Average Cost of Sewer Line Repair and Replacement
80% of American homes have sewage pipes that are connected to municipal water treatment plants (the remaining 20% have some form of septic tank). That means that 80% of houses have some form of line running from their home to the city’s line (often referred to as the sewer lateral), which in turn is taken to a processing area. From your home to the road, running under the ground is several yards of pipeline, which at any time could:
When a sewer backup or leak does occur, it’s rarely pleasant, either in terms of the fluids that are leaking out, or the cost to you for the fixing. You will often notice these leaks when they start to flood into your basement. Because sewage pipes are usually some of the oldest parts of your home, you will most likely need to replace entire sections. This is one of the few parts of your home where replacement supersedes repair almost every time.
When the sewer line does require replacement, costs can vary from hundreds of dollars to tens of thousands of dollars.
This guide will discuss all of the key costs, giving you a ballpark figure of what you can expect to pay depending on your specific circumstances.
THE OVERALL COST
The overall cost of replacing a sewer line is between $50 and $200 per foot, with the majority of homeowners paying between $50 and $100.
For a small pipe replacement (i.e. less than 50 feet of pipe), you will spend between $3,000 and $6,000. For more than 50 feet, your cost range will be between $5,000 and $13,000 on average.
To get the full sewer system replaced in your home, you can expect to spend somewhere between $8,000 and $30,000.
PRICE PER SQUARE FOOT
As mentioned above, sewer line replacement costs $50-$200 per square foot.
|1||$50 - $200|
|10||$500 - $2,000|
|25||$1,250 - $5,000|
|50||$2,500 - $10,000|
Naturally, the cost of replacement will depend on the precise nature of the problem.
Clues as to the nature of the blockage include the following:
Regular clogging of the drain or backups in the toilet
Utility bills that are higher than usual (suggesting that water is leaking somewhere)
A smell of sulfur (this indicates decomposing waste)
Standing water (or sewage) in your yard
Any of these signs suggest problems with the sewer pipes and will require further inspection – ideally before the problem gets out of control.
The first step will be to hire a professional to diagnose the problem. If you need to call an emergency plumber, there will be an emergency call out charge of between $50 and $250. You can expect to pay $100-$200 per hour to hire a plumber. Once they have diagnosed the problem, you will be able to work out the next step (and the costs involved).
Assuming there are no obvious above-ground signs, a plumber will use a camera on a pipe to work out the problem. For a camera inspection, you will pay an average cost of $560.
Once the plumber has identified the cause of the problem, they will be able to make recommendations as to the cost of repair.
(Note: The below costs of repair all exclude the cost of camera inspection).
If tree roots have gotten into the sewer line, removing them will cost between $100 and $600.
If the pipes have also cracked, you will need to replace that section at the cost of $50-$200 per foot.
If you have a broken pipe, then you’ll need to replace that section at the $50 to $200 per foot rate. This leads to an average cost of $3,000.
If pipes have cracked, then repair is usually not an option – particularly if you want to solve the problem permanently.
COLLAPSED LINE REPAIR
If a segment of your sewer line has collapsed, then you can either replace that specific segment ($50-$200 per foot) or the entire line; the latter option will be more suited to situations where the collapse extends a significant distance.
CLOG IN THE PIPE
A clog in the pipe may not require inspection with a camera, thus reducing that cost from your final bill. The signs of a clog in the pipe usually involve slow draining, gurgling sounds, or smell from the bathroom or kitchen. In each of these cases, a plumber can fix the clog without the need for pipe replacement.
The cost to clear the clog will be between $170 and $400 (if you use a hydrojet, it will be between $225 and $575) – the plumber will use a tool such as an electric snake to clear the clog, and you may need to be more careful in the future about placing fats, oils, and grease down the toilet.
In some cases, you may be able to repair a sewer drain rather than go for a full replacement. This may save you some money in the short term – the average cost of repairing a sewer main is $2,556.
However, this may lead to more problems in the long run, especially if you don’t address the underlying issue.
Here are some other things that may impact your final bill.
If the problem with your sewer pipes causes problems for the city sewer lines (i.e. affects more than one home) then the cost can very quickly rack up.
You will need to contact the city and they will charge you a premium because of the need to send out their own contractors. Your charge for this can be around $3,000, even if you require no additional work.
In some cases, your insurance may cover this, although you’ll need to speak to your broker of your policy provider to clarify. In most cases, insurance companies will cover damage that is ‘sudden’ (i.e. caused by something like an earthquake).
However, if the problems with your sewage line are caused by gradual changes or neglect, then your insurance company will regard this as being your own negligence and will not pay for repairs.
This highlights the importance of regular maintenance and vigilance – catching the problem early will literally save you hundreds or thousands of dollars.
DIGGING UP A SEWER
If you do have to replace a section of your sewer pipe, you will most likely need to dig up part of the sewer line. If you do, then you will pay $6 to $15 per linear foot for a trench. In some cases, your plumber can do this work and you can build it into the cost of the overall repairs.
However, if you have a more complex situation (such as with tree roots in the pipe) you may need to hire a contractor for the excavation – which will cost between $50 and $150 per hour.
You also need to factor in the inconvenience and the potential for lost income if you have to remain home during this period.
TRENCHLESS SEWER LINE REPLACEMENT
In some cases, you may be able to solve your problem without the need for excavation. This approach – known as trenchless sewer line replacement – can work out cheaper, despite costing $60-$250 per foot.
To calculate the difference, ask for a quote for each and add in all ancillary costs (you can also factor in the inconvenience of having your property excavated). One key benefit of a trenchless approach is that you don’t have to pay for the cleanup costs.
There are two main ways to replace sewer lines without excavating:
Cured-in-Place Sewer Pipe (CIPP)
Cured-in-place sewer pipe lining involves placing a new pipe inside the remnants of the old one. A CIPP lining is seamless, meaning that it effectively replaces an old pipe with a brand new one without the need for digging up your yard. A liner saturated with epoxy is pulled through the old pipe – meaning you only need one entry point to the pipe. CIPP lining costs between $75 and $250 per linear foot, and you will spend between $3,000 and $4,000 for this tactic.
Trenchless Pipe Bursting
Pipe bursting involves placing a pneumatic head into the sewer and breaking up any blockages that may have caused problems. Once this has happened, a new line is pulled through the pipe in much the same way as CIPP.
The cost of this method is between $60 and $200 per linear foot. This means that your final bill will likely come in somewhere between $1,000 and $4,000. This makes it a cheaper option than both CIPP as well as an excavation of your yard.
No one really wants to think about their sewer line needing replacement. It’s a fairly unglamorous job and the costs can be extremely high.
However, it’s a price you have to pay to ensure that one of the most basic parts of your home – the removal of sewage – is up to standard.
Replacing a sewer line, and generally having a long-term strategy is crucial here; this is not a situation where you can patch things up and hope for the best. The good news is that the costs don’t have to be prohibitively high – and some costs may even be covered by your insurance.
So if you’re one of the vast majority of Americans connected to the sewer line, take every step to monitor and inspect your sewer pipes for damage. It could save you tens of thousands of dollars.