Your plumbing system is one of the most important parts of your home. Its complex network of pipes is responsible for giving you access to clean drinking water and removing waste. Without a properly functioning plumbing system, daily activities like filling up the kettle for tea, washing dishes, and evening running your laundry machine would be infinitely more difficult.
Yet, for most North Van homeowners, you probably don’t think about your plumbing very much—until there is a problem. When your sink is clogged with dirty standing water—making it impossible to wash dishes—or your toilet won’t flush, the inconvenience can leave you feeling exasperated.
Perhaps one of the most frustrating, and possibly dangerous, plumbing problems is a clog in your sewer line. As one of the biggest and most important drains in your plumbing system, when there’s an issue with the sewer line your entire plumbing system is affected.
To help you learn more about what to look for to know if your sewer line is clogged, and how to prevent issues from happening in the future, the pros at Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Vancouver put together this guide. Continue reading to discover our professional insights.
What is My Sewer Line?
Your sewer line collects waste water from your home and ushers it out of your property and into the civic sewage system. Unfortunately, it’s common for sewer lines to become clogged from grease, fat, hygiene products, and even children’s toys. When the line becomes clogged, wastewater has nowhere to go except back into your home. This wreaks havoc on your residential plumbing.
9 Signs You Need Sewer Cleaning
Sewer cleaning is certainly not top-of-mind for most people living in North Van. After all, your life is busy enough as it is. You have to worry about everything from your upcoming work project to what you’re going to make for dinner. Wondering if there’s a clog in your sewer line likely isn’t a priority. To help you know when to make cleaning your sewer line a priority, keep in mind the following.
1. Multiple Slow Running Drains
When you run your tap, does the water fill up the basin of your sink and then ever-so-slowly start to drain? Or perhaps when you shower, you notice yourself standing in several centimeters of water?
These are two common signs of slow running drains. Aptly named, slow drains are usually the first sign that a clog is forming. While most slow drains can be remedied by using boiling water to dislodge the clog or a plunger to push it out, if more than one drain in your home is draining slowly, then the sewer line itself might be obstructed. Generally, showers, bathtubs, and toilets are the first fixtures to show signs of a clog because they’re closer to the ground than other drains. Likewise, your ground floor fixtures will be slow draining before your second or third floor fixtures.
2. Multiple Clogs
Once a drain progresses from being slow draining to not draining at all, it’s clogged. Sediment, debris from food, hair, grease, and soap scum all buildup in your pipes over time. This is completely natural—you use your plumbing daily so it’s not uncommon for a clog to occur now and then. However, when you have multiple clogged drains or blockages that aren’t cleared by conventional methods, it’s possible your sewer line is clogged.
Your sewer line is one of the largest pipes in your plumbing system. When it’s clogged and the waste and sewage it carries can’t be released into the civic sewer system, the waste is forced back up into your home. It will start to push its way into your bathroom and kitchen drains, subsequently clogging fixtures like your bathtub. As you continue to unwittingly use your plumbing, the clogs only get worse because more wastewater is getting trapped.
3. Foul Odours
The smell of sewage is unpleasant, and unmistakable. If you catch a whiff of sewage while brushing your teeth or pouring a glass of water in the kitchen, there are two possibilities. Either your P-trap has dried out or you have a clogged sewer line.
Your P-trap is a section of pipe installed below your sinks. Both bathroom and kitchen sinks have P-traps. In the shape of an upside-down “P” (it also looks similar to a “J”) the P-trap serves a variety of purposes. It catches debris that washes down the drain, preventing clogs deep within your plumbing system—such as in the sewer line. This is also helpful for catching jewelry, like wedding bands, that fall into the sink while washing dishes or preparing food. Also, the P-trap prevents sewage gases from seeping into your home.
The P-trap usually holds a small amount of water. Should that water dry out, the pipe can’t shield your home from nasty sewer gas—causing your living space to smell like waste. To test if the P-trap has dried out, pour a little water into the drain. If the odour persists, then the issue is likely your sewer line.
4. Water Backing Up Into Other Drains
When you use one fixture in your home only to see water backing up in another fixture, you have a problem with the sewer line and it should be addressed right away. There are a few scenarios where your fixtures might react unusually:
When you flush the toilet, water backs up into the tub or shower. Water always comes back up at the lowest point, which is generally the shower or bathtub drain. So if the water being flushed down the toilet can’t go down its drain, it will find an easily accessible one to push into.
You run the washing machine and the toilet overflows. The washing machine uses a lot of water to clean your clothes. As it’s draining, if the water can’t drain through its usual channels it might back up in the toilet, tub, or shower—indicating you have a clog.
You use the bathroom sink and the toilet starts to bubble. When you turn on the bathroom sink to wash your hands or brush your teeth, pay attention to the water in your toilet. If it starts to bubble, it means there is air trapped inside the plumbing system.
5. Gurgling Noises
Many North Van homeowners assume that gurgling noises are a typical byproduct of water and waste moving through the plumbing system. Sounds reasonable; so many pipes gurgle that it’s quite a commonplace issue and it’s logical to think that water would make noise while gushing through your pipes. However, this is not the case. Gurgling, like bubbling, means there is air trapped in your plumbing. It could be a sign of a backed-up sewer line.
Along with water, air also flows through your drains. When there’s a clog, it becomes trapped between the clog and the water. As the air tries to escape, the water bubbles. When the water bubbles, it makes a gurgling sound. You might be able to see the bubbles in your toilet, but you won’t if the bubbling is happening within your plumbing system. But, you will hear the air trying to escape.
6. Drainage in Sewer Clean Out
A clear sign of a main sewer clog is if you see sewage standing in (or draining out) of your home’s sewer clean out. A sewer clean out is a piece of pipe that connects directly to your home’s main sewer line. Its purpose is to give plumbers direct access to the line to clear out any blockages. If you’re DIY inclined, you can also check the sewer clean out to see if it needs cleaning. Generally, the sewer clean out is located just outside your home or in the basement. It has a round or rectangular cap, and might be titled “sewage” or “clean out.”
7. Foundation Issues
In some extreme cases, a clog in your sewer line could cause foundation issues, including: cracks, settlement issues, and sinkholes. These issues happen when the main sewer line running under your home’s foundation starts to leak and you don’t notice it for a prolonged period of time. If this happens, it’s possible that the wastewater will erode the area under your home’s foundation or in your backyard. This erosion affects the structural integrity of your home’s base. The foundation might move, otherwise known as settling, which could cause it to crack. In a worst-case-scenario, the sodden and eroded earth might develop into a sinkhole. A sinkhole is caused when water erosion below the ground’s surface makes the earth unstable. Although the top layer of earth may look unaffected, without any support below it will sink and form a hole.
8. Smelly Puddles in the Yard
Another sign that a blocked pipe might have burst and leaked is if you have smelly puddles in your yard, or patches of highly fertilized grass. If you smell sewage in your yard, the line has broken and—having nowhere else to go—the wastewater was released into your yard. You’ll need to call an emergency plumber, such as the team at Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Vancouver, immediately.
However, a subtler sign of a leaking sewer line are bright green patches in your grass. Much like manure, sewage is a fertilizer. When it seeps out of the main drain and into the ground, the surrounding grass benefits from additional nutrients. Although patches of your lawn might be happy, this is not a good sign. Human waste is very harmful and, if your sewer line is not cleaned and repaired, the waste will eventually flood your yard—or even your basement.
9. You See Raw Sewage
It might sound like a no-brainer, but if you see raw sewage in your basement, yard, or in any of your plumbing fixtures, your sewer line is clogged. It will need to be professionally cleaned, or in some cases repaired or replaced, as soon as possible.
How to Prevent Clogged Sewers?
Through daily use, it’s common for drains to get clogged—even your main sewer line. However, there are a few ways you can prevent clogs and maintain the functionality of your plumbing system, such as:
Perform Annual Cleaning Maintenance
The best thing you can do for your North Van home is to have your plumbing professionally cleaned at least once a year. At Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Vancouver, our plumbers use a combination of our cutting-edge HydroScrub® Jetting technology and an enzymatic drain care solution to blast away years of debris in one visit. Our HydroScrub® Jetting technology employs a high-pressured stream of water to clear away clogs and buildup. Our enzymatic drain care solution is eco-friendly and made without harsh chemicals that could harm your plumbing, or your family.
Use Enzyme Cleaners Monthly
In between visits from the pros at Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Vancouver for your annual drain cleaning, you can also use over-the-counter enzyme drain cleaning products to help prevent clogs. Enzyme cleaning agents use bacteria that break down organic matter, like food particles, hair, and mildew. They are an environmentally friendly and healthier alternative to traditional chemical cleaners.
Keep Trees, Bushes, and Plants Away
It’s not uncommon for tree and plant roots to infiltrate your pipes. When this happens, the roots cause a clog that can only be removed by replacing the compromised section of pipe. The process is lengthy, and much more invasive than a professional drain cleaning. While you can’t control where roots grow, the best practice is to keep plants away from your sewer line.
Do Not Flush Hygiene Products Down the Toilet
The only materials that should go in your toilet is waste and toilet paper. All other items should be disposed of in the garbage. Hygiene products will clog up your toilet, and might even clog your sewer line over time. Products to avoid flushing down the toilet include:
Feminine hygiene products
Makeup removing wipes
Do Not Put Certain Food Waste Down the Sink
Just like how certain products should not be flushed down the toilet, there are certain food items that should be disposed of in your compost or garbage, and not your sink. Even if you have a garburator, fibrous or hard foods can clog your kitchen drains and possibly your main line as well. Do not put the following foods down your sink:
Nuts and shells
Pits and seeds
Book Your Sewer Cleaning Service Today!
Worried you might have a clogged sewer line? Or maybe you want to book an annual drain cleaning? In either case, the team at Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Vancouver is the team to call. Our highly trained, experienced, and courteous plumbers will efficiently solve your plumbing problems—without compromising our dedication to excellent workmanship and customer service.
To get started, we invite you to call one of our friendly customer service representatives at 604-433-5555. You can also get in touch by requesting a job estimate online.