Why does my sewer line keep backing up?

Posted by Matt Buchanan

If you’re like most homeowners, you probably take for granted the fact that your home just works. Little attention is paid to maintaining the critical systems that allow your property to function normally…that is, until they don’t function at all. For many homeowners, a constant pain in their behind is sewage backups. If this dangerous situation keeps happening to you, it’s time to take charge of the situation and make sure you’re taking proactive steps to protect your family and keep your home safe!


What is happening to cause your sewage backup?


Depending on the ‘symptoms’ you’re experience, a couple of things may be occurring. Let’s look into the 2 most common problems, discuss what is happening and also what you should do to prevent it from happening moving forward.


Every time I use an appliance water backs up in my drains.


backed-up-sewage-bathtubPlumbing systems are all tied together through common drain lines. So if you’re experiencing weird issues where using one system causes a problem in another area of your home, it’s not ghosts or evil spirits. It’s just the nature of your home’s plumbing. For instance, if every time you run your dishwasher you get water backing up through a drain in your basement shower, it’s because there is an issue within the line causing the water to backup. The water is simply finding the lowest point from which to exit.

What is wrong? You have a clog in your drain line somewhere. If it’s the case the extent of the sewage backup is contained to your bathtub or other confined area, you can usually just call a licensed plumber and have them snake the drain to clear the line. But if you find yourself repeating the process every few months and it still keeps occurring, it point to a larger issue. Namely, you may have a cracked pipe or other structural issue that prevents solids and liquids from properly exiting your home.


Every time is rains sewer water comes out of my drains & toilets.


toilet-overflow-sewage-backupThis can happen a lot in homes that are tied to an older municipal sewage system called a combined sewer system and are often referred to as ‘overflows’. In most modern sewer systems, there is one pipe that carries sewage to a treatment facility and another, completely separate pipe that carries storm water run off into nearby streams, rivers, and lakes. But as the name suggests, combined systems do both. They can usually do both effectively but when too much water is running through them during times of flash flooding, the pipe becomes overwhelmed. Even a small blockage in the pipe can cause a big problem. That problem? The water seeks an exit point or path of least resistance. That path? Right into your home!

How do I prevent a sewage backup overflow? Municipalities are doing their best to try and modernize sewer systems, but the reality is budgets are stretched and most don’t have the resources necessary to tackle the problem head on. In the meantime, you need to take action if you keep getting sewage in your basement during heavy rain events. The best thing you can do is hire a plumber to install what is appropriately named a ‘sewage backflow prevention’ device. This can usually cost up to around $1000 or more, but if you’re continually dealing with a dangerous and expensive mess in your home, it’s well worth the peace of mind!

About Matt Buchanan

I grew up in Irving, TX and left for Nashville, TN for college. After college I lived in Washington, DC and then in Cairo, Egypt. After coming back to the states, I spent a couple of years back in Dallas before moving with my wife to Denver!
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