Why Sewer Lines Clog and How to Fix Them

What signs you should look for and why calling a professional matters

I bet if we took a look at your to-do list today, we could tell you one thing that’s definitely NOT on it;

Inspect your home’s sewer lines.

We get it. Sewer lines are underground, out-of-mind, and quite frankly, pretty icky. At Ben Franklin Plumbing, our skilled plumbing experts help customers with clogged and damaged sewer lines all the time, so we understand that it’s not the kind of preventative maintenance most people think about or relish doing.

However, like most out-of-sight home systems, sewer lines can go from obscurity to emergency in a snap.

Clogs, tree root encroachment, and age are the three most common factors behind sewer line service calls. We are going to explore those three reasons, and others, a little more closely so you will know the warning signs of a sewer line in trouble and how Ben Franklin Plumbing can address these issues in the most cost-effective way possible.

What are the warning signs of a clogged sewer line?

Generally, there are three main symptoms you will notice if your sewer line is clogged:

  1. Water drains backup / standing water in sinks, utility tubs, etc.
  2. Shower floods/water doesn’t drain
  3. Drains emit a gurgling sound

If you’re experiencing slow drainage and standing water in more than one sink, shower, or bathtub at a time, that indicates the clog is more than likely in the main sewer line somewhere.

In many cases, clogs are an accumulation of items that shouldn’t have been flushed down into the sewer line in the first place; cooking grease, large wads of toilet paper, baby diapers, baby wipes, paper towels, feminine products, first aid products, and other material not designed to break down easily in water. Even coffee grounds, over time, can cause a sewer line clog. These items might make it past your in-home fixtures only to form a massive clog downstream in the sewer line. When this happens, the water has nowhere to go but back inside your home or yard. This is why you’ll experience standing water or hear gurgling pipes. It’s also why paying attention to these symptoms is so important, the damage from non-working sewer lines can be significant.

Clogs are one thing, but what can crack or collapse a sewer line?

1. Tree roots

2. Cracks / Deterioration (age)

Trees can be beautiful above ground and invasive below ground. Your home’s sewer lines are filled with two things trees really love; water and organic material. This makes sewer lines a magnet for those thirsty feeder roots that trees send through the earth to find nutrients. In time, as those roots grow bigger and more constrictive, they can crack and damage your lines. Homes with older clay or concrete pipes are especially vulnerable. There are a few ways you can mitigate the risk of tree roots taking over your sewer lines:

1. Know the path of your underground sewer lines and avoid tree placement nearby

2. Can’t avoid trees nearby? Select trees that have naturally less aggressive root systems

3. Already have some aggressive-rooted trees? Consider removing them

4. Love those trees? Consider constructing a barrier metal, wood, or chemical barrier between the tree(s) and the sewer lines

When pipes crack or collapse, whether, from tree roots or age, you may experience the same symptoms mentioned above for a clogged drain such as standing water and gurgling sounds, in addition to more serious conditions such as sinkholes in your yard. If you notice this happening, it’s critical you call your neighborhood professionals at Ben Franklin Plumbing right away. A sinkhole means the damage to your sewer line is severe and, depending on the location of the break, the sinkhole could put your home’s foundation at risk.

Your nose is also a great indicator of trouble! If you smell foul or sulfur odors in your house or yard, there’s a very good chance you have a seriously damaged sewer line.

We’ve talked about HOW sewer lines fail, how can they be FIXED?

As mentioned already, you can try a store-bought clog remover in whatever drain, sink, or toilet seems to be backing up. Sometimes elbow grease and a good old-fashioned plunger do the trick. There are also tools called “power snakes” that loosen and push material through the pipes past clog points. Professional plumbers use power snakes all the time and while these tools do require a bit of finesse and experience to be most effective, consumer versions are sold in most home improvement stores, and -- with a little learning curve -- they can get the job done. This method can also be messy, so plan accordingly.

If these initial DIY clog-removal attempts don’t work and your warning signs indicate that the problem is in the main sewer line, it’s time to call the highly-trained and experienced plumbing experts at Ben Franklin Plumbing. Main sewer line repair is NOT a DIY project. Along with being inherently unsafe, given the underground conditions of the repair, there are likely city, county, and state code requirements that must be followed.

What will Ben Franklin Plumbing professionals do to fix my sewer line?

Once you call Ben Franklin and we’re on our way, there is something you can do to minimize any further mess or damage at the source of the water issue; find the fixture’s water valves (normally under or behind a sink or toilet) and turn the valve(s) OFF. This will reduce or stop overflow that causes potentially greater damage.

Once your Ben Franklin Plumbing professional arrives, we will approach the issue in a number of ways.

  • Thorough inspection of all your water sources, drains, and sewer line to prepare a plan of action. To include:
  • Running a drain auger or snake through pipes to clear the blockage
  • Using a camera to inspect pipes
  • Determining the exact location of the problem
  • For clogs or leaks outside of the home, we’ll locate the sewer clean-out and fix the problem from that location.
  • Deep cleaning to remove all clogs, including stubborn ones on the walls of your pipes.
  • Aqua Bright pipe rejuvenation can effectively eliminate years of grime in your drains and sewer line, clearing your drains and preventing future problems.
  • Drain preventative maintenance program will take sewer line worries off of your to-do list and put it on ours, where it belongs. From installing screens on your drains to keeping sewer lines clean, we’ll keep everything flowing smoothly.

Let the insured, bonded, and certified professionals at Ben Franklin Plumbing address your sewer line concerns correctly, safely, and affordably the first time. We’ve been proudly serving customers in Charlotte and the surrounding area for decades, including Indian Trail, Concord, and Mooresville.

Visit http://www.benfranklinplumbing.com or call our 24/7 customer service line today 800.471.0809.