised against wasting my money videoing this part of the sewer since either way it will need to be replaced.

Are there any other less invasive methods of correcting this? Would it make sense to only break up a couple feet around the cleanout instead of the entire sewer line, or is this a better long-term fix for the issue?

The only other odd thing I've noticed is that the trap where the water backs up stops holding water within a week or so of a backup (I only put the two together after it happened); when I poured water down it to fill the trap, within a couple of days it was empty. Normally it will hold water for a long time, until it naturally evaporates; there is no primer on this trap.

2 Answers 2


The best option that I can think of would be to have the sewer lined. This company is simply the first Google search result I found:


The premise here is that a flexible liner is inserted into the pipe (usually using air - think of it as turning a sock inside out) and then the liner is hardened in place (water activated? resin?). The new liner will bridge any cracks or breaks in the pipe as well as any gaps in the joints.

I would also suggest actually getting the section of drain in question inspected...you will really want to know what the true problem is before deciding on the proper corrective action.

  • Thanks. Do you know if this can be done in the swear under your foundation, or only in the exterior part?
    – Steven
    Commented Dec 23, 2011 at 20:32
  • I don't know for certain, but I can't think of any reason why not.
    – Dave Nay
    Commented Dec 23, 2011 at 20:41
  • 1
    I had some people come by. It is indeed possible to do this under the concrete, however the cost of doing this is almost double the cost of ripping up the concrete! I suppose if you had a finished basement this might be a viable option, but as my basement is unfinished I think I am just going to have to rip up the concrete and do it the old-fashioned way. Thanks for the info!
    – Steven
    Commented Jan 10, 2012 at 23:26

The plumber has made a good informal assessment. I've seen this issue of a "bowed" or "belly" in the clay pipe where sewage does not flow at a consistent pitch, thus causing deposits of solids to accumulate in specific regions. What I read in your post is that you haven't had your internal line scoped. Do this, presumably with the initial plumber, as scopes have altimeters and can check the pitch as they run the length. They can also check how the house sewer connects to the city sewer.

A sagged pipe cannot be fixed with one of these liner systems, the floor needs to be opened up and the line has to be replaced with a straight run pipe, correctly pitched to the outside sewer.

What you also don't mention is whether you are clearing obstructions when you augur your main cleanout. You mention reaching 30 feet where is where the city connects. Does this mean you are or are not consistently clearing waste when you do so?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVpbmHl9Mpc In this example sewer gas is the primary complaint.

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