Sewage Backup – Your Worst Nightmare

Apr 25, 2014 by

The frightening fact many homeowners may not realize it that a sewage backup can happen to just about anyone at anytime, and quite often it’s of no fault of the house occupants at all.

Thankfully however, it can be noted that sewer failures are quite rare and are usually not as volatile as some of the situations you’ll see if you run an image search (you’ve been warned – it’s disgusting).

It does need to be treated as soon as possible however, as water damage to your property can happen as well as them having major negative health implications if left to get worse.

What is a Sewage Backup?

Putting it most politely without trying to gross readers out, a backup isn’t a term used to describe safely storing data in more than one place, in this instance it’s when excrement all all kinds of nasty waste make their way from the main sewer line to your pipes, and emerge out of your toilet, shower drain and various other orifices. Not nice.

So let’s get into it, in this article we’ll first outline some of the main causes of a sewage backup, then we’ll move on to provide a checklist of things to look out for to help you diagnose your issue if you suspect it’s a mainline issue rather than isolated to just your home.

Most Common Causes of Sewer Overflow

One reason it can occur which may or may not be your fault is when tree roots interfere with the main line, they cause disruption by growing deep into the ground and penetrating through the pipes, or in some extreme cases like an Anaconda, constrict the pipe and fully render it nonfunctional.

Another factor that can have a detrimental affect to your homes plumbing is the age of the pipes.

This is somewhat related to the previous cause, in that damage is the main reason for an overflow. However, in this case we mean to say that the pipes under your home and sewer line may not be made of the more durable modern material, which creates a necessity to get a sewer line replacement, as it’s only a matter of time before they deteriorate.

The final most common reason is on YOU. Maybe not just you, but all of your neighbors.

If you think pouring down the sink gallons of oil and grease every year isn’t having a negative effect on that complex network of conduits beneath you in your area, you would be very much mistaken. This may go down the drain as liquid, but it doesn’t take long for it to solidify and begin causing problems.

Same goes for flushing stuff down the toilet you know in your heart really shouldn’t be going down there. See our tips on how to prevent blocked drains.

Also here’s a great video that demonstrates how other preventive measures such as installing a backwater valve can greatly improve your protection against nasty overflows and damage in the likelihood of a storm.

The use of a model to present the differences between a protected home and one that’s not is much more effective than just a diagram or image, we highly recommend you watch this!


Diagnosis: Single Block or Backup

Sometimes it can be difficult to determine whether your problem is a mere simple blockage within your own plumbing system or if the issue is on a much greater scale.

Some good ways to work out which is your problem is by focusing on your toilet. By this we mean you should run a series of small tests to diagnose your issue.

The first we recommend is to flush your toilet and see exactly what happens. Once flushed rush to your shower of bath and see if there’s evidence of any water creeping up through the pipes. If so, chances are you’re experiencing a backup rather than a common clog.

The second test is to turning on the tap in a sink close by to your toilet, usually this will be in the bathroom. Leave the water running and go inspect the toilet. See any bubbles emerging or any odd behavior? This is yet another telling sign of a sewage backup.

One final troubleshoot you can run that  is a little less accurate than the previous two mentioned steps, but helpful nonetheless, is to turn on your washing machine. Once on, if this has an impact on either your toilet or bathroom utilities such as overflow or presence of water, this is perhaps a good time to go and choose one of the many plumbing services in your local area.

treating sewage backup

The Treatment

So you’ve established you are the victim of a sewage backup. Now what?

If there is substantial damage to your property, usually occurring in the basement, be sure to check your home insurance policy very carefully to see if you can make a claim and reduce some of your expenses in rectifying the problem.

If you’re reading this and have yet to experience this problem, now is as good a time as any to ensure you update your policy to include sewer backup insurance (this is relatively inexpensive and is a huge money saver should you experience this nightmare).

Unfortunately, unlike a clogged drain, you’re most likely going to need to get a professional to come and resolve this more serious issue.

Make sure as soon as you’ve identified a backup in the sewer you completely discontinue water use until the company you hire say it is safe to do so, otherwise you risk causing more damage and as a result, upping the costs to fix it.

When the professional comes, usually it will just be a case of him or her using a snake to clean the main sewer line and this will resolve a good 90% of backups.

Be very cautious of drain cleaning companies that try to charge you for extras you don’t need. It may not be this simple if your home has a septic tank, it’s probable that for homes with these septic tank pumping will be required, and a replacement leach field will be needed too.


We hope this article has been able to provide you with some useful information about spotting and treating a sewer backup. Please check out our other articles if you are experiencing other troubles with your home plumbing or drainage systems.


Related Posts


Share This