The Most Common Causes of Sewer Backups: Why Sewers Backup And What To Do If A Back Occurs

One of the worst things you can experience as a homeowner is a sewer backup. Sewer backups occur when an obstruction or damage prevents wastewater from flowing through your lateral sanitary sewer line – the main sewer line that connects your home to the municipal sanitary sewers. Due to the obstruction, wastewater will continue to fill your sewer lines and drain pipes until it eventually overflows.

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Clogged Sewer Pipes

The most common cause of sewer backups is a clog in your sewer line. Solid material builds up in the sewer pipe connecting your house to the municipal sewer line. This prevents wastewater from flowing out to the municipal sewer lines, eventually causing a backup. Sewer pipes can become clogged due to an excess of fats and oils, food waste, coffee grounds, hair, toilet paper, soap residue, or other materials flushed down the drain.

The easiest way to prevent a clogged drain is to keep toilets, sinks, and drains clean and use them as intended. Avoid flushing anything but toilet paper down toilets and properly dispose of tissues, cleaning wipes, diapers, paper towels, and hygiene products. Use a mesh trap with shower and bath drains to keep hair from going down the drain. Never pour grease, oil, or coffee grounds down your kitchen sink and only use your garbage disposal for food waste smaller than a pea.

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.

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. 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 many causes of sewer backups, there very little you can do to prevent a municipal sewer backup. Municipal sewers face the same problems. 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. A professional plumber will be able to help locate the issue and advise on the best course of action.

Professional Cleanup For Sewer Backups and Other Sewage Problems

As the largest network of restoration companies, we have listings for water damage companies in your area. Our directory includes both independent companies and major franchises like
911 Restoration, DKI Restoration, ServiceMaster, and more. Choose a local contractor now or call 1-888-443-3110 for a free estimate from our on-call water damage restoration company in your area.

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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