Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Calgary Change Location
24/7 Emergency Services (403) 640-7789 Request Job Estimate

The Signs Your Home Is Facing Sewer Backup in Calgary, Alberta

Until the mid-1970s, Calgary sewer lines were generally made of brick, cast iron, concrete, and coated steel. Today, even the newest and most durable of these materials are reaching the end of their average lifespans. This is leading to an unprecedented rate of home sewer line failures.

Newer neighbourhoods aren’t exempt from backups, either. Sewer backups are messy and potentially serious health hazards to your home and family.

But how do you know if you are at risk of a problem? Check out these top ten signs that you might be facing a sewer backup in Calgary today.

1. Nasty Smells

Smells from backups can be one of the earliest signs of a problem. Sewer line-related odours may smell like waste, sulphur, or mould. They may be most noticeable right after you've cleaned when you expect a fresh scent and get a nose full of unpleasantness instead.

Not all bad smells mean you're facing a backup, of course. Often, you can banish bad smells from your bathroom with a few quick odour elimination tips and tricks.

If that doesn't work and the odours persist, however, there's a good chance you could be on your way to a sewer backup.

Sewer systems that are working properly should never smell bad. They should carry both waste and the associated smells out of and away from your home. When foul smells are present, its a good hint that your pipes have cracked or broken and are no longer functioning as they should.

If you notice unpleasant smells, call for service immediately. The longer you wait, the more likely you are to experience more severe issues in the near future.

2. Toilet Backing up or Overflowing

The occasional toilet backup isn't something to panic about. Flushing inappropriate items can cause temporary backups that can often be easily resolved.

When your toilet begins to back up consistently or without any obvious cause it may be time for concern. There's always a chance you're just using the wrong kind of toilet paper for your plumbing. But regular clogs, backups, and overflow can also be an indicator that there's a problem with your main sewer line.

Having sewage overflow into your home can be quite hazardous. If you notice recurring clogs and backups, get professional assistance right away. Plumbing experts will be able to inspect your lines and help you determine the cause of your toilet troubles.

3. Mould

Many homeowners don't associate mould with their sewage lines, but the two are often connected. Mould can occur when your sewer lines are in perfect condition if your home is otherwise warm and humid.

In some cases, however, dangerous mould is the result of broken sewer lines and piping behind your walls. Broken lines increase humidity and release bacteria in your home. This creates the ideal conditions for the rapid growth of mould, particularly along walls, baseboards, and ceilings.

Even small patches mould can have outsized effects on your health. Mould-related illnesses are severe and hard to treat, even without the added bacteria that sewer line breaks and backups can cause. They can be doubly dangerous for children, the elderly, and individuals with preexisting health conditions.

If you notice signs of mould, it is important to clean it up right away but also to have plumbing professionals come to assess the situation. They can determine where it may have started and migrated to and help you fix the source of the problem before more damage can occur.

4. Slow Drains

The condition of your drains is an excellent indicator of pending sewer backup in your Calgary home. If your drains are slow to empty, it may be a sign that there is a buildup in the lines. Alternatively, it may indicate that tree roots have infiltrated your pipes or that your pipes are broken or leaking.

When drains first start to slow down, many homeowners reach for chemical drain cleaners. In some cases, this can be appropriate and it isn't a bad choice for dealing with an occasional slow drain.

It is important not to use chemical cleaners too often, however. If the cleaner doesn't resolve the problem on the first try, repeated attempts aren't likely to be any more successful. Worse, chemical cleaners can sit in blocked or broken pipes.

This almost always causes pipes to break down even further, making the problem worse. Alternatively, the chemicals can seep out into the area surrounding the broken pipe creating a new hazard.

If multiple drains in your home are moving sluggishly or the same drain clogs repeatedly, call a professional. If you don't, you are risking a serious backup.

5. Changes to Your Yard

Like mould, changes to one's yard tend not to immediately register as a potential sign of sewer line problems. Yet when your sewer lines stop functioning correctly, your yard can offer hard-to-miss clues if you know to look for them.

Pooling Water or Sinkholes

Pools or puddles of fetid water where there usually aren't any can be a strong indicator that your piping has cracked or broken. They show exactly where sewage is leaching sewage out underneath your yard. Marshy patches or sinkholes where there haven't been any before suggest the same.

Sometimes leaks happen underneath yard fixtures such as driveways, sidewalks, and patios. In those cases, you may notice sinkholes as indentations or in the form of pavers that have become sunken or cockeyed.

Sudden Lush Spots

Alternatively, you may start noticing particularly lush and green sections of your yard that weren't there before. These spots will be noticeably healthier and grow much faster than the rest of your yard, which makes them stand out.

You may see isolated spots of this or an entire line of it along your sewer pipes, depending on what kind of damage your sewer lines have sustained. In either case, it happens because the leaking water is rich in minerals and bacteria that your grass and plants feed on.

If you notice either of these situations, a sewer backup is approaching. Call for service to get your lines repaired before you end up with sewage overflowing into the house!

6. Strange Noises

Blockages and breakage in your sewer lines can cause your toilet, tub, and faucets to make strange sounds. You may notice bubbling, gurgling, and other unusual noises whenever you turn on the water, flush the toilet, or pour something down a drain.

This happens because air is getting in where it shouldn't and water can't flow where it should. While these sounds may not seem terribly bothersome, they are a clear sign of a more serious problem.

Fortunately, if you act promptly you can usually head off larger problems, saving yourself time, money, and hassle.

7. Cracks in Your Foundation

In extreme cases, damage to your sewer lines can result in damage to your home's foundation. This happens when a primary line that goes under your home's foundation starts to leak and is not quickly corrected.

Over time, the leak erodes away the soil supporting the foundation. This creates unbalanced pressure and weak spots, which can cause your foundation to settle or crack. If you notice damage to your foundation you need to not only call foundation repair specialists but also have a plumbing inspection done.

Failure to address the broken sewage line will not only lead to a sewage backup into your home but will compromise any work that you attempt to do to repair the foundation.

8. Animals and Insects

Just like changes to your yard can warn you of an impending sewer line backup, so can changes to the animals you see in and around your home. Rodents have long been associated with sewers and sewage and for good reason.

Rats have the ability to push themselves through openings less than an inch in diameter. As long as your sewer lines are whole and sealed, rodents can't get into them. Even tiny cracks or breaks in the line, however, can turn into a rodent highway.

If you start seeing rodents around your property where there were none before or see a significant increase in the rodent population, it may be a sign of problems and potential backups in your sewer lines.


Damaged sewer lines can also attract bugs, including:

  • Cockroaches
  • Palmetto bugs
  • Sewer flies

Even very small cracks in your lines can lead to a huge surge in the insect population in and around your home. If you notice this kind of change, it is important to act quickly.

Not only is the increased insect population a sign of much bigger trouble to come, but it is also a serious health hazard in its own right. Insects can trigger allergic reactions in some people and can worsen existing conditions, particularly respiratory concerns like asthma.

Adding extermination to the cost of sewer repair is never appealing, but your homeowners' insurance may foot some or all of the bill.

9. Use of One Fixture Impacts Another

Imagine that you turn on the faucet in your sink and your toilet also begins to fill with water. Or you start the washing machine only to find water backing up in your sink drains. This kind of odd occurrence is a red flag that your sewer lines are clogged or damaged.

Inspecting your toilet is usually the first step, as it is typically the fixture most sensitive to this sort of situation. Any fixture can be affected, however, and the culprit almost always the same. There's a blockage in your lines, either caused by debris buildup or the invasion of tree roots or other external material into your pipes.

Acting quickly to get a professional inspection and intervention can keep the backups within your fixtures and avoid spreading sewage and germs all over your home.

10. Water Backing up in the Tub

Beware of water backing up in your tub or shower whether you use other fixtures or not. Often, tubs are the lowest of your fixtures. This can lead to their drains backing up first when there is a blockage or other damage to your sewer lines.

The water backing up into your tub may be clear or discoloured, and it may or may not carry a foul odour. No matter what it looks or smells like, once you have water backing up into your tub there is a high likelihood that you will soon see it backing up in other fixtures or all over your floors, as well.

Sewer Backups Are Serious Business

As you've probably already noticed just by exploring the warning signs, the costs of a sewer backup in Calgary can be steep. If you miss or ignore the red flags and end up with a full-scale sewage backup, you can find yourself paying for:

  • Professional clean and disinfecting of your home
  • Foundation repair
  • Landscaping restoration and repair
  • Rodent or insect extermination
  • Fixture repair or replacement

Looked at in that light, it's easy to see how calling for professional help at the first sign of trouble is the smart choice.

Plumbing professionals have the tools and equipment needed to get to the bottom of your home's problems quickly. They can give you an accurate assessment of the situation and help you identify the safest and more effective solutions.

Call the Professionals About a Sewer Backup in Calgary

If you notice any of these signs of pending sewer backup in Calgary don't wait. Contact Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Calgary or dial (403) 640-7789 immediately to have our experts help you identify and resolve your sewer line issues before they become a disaster.