Sewer problems: 7 common causes of a backup
It costs an average of $2,250 to $5,750 to fix a sewer line.
If the sewer line backs up into your house, you’ll need professional clean up. The best way to save yourself money is to make sure that your sewer backup doesn’t occur.
Why do sewers back up? Well, there are a surprising number of reasons that cause this nasty, expensive problem. Most of these are common and controllable, but there are some that you can’t control.
Causes of a Sewer Backup
Sewers back up for many reasons, mostly dealing with pipes. Here are 7 of the most common reasons for a sewer backup.
1. Damaged Pipes
If a pipe is damaged, it might not be draining properly. If it fails to drain, sewer waste can build up and back up. There are a lot of things that could cause damage to a pipe, but it could also be from improper installation.
Older homes that have been worked on by the homeowner are at risk here. If pipes were not installed by a professional, there’s a chance they weren’t installed the correct way. Rushing through the project could’ve caused issues with the installation.
If you live in an area with earthquakes or other ground disturbances, pipes can be damaged. You can’t control the forces of nature, and again the older the pipe the more likely it’ll be damaged.
2. Sewer Backup Are Caused by Clogs
We flush a lot of things down the toilet. Sewer lines are not garbage disposals, and shouldn’t be treated like a second trash can. You should never flush a dead animal, any type of plastic, or other solid debris down a toilet.
Toilet paper and human waste are biodegradable and won’t cause a clog. Water breaks down these materials and so they’re able to flush with ease. The inclusion of materials that won’t break down in water is a leading reason for clogs.
3. Feminine Hygiene Products
One of the worst things for a sewer line is the presence of absorbent materials like cotton. These materials don’t lose their shape when wet, and in many cases expand. Not only can this cause clogs, it can be embarrassing.
Make sure that anything made of cotton or that’s designed to absorb liquids is put in a trash can. Makeup pads and brushes are also something that should never get sent down a sewer pipe. All of these items can cause clogs by getting caught up in the line.
4. Pouring Grease Down a Drain
It’s a surprisingly prevalent myth that running hot water while pouring grease will flush it out of your pipes. That myth is untrue. As grease cools it hardens, and it doesn’t take long for even hot water to cool in a pipe.
Pouring grease down your drain can cause a sewage backup because it solidifies into a barrier. This barrier will trap all sorts of other waste, and in time close the pipe off completely. Grease is sticky and will trap even things that shouldn’t cause any problems.
A grease clog can form even far down the pipe. Clogs like this can be extremely difficult to fully get rid of and can even cause damage to the pipes.
5. Flooding Can Cause a Lot of Trouble
Even if your home doesn’t flood, water can flow into your sewer line. A sewer backup caused by flooding will contain more than just your waste. If a pump station is flooded, an entire section of your area’s sewer system can flood.
If the power goes out during a flood, this problem is even worse. Many treatment stations and sewer plants use power to keep return valves sealed. When these fail, waste of all kinds can flow back up pipes.
Clean up for an accident of this magnitude is expensive. The average is over $2,500 for restoration from water damage. This is just the start if you have had sewer damage because you might have to replace major appliances contaminated in the backup.
6. Tree Roots Are an Enemy of Sewer Lines
While trees do look beautiful in our yards, they can do incredible damage to plumbing. As they age, a tree’s roots will spread out further and further. What started as a small, well-contained tree can have roots that spread across your entire yard.
The damage could even require your utility company to do manhole scanning.
The deeper these roots go, the more likely they’ll encounter a sewer line. If this happens, the roots can pinch, bust, or divert sewer drainage. This damage can cause your sewer to back up and might even require replacement of your sewer line.
Repairing a yard after extensive water damage is expensive and difficult. Grass and other plants can be killed by the chemicals that we use to clean with. Even something as common as a bathroom cleaner can cause great damage to your yard.
7. The Curiosity of a Child
If you have small children, there is no end to the trouble they might cause you. Many children become fascinated with drains and flushing toilets. Unfortunately, most children do not care what they flush down your toilet.
Toys, keys and even family keepsakes are all at risk here. A young child that isn’t kept away from the toilet can cause more than just the average headache. Keeping young children away from the toilet is the only way to prevent this from happening.
Sewage Backups Are Usually Preventable
While tree roots and natural disasters can cause us no end of trouble, they aren’t that common. In the vast majority of cases, a sewer backup is caused by preventable means. You must always pay attention to what goes into your plumbing system to prevent expensive problems.
No one wants to deal with a sewer backup, and dodging one means knowing what causes them. If you have any doubt about an item, don’t risk it, just throw it away. There is no reason to take a chance with what could end up costing you thousands of dollars.
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