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What does it mean when my plumber tells me I have a “belly” in my sewer line?

A “belly” in your line can also be described as a sagging line. The pipe has gone from straight to having a dip or sag, where water and solids stay in the bend and can’t travel to the sewer main. This is a common occurrence here in north Texas where our soil is known for shifting. Sagging lines can be caused by shifts in the soil, rain, irrigation leaks, improper drainage around the house, sewer leaks, and water leaks.

One symptom of a “belly” is a flushing toilet or draining washing machine, backs up into the house, often a bathtub. You may initially think you have a clogged drain and unstopping it may work for a while. However, depending on the size of the belly, you will continue to have problems until a repair is made.

When you call a plumbing professional to unstop a toilet, it is a good idea to ask him/her to also run a camera through your line to determine the cause of the stoppage. This is especially true if you have recurring problems with sewer back-ups.

Repairs for a “belly” can take several hours. Your plumbing professional will locate the sagging line by using a camera and locating equipment, then marking the area to be uncovered. The general steps to make the repair include: accessing the line, either by removing concrete, or tunneling under the house. Then removing the sagging line and replacing it with new pipe, properly placing hangers on the new pipe to stabilize the pipe in the soil, testing the new sewer line, recovering the floor in the house or refilling the tunnel with the removed dirt.

Making plumbing repairs underneath the soil can be frustrating to a homeowner. When we spend our hard-earned money to make improvements to our home, we want to see the end result. Some plumbing repairs are not seen, but are necessary not only for the health of your family and for our water source, but also for maintenance of your most precious and expensive investment, your home.

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