How To Prevent Sewer Backups

Installed PVC water pipes in trench at construction site. Plumbing system outside the house concept

Sewer backups are a homeowner’s worst nightmare.

Often resulting in costly repairs, health hazards, and overall inconvenience, a backed-up sewer can prove to be one of the most major challenges to overcome when you own a home.

Fortunately, many sewer backups can be prevented with the right mix of preventative measures, proactive maintenance, and swift action in the event of a backup.

In this guide, we cover everything you need to know about how to prevent sewer backups on your property. We explore the key signs of a sewer backup to watch for, the common causes behind these backups, effective prevention strategies, and the steps to take when faced with a backed-up sewer that could potentially save you from significant sewer line replacement costs.

Read on to discover the best steps to take to effectively prevent and repair sewer backups!

The Signs of a Sewer Backup

Recognizing the signs of a sewer backup is the first step to preventing a potentially messy and expensive situation. By recognizing the early symptoms of a sewer backup, you can take action more quickly to complete repairs and connect with the appropriate professionals. 

Here are some common indicators of a sewer backup:

  • Multiple Drains Clogs: When several drains in your home are slow or clogged simultaneously, it may suggest a sewer line issue. Pay attention to how well fixtures like sinks, toilets, tubs, and showers are draining, as well as if unclogging the drain remedies the issue. 
  • Gurgling Noises from Drains & Plumbing: If you hear gurgling or bubbling sounds when you flush the toilet or run water in the sink, it can indicate a blockage in the sewer line. You may notice these noises anywhere in the house but they will be particularly noticeable near plumbing.
  • Foul Odors from Drains & Plumbing: Unpleasant odors, particularly the smells of garbage and sewage, emanating from drains or in your basement can be a sign of a backup. These foul odors often occur in tandem with other signs of a backup, such as poor drainage. 
  • Backed-Up Water: When wastewater backs up into your home, such as sewage coming up through drains or toilets, this is a clear indication of a sewer problem. In most cases, water backing up into your home requires the attention of a professional. 
  • Yard Wet Spots: Sewage backups can sometimes cause water to pool in your yard where your sewage tank is located underground, creating wet spots within this specific area. This can sometimes lead to faster and healthier grass growth in the area, which can be another indication of a sewage problem if one patch of your yard is suspiciously green and luscious. 

What Causes Sewer Backups?

Understanding the common causes of sewer backups can help you take preventive measures. 

Some common culprits include:

  • Poor Drain Etiquette: Pouring cooking grease and fat down the drain can result in congealed blockages over time. Additionally, using your garbage disposal to get rid of large chunks of meat and fibrous vegetables can also lead to clogs in your sewer line. 
  • Flushing Inappropriate Items: Flushing non-biodegradable items like paper towels, sanitary products, and wet wipes can clog sewer lines over time. Always check the packaging of items before flushing them down your drain and aim to flush as minimal products as possible. 
  • Improper Installation: Poorly designed or installed sewer lines may be more prone to backups. Diagnosing an improper sewage system installation requires the assistance of a professional team who can assess the issue and determine the best solution. 
  • Pipe Damage: Cracks, leaks, or collapses in sewer pipes can allow soil and debris to enter, causing blockages. This type of pipe damage can be caused by many factors, including lack of regular maintenance and excessive rain or flooding. 

Preventing Sewer Backups

Preventing sewer backups is often more cost-effective and less stressful than dealing with the aftermath. 

Here are five preventive measures you can take to ward off sewer backups:

  1. Proper Drain Usage: Dispose of cooking byproducts, such as fat or grease, in sealed containers that can be disposed of in the trash rather than down your drain. Additionally, avoid flushing or draining large items or non-sewer-friendly products. 
  2. Install a Backwater Valve: A backwater valve can prevent sewage from flowing back into your home. It allows wastewater to exit the sewage system without re-entering your plumbing system. However, even with a backwater valve, you still need to watch out for signs of a backup.
  3. Regular Plumbing Maintenance: Schedule regular plumbing inspections to detect and address issues before they become severe. This is especially important if you have older plumbing systems or know of any existing damage within your sewer system. 
  4. Avoid Planting Near Sewer Lines: When landscaping, be mindful of where you plant trees and shrubs to minimize root intrusion into sewer lines. If plants and trees grow roots too close to your sewer system, this can ultimately result in breakage and damage to your sewer tank and line.
  5. Proper Drainage: Ensure that your property has adequate drainage to handle heavy rainfall and prevent water from pooling near your home’s foundation. Proper drainage can also help to disperse wet spots should they occur aboveground over your sewer system. 

Final Thoughts: How to Fix a Sewer Backup (& When to Call Professionals)

Despite your best efforts, sewer backups can still occur. In such cases, it’s crucial to take immediate action to mitigate the damage. 

When you begin noticing signs of a sewer backup, follow these steps: 

  • Stop all water usage until the issue is resolved
  • Get in touch with a local sewage professional to take a look at the problem
  • Document any damage with photos and videos for insurance purposes
  • Dispose of any contaminated items that pose a health and safety risk
  • Sanitize and clean all areas possible once the sewage water has been drained or removed

While many preventive measures can be taken by homeowners, certain aspects of sewer line maintenance and repairs require the expertise of professionals. Regular inspections by licensed plumbers or sewer line specialists can help identify potential issues before they lead to a backup. 

When facing a sewer backup, it’s essential to act swiftly and seek professional assistance to minimize damage and health risks. By taking proactive steps and staying vigilant for signs of trouble, you can significantly reduce the likelihood of sewer backups and the associated headaches they bring.

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