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Let’s say you’ve been in your home for six weeks. You are just starting to get things settled. You take one of your boxes down into the basement and smell a foul odor. It turns out your main sewer line that goes from your house to the street is clogged. This is one of those items that needs to be fixed right away for obvious reasons. So you call your builder and he sends a company out to remove the obstruction.
Your builder has responded quickly to get a company out, but how do you determine who is at fault? You can have a company come out to send a camera down through the pipe that leads out to the street. Make sure you do this before the line in cleaned out. This will cost extra money and is usually not done unless the problem reoccurs. And although the camera does show the interior of the pipe, there is no guarantee it will determine the root cause of the problem.
So what are the major causes for a new sewer line to back up into the home? Most homes are built with a pipe that is installed so it pitches down and away from the house so gravity will allow the sewage to flow. The pipe sewer pipe that runs from the house typically connects to the city sewer at the street. If something goes wrong with the sewer pipe running from the house, the flow can be blocked in the pipe causing a backup of sewage into the home.
There are several major causes for a sewer line backup on a new home. There could be construction debris lodged in the pipe. There could also be a dip in the pipe caused by settlement. Another possibility would be a crushed pipe from the backfill operations. One of the kids could have dropped a diaper into the toilet. And the list goes on and on for potential reasons that the pipe clogged and backed up.
So, you have a failure in your sewer pipe and raw sewage in your basement. What part of this is the builder’s responsibility? You should check your warranty documentation to see if this situation is specifically mentioned. Typically, the builder will help you get the pipe cleared but you will need to address any consequential damages to personal property in your basement.
Be sure to mark the location of the sewer cleanout in your yard on the engineered plot plan. It’s also a good idea to know exactly where it is just in case a problem occurs. The plumber that comes out to help will want to know where the riser pipe is in order to feed a camera or snake down through.
In order to protect yourself, be sure to speak to your homeowner’s insurance agent to determine what forms of extra coverage they provide for sewer backups and basement water. Typically these are add-ons to a policy and can be very useful in the event of a problem. Coverage is typically not too expensive and is a must if you have finished the basement or have expensive items stored down there.
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