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We are familiar with things above the ground, but not always aware of things that are underground. For instance, there may be 1 million named species of insects living underground and another 100 million more yet to be discovered. That’s difficult to comprehend.

There is also so much history below the surface of the ground, such as the history of mankind, that is becoming clearer. Recent bone fragment discoveries indicate man could be 341,000 years old, which is a speck in time when we consider the earth is 4.543 billion years old!

Ancient history below the ground is interesting, but a lot of other important things are going on below the surface today that directly affect us. A good example is underground plumbing problems. Why should we care?

Knowing potential plumbing risks can help us avoid plugged sewers and backed up smelly sewage. Yes, it could happen at any time, and almost everyone is vulnerable. Older properties are at a greater risk, however a friend recently bought a new home that had a plugged sewer a week after moving in!

This new home sewer was installed wrong. A sewer camera showed evidence the sewer piping had approximately 3 inches of water trapped in it. The plumbing company fixed it only after there was video evidence. The sewer was then checked again with the sewer camera. This was a new home!

The challenge with poorly installed sewers is the work is typically completed by the low bidder. Many low bidders are forced to cut corners to speed up the installation to break even. Quality is often not a main goal. The low bid process requires discipline to maintain quality.

John Henry’s has chosen to stay out of the new housing market. We would rather provide quality service, do remodels, fix others’ mistakes or replace worn out plumbing. Plumbing does wear out and break; especially underground plumbing.

Underground plumbing is at risk from constant changes in the weather that cause the ground to shift from freezing and thawing. Rainy seasons and dry seasons also cause movement.

This ground movement causes pipes and pipe joints to crack or get loose. All pipe has potential risks. Clay tile pipe cracks easily as it ages. Thin wall PVC piping gets crushed by the weight of the soil. Cast iron soil pipe deteriorates from within and also from acids in the soil.

Another underground pipe enemy is tree roots that search for moisture. Any small opening in sewer piping allows the tree roots to begin entering the pipes. The hydraulic load of the roots further damages the piping until eventually there may be roots blocking the entire pipe.

Tree roots are difficult to remove through normal sewer cabling. That’s why John Henry’s recently purchased a jetter truck, sometimes called a high-pressure washer truck. The high-pressure washing process can achieve up to 4,000 lbs. of pressure. That’s enough pressure to cut through a wooden 2- by 4-inch stud if held directly on it. Tree roots are easily removed using the high-pressure washer process.

The John Henry’s jetter truck has a storage tank of cold water to flush out sewers and also has a boiler to supply plenty of hot water to remove grease. Cabling grease-plugged sewers only loosens the grease. Only a high volume of hot water can push the grease away. The best method is using a high-pressure washer.

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Restaurants, businesses and residential properties can completely avoid sewer blockages by routine maintenance programs that use high-pressure washing. Sewer cameras can verify the condition before and after cabling or high-pressure washing.

Cabling sewers is still a good standard method to remove certain blockages. It’s not the perfect method for all blockage removal. The high-pressure washer method does the best job, but costs a little more. It cleans the entire interior surface of the sewer pipe, and that can be verified with a sewer camera.

The high-pressure washer also can remove chewing gum from concrete, paint, and the list goes on. Maybe you have a project that needs a high-pressure washer?

A properly installed sewer with quality piping and joints should never plug with normal use. When underground plumbing fails, make sure it gets replaced the right way. Be wary of the low bidders. The City of Lincoln requires insurance. OSHA requires shoring. Sewer piping needs to be supported and installed properly. When finished, your yard should not look like a war zone.

Do you know the condition of your sewer?

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