9 Signs of a Broken Sewer Pipe

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In the constant freeze-thaw-freeze-thaw cycle of a Calgary winter, our sewer-line infrastructure takes a beating. The City of Calgary has done a great job in updating municipal sewer lines in many older areas of the city and using durable sewer lines for new communities, but that hasn’t eliminated the risk of a broken sewer pipe. Here’s a quick list of how to identify a broken sewer pipe and what you need to do about it.

How to Tell if Your Sewer Line is Broken

If you think you have a cracked or broken sewer pipe, you’ll want to look for the following signs.


Calgary is a pretty dry city. If you’re noticing mold growing on your walls but don’t know of any reason why they’d be wet, it could be a sign of a leak or break in your pipes.

Slow Drains

A slow draining toilet, bathtub or sink could be a sign of a blockage in your sewer pipe. This might just be something that’s stuckĀ insideĀ the drain that needs to be dislodged, or it could be an indicator that there is something protruding into the drain pipe (tree roots are a main culprit) or that you have a crack or hole in the drain pipe. Identifying the root cause of a slow drain can help to prevent a sewer backup.

Sewer line flushing & cleaning can also help to improve slow drains. Using chemical drain cleaners is not recommended as they will eat away at cast iron and PVC pipes.

Sewage Backups

You’ll notice this most in your basement bathrooms if toilets and sinks stop draining correctly (or at all) or if you’re getting sewage coming back up through your pipes into your house. This is very common in older Calgary communities and is often a sign of a broken municipal sewer line. Before you start digging, we strongly recommend doing a video sewer line inspection to identify if the cause is a sewer line in need of repair, a blockage, or something else.


A giant root ball in a municipal sewer line.

Sinkholes in Your Yard

A sinkhole in your yard, especially if it’s over your sewer line, is a good indicator of a broken sewer line. That steady outflux of water can cause the soil to shift and the tell-tale sink-hole to appear.

Sinking or Settling Foundations

Cracks or sinkholes in your basement can be a great indicator of something happening in the ground around your house, such as a leak in a main sewer line.

The Smell of Sewer Gas

It can be easier to ignore a sinkhole than the smell of sewage, and a strong sewer gas smell is a good prompt to pick up the phone and call a sewer line inspector.

Bugs in Your House

Holes in your sewer line not only prevent the sewage and wastewater from properly exiting your property, but it also allows for the neighbourhood insects to get in. Finding their entry point is going to be essential to stop them.

Wonderfully Green Patches in Your Yard

That new extra lush patch of grass could be due to an increase in fertilisation – from your sewage waste.

Septic Waste Pooling in Your Yard

If you have septic waste pooling in your yard you should be calling {who do we call for this?}

Sewer Line Video Inspection

Having a professional sewer scope company do a documented video inspection of your sewer line can help you identify what’s wrong with your sewer lines and who is responsible for fixing it (you or the City of Calgary, depending on the issue). Contact us now for an affordable sewer line video inspection.