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Signs You Might Have a Sewer Line Issue

How do you know if your sewer is backed up? What if you have a broken sewer line?

A sewer line issue can start small and gradually become worse. These types of problems normally are accompanied by slowly draining or clogged drains. In some cases, the wastewater and sewage in the sewer pipe will back up into the home. Resolving this type of issue often requires unclogging the main sewer line with help from an experienced plumber.

9 Broken Sewer Line Symptoms

Every drain in the home connects to the main sewer drain that goes out of the home. This system connects either to your city’s sewer system or your septic tank. Your home will provide early warning signals that there is a sewer line issue developing. Ignoring these symptoms is never a good idea, as the problem will not go away on its own.

Here’s how to know if your sewer is backed up, or if there’s another issue to look into.

1. Water drains slowly down drains.

This could be an indication of a clog when it is just one drain. However, when all drains experience this problem, it means something is wrong in the sewer lines inside or outside your home.

2. The drains make gurgling or “burping” type noises.

If you hear these types of noises coming out of the drains when running water elsewhere in the home, it could indicate a sewer line problem. As water is trying to move down the sewer line, it forces the air in the pipes back up drain pipes

3. Wastewater and sewage back up into the home.

If there is a clog in the sewer line, you may notice that wastewater and sewage are coming back up one or more drains in the home. Normally, the lowest drains are the ones this occurs in first. So, if you have a basement with floor drains or a sump pump, this will be where the sewage water will initially back up.

4. Part of your yard is sinking.

If you notice part of your yard is sinking, this often indicates a broken or leaking sewage line pipe. The wastewater is over-saturating the ground and causing it to sink.Digging up Sewer line

5. The grass is greener and growing faster in one area.

This is another indication you have a sewer line leak or break. You will notice the grass in one area grows faster and is greener, even when you are not watering your lawn. In addition, the grass in this area may seem wet all of the time.

However, if you have a newer septic system, you could have what is known as gray water runoff. Gray water is water that you use when you do dishes, take a bath, or do laundry. Instead of the gray water going into the septic tank, it flows through a different sewer pipe and is released out into the yard. If you have a gray water runoff, your grass will be greener in the location of the runoff.

Man digging sewer line with shovel

6. There is an increase in rodent and insect activity.

Rodents and certain insects are attracted to raw sewage. If you notice your home is slowly being taken over by mice, rats, or cockroaches, it could indicate there is a break or leak in the sewer drain line.

7. Water runs in one area and backs up in another area of the home.

For instance, if you flush the toilet in the upstairs bedroom and the toilet on the main floor overflows, this means there is a sewer line problem.

8. The color of the water that backs up is not clear.

If the color of the water contains raw sewage, it means the clog or problem is coming from outside the home. If the color of the water is clear or partially cloudy, it is often indicative that the problem with the sewer drain pipe is inside the home.

9. You can smell strong gas and unpleasant odors.

If you can smell unpleasant odors and a strong gas smell inside or outside your home, it means there is a crack in the sewer drain pipe. These smells should not be present if the system is functioning correctly.

The only exception is the sewer vent pipe on the roof of your home. If you are working on your roof and smell these things, chances are you are next to the vent pipe.

Why Do Sewer Line Issues Happen?

Sewer line issues can occur for a variety of reasons. Some of the more common causes include:

  • Tree Roots – As trees grow bigger, their roots can grow into sewer lines, especially if the pipes are older.
  • Soap Scum – Soap and detergents can start to form on the interior walls of sewer lines and eventually cause the pipes to clog.
  • Hair – Hair is another common reason for sewer clogs.
  • Grease – If you pour grease down your drains, it can harden on the interior walls of drain pipes and sewer lines.
  • Food – Any food particles can stick to the grease and soap scum and get tangled into the hair in sewer lines.
  • Excess Toilet Paper and Wet Wipes – If you use too much toilet paper or wet wipes, these can create clogs because part of the excess gets trapped in the drain and sewer pipes.
  • Things Flushed Down Toilets That Shouldn’t Be – Paper towels, sanitary napkins, and other such items can cause sewer line drainage problems.
  • Things Put Down Garbage Disposal That Shouldn’t Be – Potato peelings, bones, and other such items can cause sewer lines to clog.

How to Keep the Problem from Getting Worse

The best way to keep sewer drain line problems from getting worse is to schedule a plumbing inspection. The inspection will help identify the source and primary location of the sewer drain issue and whether it is inside or outside the home.

No plumber would recommend pouring liquid drain cleaners/de-cloggers down your drains. These products contain toxic and dangerous chemicals. Some of these can slowly erode and dissolve your drain pipes made from PVC/plastic materials or various metals, like cast iron or copper. In most cases, these products will not even resolve the issue and will only make it worse due to the additional damage they can cause to home’s plumbing.

What to Do if the Problem Is Urgent

If the drainage problem is urgent, avoid running water or flushing toilets. This will only result in more water and sewage backing up into the home. You need to call a 24-hour plumber to have the sewer drain cleared and repaired.

Why Call in a Professional Plumbing Company vs. DIY?

What could seem like a simply DIY repair project could easily turn into a much bigger and more complex project? The sewer drainage system is a complex network of drain pipes that connect to a main sewer drain pipe inside the home.

Pinpointing the cause of the sewer line problem could require removing different sections of drywall, flooring, or the ceiling to access broken or leaking pipes. In addition, when the problem is outside the home, it could require digging up part of your yard to access the damaged, broken, or leaking sewer lines. In some cases, sections of the sewer line pipes may have to be removed and replaced with new sewer pipes.

Not to mention, since raw sewage is considered a health hazard unless you have the proper personal protection equipment, you should not be performing the work. It is for these reasons it is best to leave sewer drain line problems to the professionals.

How to Prevent/Stop Sewer Line Issues Before They Become a Major Problem

The best way to prevent and stop sewer line issues is by being proactive. This involves not putting anything down drains or in toilets that they were not meant to handle. You should also consider replacing older types of pipes inside and outside the home if they are older or are ones no longer used in new home construction.

Do you have a sewer line issue, drainage issues, or clogged pipes, or want to schedule a plumbing inspection? Please feel free to contact MET Plumbing & Air Conditioning today! Our experienced plumbers handle all types of repairs, installations, and repiping. Additionally, we offer AC maintenance and gas line repairs and installations.

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