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Common Sewer Issues and Quick-Fixes

Once you know a few of the common causes of sewer backups you can help keep them from happening with preventative measures and maybe avoid calling a professional.    


If it’s taking longer for water to drain from your sink or you’re hearing gurgling noises when you flush the toilet, these could signal the start of a clogged drain system.

Clogs develop over time and are caused when something blocks the free flow of liquid out of a drain pipe, which can impact the plumbing throughout your entire home. This will affect the proper functioning of sinks, toilets, showers, bathtubs, dishwashers, washing machines and even sprinkler systems. If the clog is severe, raw sewage could push back into your drainpipes and up into your plumbing fixtures from the septic tank or the main sewer lines. It could get messy. 

Drainage related clogs can be caused by a build-up of common objects such as:

Keep in mind sewer pipes are about 4-6 inches in diameter, so it takes a lot of material build-up to clog them. When in doubt, don’t throw it down the drain, throw it in the trash.

Plant & Tree Roots

Root invasion occurs when tree and plant roots penetrate and compromise your sewage system, growing through plumbing pipes or wrapping and crushing them, while seeking the water that flows inside.  To mitigate tree or plant roots from causing damage to your sewer pipes, plan for a tree’s root growth when deciding where to plant new trees on your property. 

Quick Fixes for Sewer Backups

Use a Plunger

Literally the easiest and most available drain opener around. For small to medium-sized clogs, plungers do quick work on most any drain, including toilets and sinks.

Buy a Drain Cleaner

You can use a liquid or crystal drain cleaner unclog a sink or bathtub/ shower. DON'T use them on toilets!  Drain cleaners will eat through the wax seal on the bottom of the toilet, and cause unwanted (and odorous!) leaks.

Be cautious when using a liquid or crystal drain cleaner.  The primary ingredient in most, sodium hydroxide (NaOH), is a very powerful base that is caustic and can cause chemical burns if handled improperly.  Always wear gloves AND safety goggles when handling any drain cleaners or other caustic materials.  These chemicals are most safe when handled using proper care and PPE (personal protective equipment).

You will want to pour these slowly, as NaOH will react with water exothermically and create a lot of heat, and many have aluminum additives to speed up this reaction and get your drains clean as a whistle!

Release Pressure

You can release pressure by turning off the water at the main supply first. Find your sewer cleanout line in your yard. It’s a short, white pipe three to four inches round and sealed with a screw-on cap. Once you've removed the cap, the pressure in the sewer line should release, forcing any water that has backed up into your home to drain.

Chemical Drain Cleaning

Chemical cleaning helps with tree root blockages. Some recommend repeated flushing of copper sulfate down the toilet to kill tree roots, but copper sulfate is not safe for septic systems and some municipalities prohibit its use. Try flushing a root-killing foam containing the herbicide dichlobenil (2,6-dichlorobenzonitrile) down your toilet. The foam sticks to the pipes and kills the tree roots within a few hours. However, it still may take a few months for dead roots to be completely flushed from your sewage system.

Auger or Water Jet Cleaning 

This will help clear medium to severely clogged drains. An auger cuts through clogs further down the pipe. A high-pressure water jet blow plant roots and other debris down the sewer line. 

Call A Pro

Last but not least in handling your sewer issues... if you give us a call, we'll get you fixed up!

This article has been shared by Direct Service, Construction and Design to specifically accommodate our intended clientele.  The intent of sharing this information is to better inform the public of these general topics, expand knowledge and safety for all and provide crucial information in regard to their MEP and building systems and/or assets. It is NOT our recommendation that any article recommendations or how-to scenarios be attempted by anyone other than a qualified or competent person.