What Causes a Sewage Backup in Your House

One of the worst things you can experience as a homeowner is a sewer backup. A sewage backup occurs when an obstruction or damage prevents wastewater from draining away from your house. This usually happens in the main sewer line that connects your home to the municipal sanitary sewers, but it could happen elsewhere as well. Due to the obstruction, wastewater will continue to fill your sewer lines and drain pipes, eventually causing a sewer backup in your house.

Sewer backup in your house? Call 1-888-443-3110 now for a free estimate on cleaning and disinfecting after a sewage backup.

What Causes a Sewage Backup

The most common cause of a sewer backup in your house is a clog in your sewer line. However, clogs may develop in any drainage or sewer pipes in your house. Some clogs even occur in the municipal sewers.

Regardless of where the clog is, solid material builds up and stops the flow of wastewater. Although this usually happens over time, a clog may develop suddenly in some cases.

Since wastewater from toilets, bathtubs, and sinks cannot drain away due to the clog, they start to fill up your drains. Eventually, this will cause a sewage backup, with wastewater and sewage overflowing your drains.

Types of Clogs That Lead to Sewer Backups

Unfortunately, there are many things that can clog your sewer lines and cause a backup.

Putting the Wrong Things Down Your Drain

The number one reason for a sewage backup in your house is putting the wrong things down the drain. We tend to take our drains for granted and treat them like a garbage can. However, they are really only designed to handle waste, toilet paper, and water. Small amounts of fat, food waste, flushable wipes, hair, and other materials will stick to the sewer lines and drain pipes. Over time, these will continue to build up and eventually lead to a sewer backup.

Tree Roots Growing in Sewer Pipes

Tree roots can cause major problems if they grow into or through your sewer lines. Roots can travel far from trees and can pose a threat even if you don’t have trees on your property. Once they grow into your sewer lines, the only way to repair the issue is to cut away the roots and then repair or replace the pipe.

Cracked or Collapsed Sewer Pipes

Depending on the age of your home, your sewer pipe is likely made of PVC, cast iron, clay, or Orangeburg. While these materials are durable, they will not last forever. It’s common for sewer pipes to deteriorate or even collapse as they age. You must repair or replace your sewer pipe if it cracks or collapses, otherwise, you could have a sewer backup in your home.

Gutters, Downspouts, and Sump Pumps Routed into Sewers

While connecting gutters, downspouts, and sump pumps to storm sewers is okay, connecting them to your sanitary sewer line is risky or even illegal in some areas. A significant amount of water can flow through gutters and sump pumps during heavy rainfalls or as snow melts. Sanitary sewers are intended to remove a much lower volume of wastewater from your house. Connecting stormwater to your sanitary sewers increases the chances of a backup.

Problems with Municipal Sewers

While you have some control over the causes above, there very little you can do to prevent a municipal sewer backup. Municipal sewers face the same problems as your own drains. They are prone to blockages and deteriorate over time. Determining whether the problem is with your sewer lines or the municipal sewers isn’t always easy. Typically a municipal clog will affect multiple houses on your street, but that isn’t always guaranteed.

How to Prevent a Sewer Backup in Your Home

The biggest key to preventing a sewage backup is using drains correctly, but regular clearing and inspections will help prevent sewer issues.

Use Your Drains Correctly

The easiest way to prevent a sewage backup is to use your drains correctly. In the kitchen avoid pouring fats, oils, food waste, coffee grounds, starches, and other solids down the drain.

Even if you have a garbage disposal, limit how much food waste you put down the drain. Avoid putting fibrous foods like celery in the garbage disposal because they can act like nets when mixed with other waste.

In the bathroom, only flush waste and toilet paper down the drain. While so-called flushable wipes are marketed as being safe to flush, they don’t break up the same way as toilet paper. Also, use a hair catcher in showers and bathtubs.

Route Gutters, Downspouts, and Sump Pumps Properly

Rain from storms can quickly overwhelm municipal sewers. Never connect gutters, downspouts, or sump pump discharges into your regular sewer lines. If you have storm sewers in your area, connect them there. Otherwise, have them discharge above-ground and at least 6 feet from your foundation.

Have Sewer Lines Cleared

Another way to prevent a sewer backup in your house is by having lines cleared every 3 to 5 years. Typically this involves connecting a large, powerful vacuum to your sewer line cleanout. It will then remove solids from the line, helping to prevent clogs. Some municipal water departments offer these services for free. They might even inspect at least part of your sewer line at the same time.

Have Sewer Lines Inspected

While sewer line clearing is focused on the line between your house and the street, an inspection looks at all of your sewer lines. Ideally, have your sewer lines inspected every 6 to 10 years for cracks, damage, and clogs. They will clear and snake your sewer lines and then use a camera to inspect the sewer pipes for cracks.

Who Do I Call For a Sewage Backup?

If you have a sewer backup in your house, it’s considered water damage. While you can clean it up on your own, you might not have the tools or time to clean it up quickly. If you need clean up after a sewage backup, call a local water damage restoration company. They will quickly extract sewage and dispose of contaminated materials, then disinfect the area and rebuild if necessary.

Call 1-888-443-3110 Now for Cleanup if You Have a Sewer Backup in Your House

We offer immediate service for sewage backups across the country. As the largest network of restoration contractors, we make it easy to choose a water damage restoration company near you. Our listings include independent companies as well as popular brands like DKI Restoration and ServiceMaster Restore. For emergency sewage cleanup, call 1-888-443-3110 now to speak to our on-call contractor nearest you. Our on-call contractors offer 24-hour service and a free estimate on cleanup and repairs.

Image provided by Barta IV / Flickr

Author: Jeff Rooks

Jeff Rooks writes restoration content that helps homeowners restore their lives after a disaster or accident. Most days, you can find him cycling through Tampa. He also enjoys exploring new and delicious food and beverages around the world.

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