Posted by Bill, A CPI Products Team Member on Dec 9th 2019

Where There Is Smoke...

Where there is smoke there is sewer line testing? During the dry summer months, many cities and municipalities smoke test their sewer systems.

Smoke testing is a way to inspect both the main lines and laterals. Smoke travels throughout the system and identifies problems in all connected lines. The best results are obtained during dry weather, which allows the smoke better opportunity to travel to the surface. It is a relatively simple process that consists of blowing smoke mixed with large volumes of air into the sanitary sewer line usually through a manhole. The smoke travels the path of least resistance and shows at sites that allow surface water inflow. Smoke will identify broken manholes, illegal connections including roof drains, sump pumps, and yard drains. The smoke will reveal uncapped lines and will show cracked mains and laterals.

Smoke testing is a cost effective way to locate defects in the main sewer line and service laterals that connect to a residence. This is why many cities and municipalities implement smoke testing programs as a method to assess the condition of sanitary sewer systems.

  • If smoke is seen coming from the vent pipe of a home, the home is connected properly.
  • No smoke coming from a home might indicate a blocked line.
  • Smoke coming from the downspouts of a home shows the rain water run off from the home is going into the sewer system instead of the ground. That contributes to sewer backup creating damage.
  • Smoke appearing in a lawn means there is a cracked lateral line or a missing or cracked clean up cap. A crack might not be exactly where the smoke is seen but does indicate damage in the line.
  • Smoke inside a home might enter through a dried out drain trap or some other plumbing defect such as an un-trapped washing machine drain, cracked pipe, or a garbage disposal or dishwasher not installed correctly. The smoke is not harmful to people, pets, or house plants. It will not harm or stain clothes, drapes, or furniture. It is not flammable and does not create a fire hazard. If smoke can enter a home then dangerous sewer gasses can as well.

The city or municipality conducting a smoke test is responsible for repair to sewer lines on public property. If a problem is found on private property the property owner is notified. Once a property owner is notified, they are responsible for the immediate repair of the problem.

  • Smoke coming from a downspout is a simple inexpensive repair. Downspouts can be disconnected by cutting the spout, capping or plugging the ground pipe, and installing an elbow and horizontal spout to extending away from the home.
  • Areas where smoke came through the ground, might indicate a loose or broken sewer cap. Replacing the cap is a simple inexpensive fix. It might be a problem with the sewer line to a home- possibly a cracked section, root intrusion, misaligned joints, or an offset section of pipe. All of these can lead to collapsing or plugging of a lateral sewer, which would lead to a sewage back-up into a home. A thorough inspection of the home sewer system is needed. A licensed plumber with a quality camera system will be able to find the problem without digging up the entire system.
  • While the smoke that is found in the home is not dangerous, the sewer gas that might enter a home in the same manner is deadly. A complete inspection using a camera system is essential in this case too. All areas that offer an opportunity for sewer gas to enter a home should be replaced or repaired.

Smoke testing is beneficial to the environment, the local government, and homeowners. A quality camera system is necessary for a complete evaluation of septic lines and the plumbing within a home. Please contact us, we can help you design the camera system that best suits your needs and the needs of your customers.