A sewer drain clog can have a devastating impact on your home’s plumbing system. This type of clog requires a professional to fix it correctly; it can escalate into a complete plumbing emergency if left unattended for too long. Without a properly functioning sewer drain, wastewater may have nowhere to go but back into filters or other household pipes. The subsequent buildup of waste, intruding tree roots or damaged pipes in danger of collapse can have costly consequences that require complete replacement or repair. If you recognize the signs of a sewer drain clog, get a professional to help before any problems occur.
What is a Sewer Drain?
The sewer drain is responsible for transporting sewage away from a household and into the municipal sewer system or septic field. A sewer drain can consist of one main sewer line with several branches of pipes that connect to other water sources throughout your home. These water sources can include toilets, bathtubs, sinks, showers, dishwashers or the washing machine. Since a sewer drain affects all plumbing components in the home, a clog can cause waste to eventually back up all drains within the household. Clogs can create potentially expensive and messy problems if left unresolved at the source.
What Can Cause a Sewer Drain Clog?
Since a sewer drain clog is a serious issue that warrants immediate attention, it is natural for homeowners to inquire about the types of conditions that can cause clogs in the first place. While some clogs may result from environmental factors outside of a homeowner’s control, some household practices can also contribute to blockage in the sewer drain.
Fats, Oils and Grease
Fats, oils and grease are some of the most common culprits of sewer drain clogs. Although these substances may look like liquids when they first go down the drain, they can quickly solidify and harden once lodged into your plumbing. Solidified oil can also trap other types of debris and cause massive blockages within the drain. To help prevent this, avoid pouring any type of grease or food down your drain. You can also invest in professional drain cleaning during routine plumbing maintenance.
Foreign objects can also cause sewer drain clogs. These are often items that people naturally associate with the restroom and may include diapers, sanitary napkins, bandages or cotton swabs. Since many of these items absorb liquid rather than expel it, these objects eventually expand inside your plumbing and create major blockages. Another similar culprit is the “flushable” wipe. Although toilet plumbing can handle dissolved toilet paper or human waste, flushable wipes become compacted over time.
Landscaping or Tree Roots
Tree roots that are big enough can penetrate the joints of sewer drains and form root balls that cause sewer blockages. Other plant roots can also wrap around drain lines and crush them. Deteriorated clay sewer drains or partially collapsed metal sewer drains are also susceptible to tree root damage. In addition, any planting or landscape construction near sewer drains can increase the risk of damage from roots. To resolve this issue, a professional plumber can use special chemicals to safely remove these roots.
Poor Plumbing Connections
Poor plumbing connections can also cause sewer drain problems. Over time, old sewer pipes can crack, break or easily collapse. Sewer drains can also begin to sag due to age, shifting soil or creating sinkholes that accumulate excess wastewater. These sinkholes prevent water from draining away, exacerbating existing clogs and causing sewage to back up into the home. An experienced plumber can help correct pipe connection problems.
What are the Main Signs of a Sewer Drain Clog?
A full sewer drain clog constitutes a plumbing emergency. However, the factors that create a sewer drain clog can often occur gradually. Learning how to recognize the warning signs of a clog can help you correct the issue before it spirals out of control.
Multiple Fixtures Draining Slowly
When more than one fixture drains slowly within the home, it is usually a telltale sign that there is a problem with the main sewer drain. Toilets are often the first fixture to demonstrate noticeable problems, but other low-lying fixtures, like showers or bathtubs, may also drain slowly. These fixtures have individual pipes that all connect to the main sewer line of your home. As a result, a blockage within the main sewer drain will often impact the performance of individual drains.
Water Backs Up Into Fixtures
In addition to slowing the normal performance of fixtures and drains, a sewer clog can cause wastewater to accumulate or “back up” into household fixtures. The reason is that a major blockage prevents the wastewater from flowing toward the municipal sewer or septic tank. The water flows backward instead, returning to the house at the lowest point of re-entry. This often occurs in first-floor toilets, showers, bathtubs or in the floor drain within a basement.
The water backlog can also cause strange reactions in other drains. For example, using a machine while a wastewater sewage drain is clogged can cause a nearby bathtub or toilet to overflow. Because the overflow water can contain bacteria or raw sewage, it is important to hire a professional plumber to fix the issue. Professionals have the right equipment and protective gear to correct the problem without causing further contamination or damage to the area.
Gurgling Sounds in Different Drains
Sewer drain clogs can also create strange gurgling sounds. For example, you may hear gurgling when you flush the toilet, turn on the washing machine, or try to drain the bathtub or sink. The reason is that clogs greatly restrict water flow. As water attempts to force its way through the pipes, the combination of air bubbles and pressure creates this gurgling sound. In addition to unusual noises, you may also notice small amounts of water bubbling or rising back out of the drain. Since the force of water can eventually cause pipes to burst, it is important to contact a technician once you notice these gurgling sounds.
Drains Emit Unusual Smells
Sewage that does not fully drain from your home can eventually cause foul odors to permeate from your toilet, sink, bathtub or walls. When drains perform properly, wastewater flows to septic tanks or treatment facilities long before it can cause bad smells to seep into the home. Since clogs can eventually cause a sewer pipe to collapse, it is essential to contact an expert to correct the issue before it becomes a major safety hazard.
Flooded or Uneven Yard
Another sign of sewer drain damage is the sudden appearance of a flooded or muddy mess. If you notice soggy patches collecting in your yard even if it has not rained, it is time to contact a professional. Since sewer lines and drains are usually located several feet underground, the appearance of water or shifting soil can mean that the damage is fairly extensive at this point. You may also notice foul smells from the yard before the water surfaces.
What Should I Do If My Sewer Drain is Clogged?
Once you realize the sewer drain has clogged, it is imperative to turn off the water and contact a professional. Attempting to correct the issue yourself is not advisable since sewer drain clogs usually involve underground issues deep within your plumbing system. Attempting to fix the issue by simply “pouring something down the drain” can actually make it much worse. Professional plumbing companies have the equipment, gear and training needed to locate the clog and fix the issue.
For example, your plumber may use an in-line video inspection camera to accurately locate the clog before planning and implementing repairs. After diagnosing the clog, plumbers can often perform advanced techniques that are minimally invasive for your home. For example, the technician may be able to perform a trenchless sewer line repair on your pipes or use hydro-jetting to safely remove problems like tree roots. Consult with your plumber about the best steps to take for your household needs.
Contact Us Today
While sewer drain clogs are serious, you can learn to recognize the symptoms and contact a plumbing professional to fix the issue. Perfect, Plumbing Heating & Air offers plumbing repairs in Boise, ID, and the surrounding Treasure Valley area. Our services include camera inspection for sewer clog diagnosis, sewer line repair and trenchless sewer repair. We also offer routine drain cleaning.
Contact Perfect, Plumbing Heating & Air today to maximize the efficiency of your plumbing.