How to Tell if My Sewer is Clogged

And what to do next

Many homeowners know that a backed up or clogged sewer can be a complete nightmare. Raw sewage can come back up drains, toilets, or the shower drain, causing severe damage to other parts of the house, and will greatly inconveniencing everyone who has to deal with the refuse coming up through the pipes. But how can you tell if a sewer is clogged? The normal homeowner knows the basic facts about their drainage system – whether they have a septic system or a sewer, where the water comes into and drains from the house, if the water system is connected to other houses, apartments, or buildings, or if it is an independent system. But most homeowners don’t pay much attention to their sewer lines, except in the case of a clog or leak. So how do you know if your sewer is clogged?

Identifying a clogged sewer line

If your sewer lines are clogged, there are a few telltale signs: water backing up through the drains or the toilets, a gurgling sound coming from the drains, or the obvious – the presence or strong odor of raw sewage. Most people know when something is wrong – your house or apartment will give you signs: if when you use the laundry machine or dishwasher, the sink drains in the house sound like they constantly have water running through them – you probably have a clog.

Where exactly is the clog?

This can be a bit trickier. The drainage system in most houses is set up like the branches of a tree, or even a major arterial system. Waste water from different parts of the house tend to funnel into a main line, which connects to the sewer system below. If the main line is clogged, you’ll probably notice problems all over the house, and the symptoms will be widespread. A clogged mainline can be extremely problematic, often resulting in the inability to use any water in the house without causing the backup to escalate. Clogs that occur in the more minor branches of the drainage system will only cause isolated problems, like causing the shower drain to eject water when you try to drain the sink. However minor these problems might seem, they should not be left unchecked, as they can lead to larger problems down the road.

What to do if I have a clogged sewer?

While many people will boast about making repairs on their own sewer system, it is not advisable to attempt any repairs on your sewers or drainage system unless you are absolutely sure about what you are doing. Even then, special equipment may be required, along with professionals with advanced training. If you have access to your sewer cleanout line, you may be able to physically remove the clog yourself. However, if the problem is not located in this area, it may be nearly impossible to remove on your own. If this is the case, calling a professional is the best way to go. Professional plumbers can use video equipment to probe the system and diagnose the problem. By identifying the problematic area the plumbers can avoid disturbing any other areas of your system, aside from the clogged section. Professionals can either snake the drains, cut the pipe out and replace the segment in question, or they can run high pressure water through the system to remove the clog. None of these methods, aside from a simple snake job, should be attempted by homeowners. The results could be extremely expensive, and incredibly unpleasant! If you ever find yourself asking “what should I do if my sewer is clogged?” The answer is almost always to call a professional.

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