Homeowners rightly feel concerned when a sewer pipe fails. For starters, most homeowners’ bank accounts can take a severe hit due to the expensive expense of sewer line replacement in Seattle. Another is that if a sewage line fails, all wastewater activities in the home—toilets, sinks, showers, and bathtubs—must be stopped.

When a contractor provides an estimate for the cost of fixing your sewer line, the assessment includes the price of replacing the actual pipe and excavating the trench with earth-moving equipment.

You can significantly reduce costs if you can manually dig the trench needed to access the old sewer line. Instead of paying the total price for replacement by a contractor, you can go to the next step and replace the line on your own for pennies on the dollar.

What Depth Is the Sewer Line in Your Yard?

Local building codes, which frequently consider the geology and climate of a particular area, determine how deep your sewer line is.

On private property, sewer pipes may be 5 to 8 feet deep or as shallow as 18 to 30 inches. The pipe will be buried further to avoid freezing during the winter in colder climates. The code may grant some allowances for planting the line higher if the pipe cannot be buried to the minimum required depth.

The climate is not necessarily a factor in pipe depth. The location of your community’s sewer mains may determine how deep the pipe is buried, even in warm regions. Most of the time, digging a trench to reach your sewer line merely requires effort. Though not technically challenging, it can be physically taxing. No materials are needed, and the tools are straightforward, which many homes already own or may rent.

In one weekend of long workdays, a decently fit adult can expect to dig a sewage trench that is 4 feet deep, 8 feet long, and 3 feet wide. This estimate is predicated on the idea that your soil is loose and has a manageable number of roots. Digging time can be significantly extended by the presence of several big roots, clay, or mud that is tightly packed.

Cold climates can cause more problems. The frost line may be 4 feet below the surface in certain places. Therefore, the sewer pipe may be relatively deep.

Additionally, if your sewer line breaks in the winter, you’ll have to work hard in subzero temperatures to break through the frozen earth. You may need to hire earth-moving machinery if you need help to complete this task.

How to Replace a Sewer Line

Here are the tools you will need:

  • Sledgehammer (optional)
  • Pickax
  • Marking paint
  • Shovel
  • Chain saw (optional)
  • Pruning shears or handsaw
  • Gravel and soil (optional)
  • Trench shields (optional)
  • Twine and stakes
  • Yard waste bags (as much as you need)
  • Soluble marking paint


Find the sewer line.

Making sure you are excavating in the proper place is one of the essential phases in creating a trench for sewer line replacement. A video camera examination can show you the location of your sewer line if you need clarification. The expert will move the camera down the sewer system from your residence to the sewer clean-out, stopping at several locations. A radio transmitter on the camera broadcasts its location. The technician can sweep a finger across the surface at any time to read the signal and enable you to designate the ground area precisely above the sewer pipe.

Be as precise as you can because hand-digging in the wrong place will cost you a lot of money in wasted effort. Working with the sewer specialist, locate the exact spot until you are confident that you have done so. Then, using marking paint, draw a line for the entire length of the pipe.

Find Additional Utility Lines

Call the utility locator number in your area. Utility companies fund and maintain this service, which is typically accessible to residents. Technicians will mark electrical, water, gas, and other vital services in your yard. Remember that the homeowner can place additional services in your yard, such as sprinkler lines and landscaping lights, which need to be identified by the utility companies.

Mark the site of the dig.

Mark the dig site with rope, string, and soluble marking paint. Paint the real sewage line, which will eventually be destroyed, and draw a line on each side of it that will not be changed during the excavation.

Request a Permit

Your town needs a permit as a safety precaution to guarantee the work is done correctly. An inspector will visit the construction site to ensure that the work has been completed following the code. Replacing a sewer line is often carried out after the new sewer line is put in but before the trench is filled.

Remove or Smash Obstacles

It can be necessary to remove obstacles like concrete or brick driveways, walkways, or slabs before reaching the soil. Start on the edge of the concrete and smash it up with an 8-pound sledgehammer. Renting an electric jackhammer or chipping gun at a tool rental shop for large concrete buildings is worthwhile. 

Create a Sewer Trench

Dig down as far as you can while avoiding side digging as much as you can. To stand in the pit and create access to the sewer line, you will need to expand the trench in a lateral direction later. But until you find the sewer line, do as little side digging as possible.

Remove tree roots

You might need to cut or sew off tree and shrub roots as you come across them while digging. Your shovel’s blade can cut through a few tiny roots. Pruning shears or a hand saw should be used to cut off any more roots. A chainsaw will be necessary for heavier roots. Put the roots in yard waste bags for collection later.

Analyze the sewer line issue.

If your sewer issue is urgent, you might smell the pipe before you see it. Wastewater may have saturated the land. If the sewer line has been installed correctly, a gravel layer will let you know you are getting close to it.

You should now carefully excavate the area around the sewer line, which could be made of plastic, clay, or cast iron. Even different pipe kinds may be joined together with splices. To give the contractor easy access to replace the pipe, expand the trench and remove a significant amount of earth from around the line.

Finish the project

Be sure to examine the work once the sewer pipe replacement is finished before covering the trench with gravel and dirt. Before adding soil, surround the pipe with a layer of gravel to prevent soil movement. Periodically compact the soil as you fill the trench to stop the ground from settling in the future.

Speak With Your Local Sewer Line Replacement in Seattle

Are you interested in getting your sewer line replacement in Seattle? You can reach out to us today at N.W. Sewer and Drain. We’re excited to help you sort out any drain issues you might face in your home or office building. Ideally, consulting an experienced local sewer and drain cleaning company should be your following line of action if you are experiencing slow-moving drains, foul odor, or clogged drains in your home and need help figuring out what else to do. 

At N.W. Sewer & Drain, we have a well-trained and ready-to-move team on standby. We serve the Seattle metropolitan area, including Bellevue, Kirkland, Shoreline, Renton, Lake Forest Park, Mountlake Terrace, Auburn, Everett, Marysville, Mount Vernon, and other surrounding areas. 

N.W. Sewer & Drain provides top-notch drain cleaning and sewer repair services in the greater Seattle area, and we’ve been in the business for nearly 20 years. Contact us today at 206-931-7728 to schedule an inspection of your sewer line and pipes.

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