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3 Need-to-Know Facts About Offset Joints and Sewer Problems


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Harts Plumbers, Electricians, & HVAC Technicians

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When it comes to sewer and drain issues, most people think of clogs, cracks, or roots but seldom stop to consider that the joints of their pipes may be offset. Because certain types of sewer pipes are installed in joint sections, these joints have the potential to shift or sink, causing them to become unaligned with the rest of the pipe. When these types of sewer joints separate, they result in what is called an “offset pipe.”

If this should ever occur within your sewer line, it is good to know the problems it may cause and the way you can solve those problems, in addition to what can cause an offset joint in the first place to avoid future issues. Below, we’ll discuss what can cause offset pipes—as well as what you can do to fix them.

Need a sewer pipe repair or inspection? If you need professional assistance, contact Harts Services today!

1. Offset Joints May Have a Number of Causes

Offset pipes can cause significant drainage issues and other common sewer line problems, which can be an inconvenience for you and your household. Although rare, offset sewer lines can be caused by poor installation. However, there are two other, naturally-occurring causes that are much more common.

Tree Roots

The most common cause of an offset in a sewer line is, without a doubt: roots. Roots from trees and bushes that have an opportunity to invade your sewer line and potentially cause blockages also grow all around the outside of the pipe. The same way roots can shift, move, and break up a thick concrete sidewalk, they can also do the same to your pipes.

Depending on what type of pipe you have, they may be more or less susceptible to root problems. For example, clay pipes will be much more vulnerable to roots and, therefore, much more likely to have to offset joints caused by them.

Cast iron, while a bit more sturdy than clay pipe, also has the potential to incur offset joints through root damage. Even the smallest, most microscopic pinhole in a pipe leaves them vulnerable to roots. The roots will follow the moisture, making their way in and around the pipe. Eventually, they will break it, causing it to become offset.

Shifting Soil

Shifting or settling dirt surrounding the pipe can also cause offsets. This is more common in clay pipes, as cast iron pipes will stick together and, therefore, cause a “belly” as opposed to an offset when shifted. 

Although less common, earthquakes can also cause the earth to shift around your lines, resulting in offset sewer lines. If an earthquake happens, you may want to contact a plumbing professional for a video inspection of your pipes.

2. Offset Joints Can Cause a Variety of Issues

The most common problem caused by offset joints is the bottlenecks they can create. This means that anything flowing through your pipes will get caught up on the lip of the offset and eventually cause a bigger clog. With the presence of lips in your sewer pipes, there is also the potential to catch a snake blade. This can cause it to get stuck, which creates further complications with trying to clear the line.

Welcoming Roots

Another common sewer repair issue is the root factor. With gaps and offset joints in your sewer line, that leaves openings for roots to get through. Especially if the roots are the cause for your offset, that means that they were pushing your pipes apart to make room to grow.

Roots will chase the fertilizer (sewage) into your pipes and use them as nutrients to grow. If you continue to let them grow, they will, and eventually they will reach a point where they cannot be cut out by traditional methods.

Exiting Sewage

Something else to keep in mind: as long as there is a gap or hole in your pipe, there is sewage exiting the pipe. This sewage is not only leaking into the ground, but it is also taking soil along with it. As the water in the pipe picks up dirt, it washes it away, which can create sinkholes.

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3. One Way or Another, Offsets Can Be Fixed!

This may seem obvious, but the first thing to do before repairing an offset is to find out if you have one. An experienced plumber may be able to feel an offset in your piping while cabling. This is because an offset feels different than a normal blockage. You should also be able to tell if there is an offset in your pipes based on the size of the roots a cable pulls out or if the cable pulls out mud.

However, there is still one method that can help identify potential offset sewer lines: video inspections.

Professional Camera Inspections

During a video inspection, an experienced plumber will find the precise location of the offset pipe. Afterward, your plumber can determine the best course of action for remedying the offset pipe.

Ultimately, you should always keep in mind how valuable running a camera through your sewer line can be. Getting a camera inspection done is generally inexpensive and can save you all kinds of time by identifying exactly what type of sewer repair you need.

Common Solutions

Once you know whether you have an offset line, there are essentially two ways to go about fixing it. The most common fix is to excavate and replace the affected section of the pipe. This process would need to uncover enough pipe to ensure the new section can be installed properly. Additionally, if a leak in the pipe has caused issues with the grade of your pipe a bit more, it may need to be uncovered to correct the grade.

If it turns out that you need a larger section of pipe repaired or a new sewer line altogether, you might consider a trenchless method of sewer repair such as “pipe bursting.” With pipe bursting, the sewer line can be replaced or repaired without trenching up your entire yard (also known as a trenchless method).

During the process of pipe bursting, a small access hole is created that is used to lower any necessary plumbing equipment. The pipe is effectively removed and replaced all in one go during this process. Pipe bursting can be a more affordable method since it often requires fewer materials and less labor. This alternative may be more appealing to you if you are looking for something less disruptive to your property.

Repair Offset Pipes Today

Offset sewer lines are something no homeowner wants to face, but with an expert team of plumbers at your back, there’s nothing for you to worry about. Harts Services is here to help with offset plumbing services, from video inspections to comprehensive repairs. When you need us at a moment’s notice, you can trust our team for emergency plumbing in WA.

Now that you know all about offset sewer lines, why wait to have the problem fixed? If you need an emergency plumber in Olympia, WA, contact Harts Services today!

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Harts Plumbers, Electricians, & HVAC Technicians

We’re a local company proudly providing affordable sewer and pipe repairs, installations, and maintenance to help make our community a more comfortable place for all.


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