Is Your Sewer Line Blocked? Diagnosis And Treatment Of Backed Up Sewer Pipes

Sometimes it may appear that you have a simple clog in a sink or toilet, but it is actually your main sewer line that is either fully or partially blocked.

You need to look at all of the symptoms to determine if your sewer line is clogged. The most obvious symptom occurs when raw sewage begins to flow up from your sink and tub drains, but there are other less obvious signs that your sewer line may be compromised.

What are the signs that your sewer line is blocked?

All of your drains are clogged at once

If every drain in your home is backed up or slow to drain, the problem is likely to be in the sewer line, which directs waste water from your home.

Running water in one location affects other drains in the home

If you flush the toilet, and water begins to flow upward from your tub drain or your washer drains and your toilet starts to overflow, then there is a problem in the sewer line into which all of these appliances drain. You may also hear a gurgling sound from other drains in the home as you run water in a different location. 

The clean-out pipe is filled or overflowing with waste water

Your home should be supplied with a clean-out pipe, which is located outside the house and usually placed in an unobtrusive area. A very old home may have the clean-out pipe inside the home and the lowest point of the main drain pipe as it goes through the floor and below ground. The clean-out pipe juts out diagonally from the ground if located outdoors or from the large vertical main drain pipe in your basement. It is covered with a fitted threaded cap that can be removed by turning it counterclockwise. If waste water is leaking from this or you see standing water inside the clean-out, then your sewer line is clogged.

Of course, if raw sewage enters the home from any drain, you will need to have drain cleaning performed as soon as possible. This black odious material smells terrible and stains anything it touches. It may also contain dangerous bacteria such as E. coli.

What are your choices for getting your sewer line cleared?

You can attempt to do it yourself with a drain snake, which is a flexible metal cable with an auger, or barbed spring on the end. The auger gets inserted into the clean out and is twisted as the cable is fed into the clean out pipe.

A drain snake may be effective if the issue is a simple blockage caused by materials that have accumulated from the home over time. It is possible to dislodge these materials if the auger can hook the clog and pull it loose. However, you must remember that the snake will be winding its way through years of accumulated filth, which will you encounter when you retract the cable. Wear gloves and safety glasses to avoid staining and exposure to hazardous bacteria

If the blockage is caused by a more complicated issue such as tree roots that have worked their way into your sewer line, you may need a professional to clear the line. Plumbers and drain cleaning services have cable mounted cameras that can be placed inside the sewer line and pinpoint the source and location of the problem. They also have power equipment that can take care of the problem. Companies like Optimum Plumbing LLC​ may be able to help.