What is the Best Way for Dealing with Sewer Backup?

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  • Written By: T. L. Childree
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 05 October 2019
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A sewer backup typically happens when grease, hair, and foreign objects block drains or heavy rains flood sanitary sewer lines. This situation requires immediate attention to relieve the sewer backup, and all water usage must be halted until the problem is solved. Most clogged drains must be opened by an experienced plumber while backups caused by storm water must be allowed to subside over time. When a sewer backup occurs, overflowing drains may cause indoor surfaces to become highly contaminated with dangerous bacteria and viruses. Contaminated surfaces such as bathtubs and tile floors can be easily sanitized, but carpeting and walls should be cleaned or replaced by a professional.

Sewer backups often occur when grease, hair, and other waste builds up inside drainage pipes. Tree roots may also invade sewer drain pipes and cause them to become clogged. Foreign objects such as sanitary napkins and diapers sometimes become trapped in drainage pipes and cause a sewer backup. Sewer lines can be crushed and lose their ability to drain properly when heavy vehicles are driven over them. Flood waters from heavy rainfall may also drain into public sanitary sewer lines and cause them to backup into nearby homes and buildings.


Immediate attention is required when a sewer backup occurs. The source of the backup must be determined quickly, and all water usage should be stopped until the problem is solved. Do-it-yourself remedies such as plungers and liquid drain cleaners are usually ineffective when a complete sewer backup has occurred. Backups caused by grease, roots, and foreign objects typically require the services of an experienced, professional plumber for complete results.

Many professional plumbers use a special video inspection device to determine the source of the sewer backup before making repairs. They typically use a sharp rotary tool to destroy the source of the clog and move it safely out of the drain. Crushed pipes must be replaced and heavy equipment is sometimes required. Backups caused by flood waters cannot be remedied by a plumber. This type of backup is usually eliminated after the sanitary sewer lines have drained sufficiently.

A sewer backup often causes highly contaminated water to overflow drains and spill onto floors and carpets. This situation can be very dangerous to residents of a home or building. Small areas of contamination on nonporous surfaces can usually be cleaned with a mild chlorine bleach solution. Contaminated carpeting may need to be removed or professionally cleaned, however. Drywall that has come into contact with contaminated water may also need to be replaced by a professional contractor to prevent the growth of dangerous mold behind the walls.


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Post 3

@Laotionne - I have lived in several houses with septic tanks and I have never had a septic tank pumped out. I'm not recommending not having them checked yearly as @Drentel mentioned, but I don't think most people have septic tanks checked this often.

When we were having problems with sewer backup in our current house we used some of the powder-like substance that is designed to break up the buildup, and this worked for us. Our toilets are flushing perfectly at the moment.

Post 2

@Laotionne - Since you can't see into your septic tank, you aren't going to be able to tell when your septic tank needs to be pumped out unless you are having problems with overflow inside or outside the house. The experts recommend that you have your septic system checked once a year to make sure that everything is working the way it is supposed to be working.

From what you wrote, I am assuming that your grandmother hasn't had any type of service on her septic tank in a long time. For this reason alone you should call a professional out to take a look at the system. Even if the tank isn't in need of a pumping (which it

probably is) you can find out what condition the system is in. Repairing or replacing a sewer line and a septic tank can cost into the thousands of dollars. Keeping the sewer system serviced and well maintained is mush easier and much less expensive.
Post 1

The toilette at my grandmother's house is starting to backup. She can't remember the last time she had the sewer system cleaned out, so this tells me that it hasn't been done in a long time because she remembers almost everything. Does anyone out there know how often you are supposed to have the average home septic tank cleaned out?

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