Are you noticing gurgling sounds coming from your tub, shower, or toilet? Are your drains slow to empty and/or accompanied by an unpleasant smell? You may have a sewage backup. To help you diagnose, (and hopefully prevent) costly and damaging sewer problems in your home, here are four common causes of backups to be aware of and how to deal with them.
Clogged or Blocked Pipes
Blocked drains and clogged pipes are often the number one cause of sewer backups. From hair and soap scum to food waste and feminine hygiene products, clogged and blocked pipes are caused when gunk builds in your sewer systems and reduces water flow. Other clog-causing culprits include:
Grease and Oil: Grease binds to your pipes, causing debris-catching build-up that can lead to mould and backups. One of the best ways to clear grease from your drains is to dissolve it in boiling water and vinegar. For particularly tough clogs, add a little baking soda first.
“Flushable” Wipes: Yes, even “flushable” wipes can cause backups. Baby wipes, wet wipes and makeup remover wipes don’t break down like regular toilet paper. Instead, they twist and ball up, lodging themselves in your pipes. If you can’t remove the wipes from your toilet by hand, you can try using a plunger or toilet auger to dislodge them.
Foreign Objects: Simply put, a foreign object is anything that’s not meant to be flushed. Items such as bottle caps or toys will naturally cause clogs and must be removed manually.
Dirt: Even the smallest amounts of dirt can accumulate in your drains after a while. If possible, rinse dirt and grime-covered items outside before introducing them to your plumbing.
Over time, tree roots can interfere with underground sewage lines. In mature neighbourhoods especially, older tree roots can puncture, crack or even crush pipes, leading to blockages and backups. Typical ways to address tree roots may include:
Rock Salt: Rock salt is known to dehydrate the roots and will eventually kill them. You can introduce rock salt into your sewer lines by flushing it.
Root Killer: Foaming root killers will eradicate roots inside your pipes without killing the tree. This product is also meant to be flushed and may take several attempts.
Call an Expert: Depending on the severity of the situation, you may need to call a plumber. Not only will they remove damaging roots from your sewer lines, but they’ll also address and repair any damage.
An Aging Sewer System
Sewage backups are more common in older homes with laminated tar paper or clay tile pipes. These materials break down, collapse and crumble over the years, eventually requiring replacement. If you’re experiencing frequent blockages and backups due to old pipes, it may be time to replace them with modern plastic / PVC alternatives.
Municipal Sewer Problems
Problems with the main sewer line can also cause residential backups. Municipal sewer line backups are most likely to occur during periods of heavy rain or snow runoff that can overwhelm the system, leading to water backflow into your home. We recommend calling your municipality immediately should you notice water entering your basement.
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