The sewer lines carry all waste water from your home, so a backup anywhere in the system can be an inconvenience. Clogs in the main sewer line can also cause damage if the waste water begins to back up into your home. Even small clogs, if left untreated, can result in irreparable damage to a sewer line, which will require an expensive line replacement. Finding the source of the problem allows you to fix it properly.
Warning #1: Slow Drains
Drains that are draining water slowly or failing to drain at all indicate a clog in either the main or a secondary sewer line. If you notice one drain is moving slowly, check the drainage capabilities of the other drains in the house. If the problem seems to be isolated to only one drain, or to the drains in a single area of the house, you have a clog in a secondary sewer line.
If all the drains are moving slowly, the problem may be in the main sewer line leading from the house. Often, slow drains will combine with standing water near a floor drain when the problem is with the main line.
Warning #2: Talking Pipe Syndrome
When there's a clog somewhere in the system, often the drains in other parts of the house will make noise when a different drain is being used. For example, if you hear percolating or gurgling sounds from your toilet each time you run the clothes washer or dishwasher, there's likely a problem with the main sewer line.
In rooms that share several drains into a single secondary line, such as the bathroom, you may sometimes get gurgling drains even when the problem is isolated to a secondary line. For example, if draining the bathtub results in a percolating toilet drain, but there's no noise from the kitchen sink, it may only be backed up in the bathroom.
Warning #3: The Nose Knows
Foul smells often go hand-in-hand with a sewer line failure. You may smell rotten egg or a garbage smell each time you are near the drain. The smell may not be as severe in secondary lines, but it can become quite strong if a clog is in the main line.
What to Do:
Shut off the water once you determine whether the clog is affecting the main line or a secondary line. For a main line, turn off the main water supply into the house. For a secondary line, turn off the water only at the source – such as shutting off water to the bathroom.
For minor problems in the main line, find the cleanout line. This is usually a capped pipe located outside the home, although it is sometimes in the basement. Removing the cap relieves pressure in the line system, and may allow the clog to pass through. You can sometimes remove clogs in secondary lines with a plumber's drain snake.
Major clogs often require a plumber. If tree roots could be a problem, a camera inspection of the line is necessary, along with professional removal of the roots. Most sewer line clogs can be repaired if you catch them early, before they cause major damage to the pipes or your home. For more information, contact a company like Alexander's Plumbing.