The Signs of a Backed Up Sewer and What to Do About It in Ottawa


Nasty smells, malfunctioning drains… Ottawa plumbers and homeowners agree that there’s few things worse for your home than a backed up sewer. It’s not just unpleasant, it can also be hazardous to your health and lead to serious structural damage of your property.

Due to the age of Ottawa’s sewage system and the increasing number of buildings that rely on it, backups are on the rise. But how do you even know if you’re dealing with a backed up sewer? This handy guide will go over what it is, why it’s happening, and how to get it taken care of.

When you are suffering from sewage backup in your home, give Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Ottawa a call. We’ll assess the problem and get your home and sewer system functioning quickly and efficiently. Mr. Rooter offers 24/7 emergency service, and don’t worry, we offer upfront flat rate prices with no overtime fees.

What is a Backed Up Sewer?

Your sewer lines are designed to carry wastewater away from your home and into the Ottawa sanitary system. When they back up, it’s because something is preventing the wastewater from reaching the city’s system, causing it to sit in your pipes—or worse, spill out of the drains.

7 Signs of a Backed Up Sewer

If you’re reading this, you probably suspect that you have a backup or that you might be dealing with one in the near future. Here are seven key symptoms to check for:

Nasty Smells

An unpleasant odour inside your home, particularly near drains, is often one of the first things people notice. The odour may not necessarily smell like raw sewage—it could be more of a mould or sulphur smell. You may also smell sewage odours outside your home, near vents or between your house and the city’s sewage intake point.

Slow Drains

Sluggish draining of water is one of the most common and frustrating signs, because it is so noticeable and directly impacts your use of normal water fixtures. If your bathtub and sinks take forever to drain, or you find water pooling around your feet in the shower, it’s a possible sign of a blockage. When wastewater pipes are leaking or partially obstructed, the water can’t flow down the drain rapidly.

Overflowing Toilet or No Water in Toilet Bowl After Flushing

If you’re crossing your fingers every time you flush, hoping the toilet will just work properly this time, a backed up sewer is a likely culprit. Similar to a slow drain, an obstruction is either weakening your toilet’s ability to flush waste and water into the sewer line, or preventing water from filling the toilet tank after a flush.

Strange Noises From Drains

Do you hear gurgling, bubbling, sucking, creaking, grinding, or other unusual noises coming from your drains? Odd sounds are a good indication that you may have a blockage or break. Wastewater makes noise as it attempts to drain past partial clogs, and broken or cracked pipes can make noise as the pipe grinds against itself at the break point.

Visible Sewage in the Shower, Bathtub or Toilet

When you get to the unpleasant point of actually seeing visible sewage around your drains or sitting in the toilet bowl, a backup is to blame. When pipes are blocked to the point where wastewater cannot get through, it has nowhere to go other than up a drain and into your home, causing a serious health hazard.

Lawn Issues

When you notice certain unusual or unexpected changes in your lawn, it’s likely caused by a broken pipe that is buried under the grass and leaking wastewater into the soil. Changes to watch for include:

  • Pools of water on your lawn

  • Sinkholes or indented areas

  • Sudden lush spots where your grass is much greener and thicker than the rest of the lawn

If you notice any of the above signs impacting your lawn, it’s important to get it checked out as it may lead to some major problems for your property both structurally and aesthetically.

Rodent and Insect Pests

As if the above indications of a sewer backup weren’t bad enough, rodents and insects are attracted to sewer pipes and can turn a tiny crack or gap in your sewer line into a catastrophic problem.

Rats can wiggle into surprisingly small gaps, and they’re motivated to enter your sewer lines by the smell of sewage and rotten food that’s been washed down drains. Once they’re in, they will enlarge gaps, break pipes, bring more debris into the sewer, and can even enter your home.

Damaged sewer pipes can also attract insects such as cockroaches and sewer flies, which causes further damage to the pipes and gives them an entry point into your home. If you notice a sudden increase in rats or insects around or inside your home, broken sewer lines could be what is attracting them.

What Causes a Backed Up Sewer?

By now you’re probably wondering what causes sewers to back up and why your pipes aren’t working properly. The most common reasons are:

Tree Root Intrusion

Even trees that are a fair distance away from your home can have far-reaching roots that worm their way into the tiniest cracks or gaps of your pipes. Once they touch water they begin to grow rapidly, strangling and breaking the pipes.

Clogs From Improperly Disposed Debris

When sanitary products other than toilet paper are flushed down the toilet, or grease and grit are washed down the sink drains, they can become stuck in the pipes where they greatly reduce the flow of wastewater or stop it altogether.

Aging, Cracked, and Broken Pipes

Sewage systems don’t last forever. Aging pipes experience normal wear and tear, eventually degrading to the point where they need to be replaced. They can also be damaged during home or lawn renovations.

Ground Freeze and Thaw Cycle

In a climate such as we have in Ottawa, the ground regularly freezes and thaws during the winter months. In the same way that this cycle can damage paved roads, it can have serious consequences for your buried sewer lines, which are repeatedly battered by the constriction of the frozen earth.

Renovations or Heavy Construction Nearby

If you’ve recently renovated your house or lawn, or there’s been heavy construction close to your property, it may have caused the ground to rumble and shift. Earth movement causes stress to your sewage lines and can lead to cracks or sometimes even more serious damage.

Faulty Sewer Pipe Layout or Installation

If your sewer system and pipes were not designed or installed correctly, they never really had a chance. Mr. Rooter’s plumbers are able to examine your pipe system and determine where faulty layout or installation has created weak points that lead to premature degradation of the pipes.

What to Do When Your Sewer is Backed Up

Now that you know what to look for when you suspect a backed up sewer—and some reasons why it may be happening—what can you do to get this nasty, unsanitary, and hazardous problem dealt with?

First step is to call Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Ottawa. We offer 24/7 emergency service with upfront, flat rate pricing—and we never charge overtime fees—so you can rest assured that whenever you need us we’ll be at your door with a smile.

Our friendly team at Mr. Rooter is experienced in all types of sewer and septic system issues. We have the know-how to troubleshoot exactly what is causing your backed up sewer and get it fixed the first time.

Some of the treatments we perform for a sewer backup include:

Sewer Line Repair and Replacement

When your sewer lines need to be repaired or replaced, our plumbers at Mr. Rooter have the expertise to evaluate the damage to either your clay, PVC, or cast iron pipes and determine what needs to be done to get your sewer lines in working order.

HydroScrub® Jetting

Over time, soap residue, oil, fat, grease, and hair can build up in your pipes, creating a partial or complete clog that can lead to a backed up sewer. Mr. Rooter uses a technique called HydroScrub® Jetting that uses high-powered jets of water to clear away buildup quickly and effectively.

Compared to old-fashioned methods of clearing clogs such as pipe snaking, HydroScrub® Jetting clears away all debris from your pipes, including soft deposits that cling to the inside of the pipe. This keeps your pipes in working order for longer periods of time and greatly increases the longevity of your plumbing system.

Pipe Relining

After cleaning the pipes thoroughly, pipe relining is one option to repair minor damage or prevent it in the future. Pipe relining involves fitting existing pipes with a “sleeve” that coats and seals the inside of the pipe and hardens in just a few short hours.

This is a great repair and maintenance solution for homeowners who are unable or unwilling to have their property dug up to expose buried pipes, or can’t otherwise reach the outside of the pipes.

Hydraulic Replacement of Burst Pipes

Sometimes, damage to your pipes is simply too extensive for repair, and they must be replaced. Rather than digging a trench on your property, Mr. Rooter plumbers can use hydraulics to bust up the damaged pipe and run a new pipe into the space without the need for digging.

Preventative Pipe Maintenance

As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The best way to keep your home free of a backed up sewer is to stop it before it ever starts. Mr. Rooter’s regular inspections and drain cleaning services will eliminate clogs and detect signs of damage before it has a chance to spread and cause a sewer backup.

Call Mr. Rooter to Repair Your Backed Up Sewer!

While there may be issues with your home that you can learn to live with, a backed up sewer is definitely not one of them. Sewer backups can put your families health at risk and cause severe damage to your home and lawn.

Fortunately, the friendly experts at Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Ottawa are just a phone call away! We will find every possible cause of your backed up sewer and get it solved quickly and cost effectively.

Call us or fill out our request rob estimate form on our website to find out why Mr. Rooter is Ottawa’s trusted plumber.