Sewer Line Repair and Replacement
A sewer line backup or leak can be frustrating to deal with as a homeowner. Along with the unpleasant smell and messy cleanup of a compromised sewer pipe, it can be difficult to pinpoint the root cause of your sewage problem.
To help prevent sewer line damage or mitigate an issue when it arises, it’s important to know how to spot the main causes of sewer line damage. Here are the common causes of a damaged sewer line, signs to look for, and how you can repair or replace your sewer system.
Causes of Sewer Line Damage
From clogged pipes to normal wear and tear, here are a few causes of sewer line damage.
One of the most common causes of sewer line damage is tree roots. A tree’s roots follow sources of water as they grow. Since sewer lines carry liquid waste, roots are naturally attracted to the source—particularly when there is already a small leak in the piping.
Once in contact with a sewer pipe, tree roots begin to wrap around and break into pipes, clogging, weakening, and even breaking the structure. Clay sewer pipes, typically found in older homes, are the most susceptible to damage from tree roots.
Although pipes made of steel and cast iron are galvanized to prevent rusting, these pipes are at a high risk of corroding due to calcium and magnesium build-up from regular wear and tear. If corrosion is left untreated, it can leave the pipe susceptible to leaks and cracks.
Clogged Pipes Due to Debris and Foreign Objects
Your home’s sewage lines are only equipped to handle human waste and toilet paper. Avoid flushing trash like wrappers and paper towels, as they’re unable to properly disintegrate and can cause blockages that drain cleaning agents can’t fix. In the kitchen, cooking oil and grease can also clog pipes if they’re poured into the sink. Pour these liquids into a container, let them cool, and then dispose of them in a trash can.
Read More: How to Clear a Clogged Drain
During extreme temperature and cold weather, frozen pipes can bust as a result of the expanding ice. However, it’s not just cold weather that can cause pipes to rupture—though unlikely, extreme heat can burst pipes, too.
To prevent further damage, it’s important to know the signs of a damaged sewer system so that you can take immediate action and contact an experienced service technician.
Flooded or Foul-Smelling Yard
A yard that’s flooded can be a sign of a broken sewer pipe. Sewer lines can be buried anywhere between a couple of feet to six feet below the ground, with colder climates calling for deeper pipes. For sewer lines close to the surface, a broken pipe can quickly begin to pool water which seeps through the grass and becomes visible on the surface. You may be able to smell the sewage before it surfaces, as sewage gas can seep through your yard’s soil.
While some blockages are caused by a pipe leading directly from a faucet or shower, you can detect a blockage in the main sewage line if multiple draining areas in the home are clogging. Toilets can warn of severe blockages if strange gurgling sounds occur when air gets pushed back up the line.
Water Damage in the Home
Water damage can occur if a drain line leaks or breaks in the home. One of the first signs is mold spreading on the floors or walls. This could point to a broken sewer line within the home, in which case you should call a plumbing service immediately.
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Sewer Line Repair and Replacement
If your sewer line springs a leak or breaks and needs to be repaired, you have two options: Dig a trench around the sewer pipe or use trenchless sewer line repairs. A trenchless sewer repair is time and cost-effective while requiring little to no digging. To start the process, technicians use a video camera to enter into the sewer line and recommend repairs. Then, one of two plumbing repairs is usually recommended:
1. Pipe lining—If the damage to your sewage pipe is minimal, pipe lining can be used to insert an inflatable tube covered in epoxy into your sewer line. From there, the tube is inflated, pressing against the existing line. While it’s up against the existing sewage line, the epoxy cures and hardens, repairing the leak. The inflatable tube can then be removed and the sewer line repaired.
2. Pipe bursting—When a sewer line is too damaged to use the pipe lining technique, a more invasive trenchless repair can be performed. Technicians feed a cone-shaped bit through your existing line and destroy the pipe while immediately replacing it with a new one. This process is more expensive and less time-effective, but it doesn’t require extensive excavation.
If your pipes are damaged beyond repair, you may have to resort to traditional sewer line replacement methods. This is an extremely invasive and costly method that requires technicians to dig up your yard to reveal the damaged or broken lines. However, excavation is necessary if your home’s sewage system has extensive damage.
How to Protect Your Sewer Lines
Although not all sewer line damage is preventable, here are three steps you can take to care for your sewage system:
1. Receive sewer line inspections once a year—To confirm that your sewage system is in good working condition, hire a professional to conduct an inspection at least once a year. Some plumbing companies offer a camera inspection so that the inside of your sewer pipe can be checked for corrosion or blockages.
2. Remove trees that are damaging the sewer line—Although a root invasion in your sewer line is often caused by an already-existing crack or leak in the pipe, we still recommend removing the tree from the area after repairing or replacing the pipe to ensure the problem doesn’t arise again in the future.
3. Use your sewage system properly—Remember to only dispose of human waste and toilet paper in the sewer lines; any other materials that enter the system can cause blockages.
Frequently Asked Questions About Sewer Line Repair
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Sewer Line Repair & Replacement Services
Pipe Restoration, Cleaning Services and Excavation
Roto-Rooter does more than unclog drains. We offer a full range of sewer services, including main sewer line repair, sewer line replacement, no dig pipe restoration, and sewer line cleaning. It is critical to get the proper help to repair or replace the sewer lines as soon as possible to avoid damage. Our plumbing professionals are trained to address the following sewer plumbing problems:
- Broken Pipes: Pipes are cracked, punctured or collapsed by shifting soil, frozen ground, settling, etc.
- Sewer Blockages: Grease buildup or foreign objects restrict or prohibit proper water flow and/or cleaning of the sewer line.
- Corrosion: Pipes have deteriorated and/or broken, causing blockages in the line and restricting water flow.
- Bellied Pipes: A section of the pipe has sunk due to ground or soil conditions, creating a valley that collects debris and waste.
- Leaking Joints: The seals between pipes have decayed or broken, allowing water to escape into the ground surrounding the pipes.
- Tree Roots: Tree or shrub roots have invaded the sewer line, causing clogs and preventing normal sewer line cleaning.
- Off-Grade Pipes: Existing pipes are constructed of substandard or outdated material that may have deteriorated or corroded.
Roto-Rooter plumbers are available 24/7 to help with all you sewer line plumbing needs, including sewer leaks, sewer repair, and sewer replacement.
*All services not available from all locations.
Renew, re-line, and restore your pipes. No digging required.
Are you experiencing regular clogs and/or sewage backups? It’s likely that your home’s plumbing system has been breached by root growth, deterioration or corrosion. Roto-Rooter Pipe Restoration offers zero dig solutions to make pipes work like new.
*All services not available from all locations.
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Leaking Sewer Lines
A sewer leak on your drain line, or main sewer line, can be hard to detect and can also damage your property. Standing or ponding water from leaking sewer lines are also a health hazard and frequently go undiagnosed. Leaking drain pipes can also undermine your drain system and cause separations. Our plumbers often perform a dye test to pinpoint the source because the source of leaking water can be hard to detect. Commonly, pipes or water service lines are replaced, only to discover they were not the source of a leak. Suprisingly enough, sewer water is not always dirty or discolored and often gets mistaken for a water supply line leak.
Leaking sewer lines inside your home can damage floors, carpentry, and other valuable objects such as cabinets. Left unattended, leaking sewer water can lead to mold and much more serious structural damage. Leaking sewer water from your main house drain or house sewer can also cause extensive damage if ignored.
Roto-Rooter technicians and plumbers are fully trained in the use of state-of-the-art equipment and technologies to solve all your outdoor plumbing problems. A plumber can identify the source of the leaking sewer line, recommend a plan of action, and inspect for any other household leaks or water damage caused by the sewer leak.
*All services not available from all locations.
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Sewer Line Services & Repairs
As a business owner, malfunctioning drain and sewer plumbing can have a devastating effect on your business. Commercial drain and sewer lines experience much more wear and tear than residential sewers and are more prone to clogs and blockage.
Roto-Rooter plumbers understand how critical a well-functioning plumbing system is to your business. We offer a comprehensive list of commercial drain and sewer services to prevent and repair a variety of sewer plumbing problems, including:
- Sink drain cleaning
- Sewer line cleaning
- Lift station cleaning and repair
- Storm drain cleaning and repair
- Video camera sewer line inspections
- Sewer line pipe repair and replacement
We also offer customized sewer maintenance programs to meet the needs of your business. Call Roto-Rooter today to schedule a full commercial plumbing inspection. We’ll do a walk-through of your building to assess the state of your commercial plumbing system and recommend a regular maintenance schedule to prevent drain and sewer problems. We’ll also help you decide what cleaning products and automated systems can benefit your plumbing system.
*All services not available from all locations.
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Trenchless Sewer Services & Repairs
When you have a sewer problem, you’ll want the sewer repair process to minimize disruptions to your property or business. You probably don’t want to dig up your patio, parking lot or landscape.
Roto-Rooter offers trenchless sewer repair to minimize the impact on your outdoor landscape and get your sewer system fully operational quickly.
Instead of drudging large trenches to access your underground sewage system, Roto-Rooter technicians will drill just a few holes to see where the sewer line problem is and address it quickly. Call Roto-Rooter today to see if trenchless sewer line repairs are the right choice for your home or business.
When your plumbing fixtures fail, or if you are in need of sewer repair or leak repair, the professionals at Roto-Rooter have the expertise. And if you experience flooding, contact us for water damage restoration service.
*All services not available from all locations.
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How often should you clean out your sewer line?
The length of time between each professional sewer cleaning depends on several factors, with the most common factor being the amount of root infiltration in the pipeline. The more aggressive the root growth, the more often you’ll need to have the sewer pipe cleaned to prevent sewer backups. Other factors include the condition of the sewer pipeline. Are there any damaged sections, including offset pipes, holes or large cracks? Sewer pipes can also clog if you pour grease down the kitchen drains, flush wet wipes, paper towels or other items that don’t quickly disintegrate in water. For households with any of the above issues, Roto-Rooter typically recommends cleaning your main line every year.
What are the warning signs that my main sewer line is backing up?
There are a few of warning signs that your main sewer line is clogging. Pay attention and deal with the problem before the sewer clogs completely and backs up into the house. (1) Slow draining sinks and bathtubs. If you have two or more slow drains in the house, the problem is probably in the main sewer. (2) A gurgling sound when you flush the toilet (3) water comes up in the basement floor drain or a first-floor bathtub/shower when the toilet is flushed (4) There is a constant need to plunge toilets. (5) sewer smell coming from drains.
What do professional plumbers use to unclog drains?
To clear the sewer line of roots and debris, a professional cleaning is required with a heavy-duty Roto-Rooter machine. These electric drain and sewer cleaning machines have a strong, stiff steel cable with a sharp blade on its tip. The cable spins as it travels through the sewer pipe, so it cuts away obstructions. It will even shave roots right down to the pipe walls to restore full flow in your sewer pipe. If the Roto-Rooter machine can’t get through the pipe, your service technician can request a video camera inspection of the sewer pipeline to ascertain where the blockage is and its cause. A trained eye will then be able to recommend repair options to the homeowner.
Do I need a video camera line inspection?
Video camera line inspections can get to the root of the problem quickly and efficiently. If you experience repeated sewer or drain line backups, slow drains or frequent toilet clogs, it may be a good idea to have a video inspection performed to determine the underlining problem. The video cameras are built into a stiff cord or snake that is connected to a video monitor. The operator pushes the camera snake through the pipeline, and since the camera head is ringed with bright LED lights, the pipeline is completely illuminated to expose obstructions, cracks and structural damage in the pipe. Video inspections are also recommended to prospective homeowners before buying a new home. After all, the cost of sewer replacement can be many thousands of dollars.
Learn more about Roto-Rooter’s sewer camera inspection service.
Do-it-yourself sewer pipe repair without dismantling
Reading 7 min
- Types of sewer pipes
- Causes of emergencies in the sewage disposal system
- How to repair pipe damage?
- Clogged sewer pipe
- Sealing a fistula
- Sealing cracks
- Mistakes in the repair of the sewer system well-maintained buildings and structures. The wastewater system is constantly subjected to tension, compression, temperature changes and toxic liquids. Sooner or later, even the highest quality wiring, assembled in accordance with all the rules, will become unusable. Consider the prerequisites for the occurrence of emergencies in sewer systems and ways to eliminate them.
Sewer pipe in need of repair
Types of sewer pipes
As the technology of manufacturing sanitary products has developed, various materials have been used. In one waste system, pipes of different composition, technical and operational characteristics can be used.
Consider their features:
- Cast iron sections. Differ in massiveness, big weight and fragility. The inner walls are rough. Used for the manufacture of risers and siphons.
- Asbestos-cement pipes. They have a smooth surface. They are rarely used, as they crack under vertical and horizontal loads.
- Plastic pipes. Available in a wide range, lightweight, durable, flexible, resistant to aggressive environments.
Causes of emergencies in the sewage disposal system
Sewer malfunctions occur under the influence of internal and external factors.
The causes of emergencies can be as follows:
- Blockage. It is a dense accumulation of foreign matter. It is formed due to a violation of the system assembly technology or the rules for its operation. Hair and wool, animal fats, limescale and mortars clog pipes.
- Crack. Occurs at critical pressure on the channel. This happens during seasonal heaving of the soil, settlement of the building and impact with a solid object.
- Depressurization of joints. It is a consequence of the drying of rubber gaskets, violation of the integrity of insulating materials.
- Fistula. Manifested due to corrosion or manufacturing defects. It is a small through hole in the pipe wall.
Depending on the nature of the damage, a decision is made on the method of repair. It can be carried out directly on the wiring, with partial or complete disassembly.
How to repair pipe damage?
- Pulling a soft polyethylene hose through the damaged area. One of its edges is fixed on the branch pipe of the whole product, and the second is led into a common riser. Such structures have a service life of up to 10 years. As the hose wears out, it can be repaired like a sewer pipe or replaced with a new one.
- Laying a new pipe of smaller diameter inside the emergency section. Flexible polypropylene products with standard sockets at the ends are used. It is necessary to use such a drain carefully, regularly carrying out its planned preventive cleaning.
- Repairing damage with a remote-controlled manipulator with video surveillance. Defects are eliminated by adding materials to the holes to ensure complete tightness of the system.
- Replacement of cuffs and gaskets at the junction of pipes, drain hoses and fittings with sewer pipes. In some cases, leaks occur due to misalignment of parts during assembly or loose connections.
When drains begin to come out of the drain hole, it is most likely that a plug has formed in the line.
Clogged sewer pipe
If the leak is caused by overflowing water from the sink or toilet bowl, then the sewage system is clogged. When such a problem is found, it is not necessary to immediately contact specialists. There are many simple and affordable ways to get rid of blockages.
Cleaning of sewer pipes can be carried out by the following means:
- Plunger. Simple, inexpensive, but effective device. The technology of its use consists in exposing the blockage to vacuum and high pressure. Cleaning is carried out with a blocked emergency hole and a small amount of water in the tank. Perform sharp pressure on the handle of the plunger and lift it up. This method allows you to remove hair and food debris from the pipes.
- Sewer cable. To eliminate traffic jams of various types, tips in the form of a spade, gaff and ruff are used. The tip is immersed in the drain and pushed into the pipe. After that, the cable is rotated while moving it forward. The captured garbage is removed outside, and its remains are washed off with a strong pressure of water.
- Household chemicals. In hardware stores there are a large number of effective preparations based on acid and alkali. Depending on the location and nature of the blockage, reagents are used in the form of granules, powder, gel and solution.
- Boiling water. Hot water is poured into the drained pipeline, the procedure helps to dissolve fatty deposits and exfoliate limescale.
You can get rid of the blockage with the help of improvised means. The problem is solved with the help of vinegar, salt, soda and Coca-Cola.
Through holes occur in old cast iron pipes due to electrolytic corrosion. If the fistula is small, then its elimination is not particularly difficult.
To repair old sewer pipes with your own hands, you need the following tools and materials:
- electric drill;
- sheet rubber;
- steel butterfly bolt.
Cast iron leaks can be eliminated in the following ways:
- Applying a patch to the hole. The metal around the hole is pre-cleaned and leveled. A piece of rubber is superimposed on the fistula, a strip of tin is placed on top of it. All this is pulled together by one or more steel clamps. If necessary, all parts are covered with acrylic paint.
- By tightening the hole with a threaded connection. To do this, take a bolt with a nut that expands when tightened. 2 rubber gaskets are mounted on the bolt. One is pushed along with the nut into the hole, and the second remains on the cap. After that, twisting and pulling together all the parts is carried out.
The fistula can be repaired with plastic materials. Plasticine, mastic and polyurethane foam are suitable for this purpose. Such a decision is taken as a temporary measure to eliminate leakage.
Repair of cracks
Elimination of such a malfunction is carried out in the following ways:
- Using cement and bandage. In order for it to harden faster and not crack, liquid glass should be added to the mixture. After the consistency of the composition becomes such as porridge, you can get to work. After the bandage is immersed in the solution, it is wrapped around the pipe. It is necessary to capture 25-30 cm from each edge of the crack.
- Lead. For work, you will need sinkers for fishing, a hammer and a chisel. Preliminarily, the walls of the hole are cleaned of debris and corrosion. After that, the lead is shaped into a cone. The metal is driven into the gap with gentle blows, filling it throughout the volume. To prevent the crack from growing, it is advisable to apply clamps to its edges.
- Application of vulcanized rubber and wire. This option is used to quickly eliminate a leak that occurred after hours. A piece of rubber is superimposed on the hole, which is tightly screwed to the section with aluminum wire.
Plastic pipes are repaired by adding waterproof sealant or rubber adhesive to the opening. Wrapping the damaged area with sealing tapes gives good results.
Errors in the repair of the sewer system
When maintaining and restoring the sewer system, inexperienced craftsmen make a number of miscalculations and blunders.
The most common missteps are:
- use of acid solutions to clean metal channels;
- use of alkali when pouring communications with rubber gaskets;
- cleaning plastic pipes with tools with hard steel edges;
- applying excessive force when filling holes;
- use of materials that decompose when exposed to moisture;
- insufficient cleaning of rust and dirt from surfaces that are being prepared for contact with sealing substances;
- small distance to capture the edges of holes and crevices when applying a patch;
It is also a mistake to ignore the use of clamps to tighten the glued area.
Repair of sewerage in an apartment and a private house
The sewerage system is an inconspicuous, but extremely important component for a comfortable stay in a house or apartment that needs periodic inspection and maintenance. To avoid serious problems and costly repairs, any problems you notice should be corrected immediately. In this case, it is not at all necessary to seek help from plumbers. Armed with knowledge and the necessary tools, sewer repairs can be done on their own.
- Possible sewer problems
- Plastic pipe repair
- Cast iron pipe repair
- External sewer repair
Possible problems with the sewer system
Sewerage is a non-pressure piping system, however, it is also not immune to failures caused by careless handling or loss of functionality over time. The problem can manifest itself anywhere in the pipeline.
The most common is considered to be:
- Cracking in pipes. Plastic products are subject to this to a lesser extent, cast iron – much more often. The presence of cracks will be indicated by an unpleasant odor and the appearance of a leak.
- The appearance of smudges in the area of joints. The joint (welded, soldered, threaded) is considered the most vulnerable section of the network. Leaks are often formed due to a violation of the installation technology, the use of low-quality or inappropriate materials, and the failure of structural components.
- Blockage formation. A blockage can lead to difficulty in the outflow of water, up to a complete blockage of the pipe. The problem appears due to the ingress of household and construction debris into the sewer, the gradual narrowing of the internal pipeline channel due to the adherence of grease, hair, etc. to the walls.
- The appearance of an unpleasant odor. Sewer odors can enter a home through cracked pipes, or through a faulty or clogged ventilation system. Another reason is the lack of water seals at the connection points of the sink, bathtub, toilet bowl, and other sanitary equipment.
The main reason for the appearance of cracks is considered to be some external influence: impact, torsion, bending, etc. External sewerage can also suffer from negative temperatures, at which a frozen liquid can easily break a pipe made of any material.
Blockages often appear in drain siphons, which are clogged with residues of grease, hair and other organic matter. Another danger is improper piping. If the pipe does not have the required slope (2-3 degrees per linear meter of construction is enough), the free outflow of liquid to the riser will be difficult.
This is important! To eliminate the airing of the sewer system, a fan valve should be provided in the scheme.
Any sewer system, even built from the most expensive and modern materials and operated as accurately and carefully as possible, is not immune from emergencies. A significant amount of organic and inorganic waste passes through pipes every day. Over time, they inevitably accumulate, settle on the walls, cause difficult outflow and unpleasant odors.
In order not to bring things to a complete blockage of pipes, it is worth doing periodic preventive maintenance.
There are several ways:
- Electromechanical. A mobile cleaning machine with an electric drive is used.
- Hydrodynamic. Special installations are used that supply water under high pressure to the pipeline. Powerful jets of liquid effectively and quickly cope with blockages of any complexity.
- Mechanical. It implies manual cleaning with a plunger or plumbing cable.
- Chemical. Accumulations of organic matter are dissolved with the help of aggressive chemical compounds: alkaline, acidic or saline.
Repair of plastic pipes
Plastic products are so cheap that in many situations it is easier and more profitable to completely replace a damaged pipe than to purchase materials and tools to repair it. In addition, a new product will always be stronger and more reliable than a repaired (even with all the rules) pipe.
If the replacement of a polymer sewer pipe seems difficult, or cannot be done immediately, the problem area can be repaired using an ordinary sealant:
- The supply of sewage to the sewer is stopped.
- The problem area is dried and cleaned.
- Carefully coat the crack or joint with sealing compound.
- According to the manufacturer’s recommendations, the sealant is given time to acquire the necessary strength and elasticity.
- The repair area can be additionally reinforced with construction tape.
If the crack or hole in the plastic pipe is small, cold welding can be used:
- The damaged area is carefully cleaned with fine sandpaper, dust and dirt particles are removed, the surface is degreased.
- Next, the required amount of cold welding is kneaded.
- The finished composition in the form of a patch is applied to the problem area, after which the pipe is tightly wrapped with a bundle.
Please note! Until the composition hardens, you can not use the sewer. The exposure time is always indicated by the manufacturer on the packaging.
Solving the problem with hot melt adhesive and reinforced tape is shown in the video.
Fixing a leak in a cast iron pipe
The most common problem in this type of sewer is a crack in the pipe. Despite the solid weight and dimensions, the cast-iron pipe is considered a relatively fragile structure. Cast iron is especially sensitive to external mechanical influences: shocks, bends, etc.
Repairing a crack is not difficult, and for this it is not at all necessary to change the pipe completely and dismantle the sewer system. First of all, it is worth assessing the scale of the problem and determining the location of the leak. Most likely it will be the body of the pipe, or the junction.
If a major repair is not immediately possible, apply a temporary patch over the damaged area. To carry out the work, you will need a piece of rubber (an old car tire is perfect) and two clamps. Instead of clamps, you can use pieces of soft wire. It is better to pre-check the crack with a hammer and a chisel with a blunt end. The rubber wraps around the pipe and is firmly tightened on both sides with clamps or wire.
Two things to note:
- The rubber should completely wrap around the pipe surface for a few turns.
- The width of the rubber piece must cover the damaged section of the pipe with a margin.
The following method is more complicated in execution, but is able to provide high-quality and reliable repair of the problematic section of the pipe:
- A mixture of cement and water that is not too thick is being prepared.
- Cut pieces of medical bandage 30-50 cm long.
- The bandage is abundantly soaked with the resulting mixture and wrapped around the damaged area of the pipe.
- The procedure is repeated until a significant seal forms around the crack, completely covering the damaged area.
This is important! Until the cement dries, drains should not enter the sewer.
Instead of cement, you can make your own putty with 3 parts copper oxide powder and 2 parts phosphoric acid. Coating the pipe with a mixture around the entire perimeter in this case is not required. It will be enough to put a layer of putty on the crack and fix it with construction tape.
If a leak occurs at the joint, the procedure for the cast iron piping system is as follows:
- Use a hammer and chisel to break and remove the old cement mortar. This is done very carefully so as not to damage the pipe.
- The joint is carefully cleaned, the remnants of the old lead packing are removed.
- A new packing is placed in the vacated space, after which the joint is fixed with a thick (10 parts of cement and 1 part of water) mortar.
In general, sewer systems made of heavy and impractical cast iron pipes are gradually becoming a thing of the past. They are being replaced by light, inexpensive and effective polymer products. If the cast iron piping has begun to need repair, it may be worth spending a little more effort and money and completely replacing it with plastic. In any case, the decision remains with the owner.
External sewer repair
External sewerage is always more difficult to repair. This is due to the fact that pipes, as a rule, pass underground, and all manipulations have to be done almost blindly.
Pipe replacement work is carried out in two ways: