Understanding Your Water Main and Your Sewer Line

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Even if you think you understand your home’s plumbing fairly well, you may be missing two crucial pieces: your water main and your sewer line. These components bring fresh water into your home and remove the water waste created, thus providing the input and output for your home’s plumbing system. Understanding how these lines work and how to spot signs of trouble is an important part of maintaining your Portland home’s plumbing to prevent some of the most common plumbing emergencies.

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What Is a Water Main?

Homes that receive water from a municipal source have a water main that delivers fresh water into the home. Your water main can be easily identified by finding your home’s water meter, which records the incoming flow of water for accurate billing at the end of each month. Water mains range in size from 1/2” to up to 1 1/2” in diameter, with larger water mains in homes with increased water requirements, such as multiple water heaters or bathing systems.

How to shut off your water main

In addition to your water meter, water mains also incorporate a shutoff valve. This valve can be crucial during a serious plumbing emergency, as it will stop the flow of all water into your home’s plumbing system. If you have a serious leak or other problem, using the shutoff valve can prevent flooding, water damage, and water waste. Make sure you know where your main shutoff valve is located (typically in the garage, basement, crawl space, or in a valve box outside the house) and ensure it is in good shape and easily accessible. This can help you save time, money, and stress during a serious plumbing emergency.

What if the water main is malfunctioning?

Although your water main should never give you trouble, age can affect the line’s integrity. If you have questions or concerns about the age or performance of your water main, your Portland plumber can let you know whether attention is needed. Regular plumbing inspections can help you catch small issues that could cause significant damage in the future so you can repair them before problems occur.

What Is a Sewer Line?

If your home is connected to a sewer system, there is a sewer line that bridges the gap between your home’s drains and the main sewer drain. This line is located under the ground of your yard and is considered part of your plumbing system and your responsibility for maintenance and repairs. Sewer lines are typically four to six inches in diameter and sloped downwards to promote the flow of water away from your home and into your city’s sewer.

About sewer line clogs

Because these lines are not particularly large, they can easily develop buildup and clogs over time, depending on your home’s water usage, and how much care is used in disposing of items in the toilets and drain lines. Sewer line clogs typically affect your toilets first, as these fixtures drain most directly into the sewer line. Minor clogs may simply cause the drains in your home to act strangely, while major clogs can cause wastewater to back up into your home, leading to water damage and exposing your family to potential health risks.

Sewer line clogs should always be addressed by a professional plumber—in many cases, hydro jetting equipment can clear out clogs and allow your Portland plumber to evaluate the condition of the line using camera inspection technology. If the sewer line has been compromised, your plumber can perform trenchless pipe repairs to restore the line’s integrity while maintaining your beautiful landscaping.

Tree roots can harm your sewer line

In addition to clogs, the biggest threat to your sewer line is tree roots. Finding out where your sewer line is located and planting only sewer-safe trees in this area of your yard can reduce the risk of tree root damage to your sewer line.

For tips and information on plumbing issues, check out the Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Portland blog today!

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About the Author: Steve Ferree, Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Portland

Steve has been a trusted Mr. Rooter owner of Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Portland since 1999. With over 20 years to back him, Steve has experience with a wide range of plumbing-related solutions and systems. He and his team specialize in drain cleaning, sewer repair, re-piping, and more.