Modern-day waste systems are an engineering marvel. All you need to do is to finish your business and then flush the toilet. From there, the sewer line transports safely to the main sewerage system and away from us completely.
The system works beautifully until you end up with a clog or damaged sewer pipes. Unlike the plumbing inside your home, sewer pipe problems might go unnoticed until they are too damaged to fix. If that happens, it means a lot of expense and inconvenience for you as the line is replaced.
Fortunately, if you know the signs to look for, you can head off these expensive repairs in most cases. As with most things to do with plumbing, the sooner you can deal with issues, the easier they are to fix.
In this post, we will go through the three most common signs that there might be an issue with the sewerage line. If you see these signs presenting themselves, get a pro in quickly.
Signs of a Collapsed Sewer Line
1. Clogged Toilets and Drains
Most people don’t realize this, but the sewerage line is not just for sewerage. All the water from any drain in the house will move through there eventually.
The key factor to look for here is that there seem to be clogs in different drains. So, if your toilet doesn’t seem to flush properly, and the shower doesn’t drain, and the water won’t drain from the kitchen sink, it’s probably a problem with your sewer line.
It’s also important to note that the problem can be intermittent. You might flush today and be fine, but have problems tomorrow. The key factor here is that you have problems with several drains.
On the other hand, if it’s just the one drain that is problematic, it’s more likely something that has gone wrong with the plumbing in the home.
Signs to look out for in this area include:
- A gurgling toilet when your washing machine is running.
- Overflowing drains.
- Waste coming back up the toilet after flushing.
Finding the problem yourself and clearing it out can be very difficult. It’s also not wise to try and DIY this one unless you are a plumber. Part of the problem is the size of the system that you are dealing with. The pipes can carry on for a long time underground and might branch off as well.
To find out where the problem requires some specialized equipment. Plumbers may have specialized plumbing snakes that have extra length, and that may have a camera on as well. Without this kind of equipment, you might have to dig up the whole line, and chemical cleaners have little to no effect.
2. Foul Odors
The whole idea behind the sewerage system is to create a hygienic way to move sewerage from your home to the main system. The system is completely sealed except for some vent stacks that are placed on the roof and that allow the waste to move downhill.
If there are foul odors emanating from any of your drains, you need to get someone in as soon as possible. This is one of the most obvious signs that there is a crack in the line. Cracks can be caused by any number of issues – a tree root that has grown too close, earth that’s shifted, or even just a pipe that has become brittle with age.
Now, obviously, from time to time, there might be something that you have thrown down the sink that might cause a bit of a stink. What we are talking about here is the smell of raw sewerage. If there is a problem with the line, the odor won’t go away.
For your family’s health, it is best to get someone in to take care of this as soon as possible. Not only is the smell unpleasant, but there is also a chance of airborne bacteria being present. Besides which, if your drains haven’t shown signs of clogging yet, it’s not far off once there’s a break in the line.
3. Slow Drains
There could be several reasons for water that drains off slowly from your sink, shower or bathtub, so it’s not necessary to panic straight away. If it is just the shower that is taking forever to drain, the problem is probably something to do with the plumbing inside instead.
Try to clear the blockage yourself by checking the plughole and using the plunger to create enough force to move the blockage.
If that doesn’t work, get rid of as much of the water as you can and then pour a cup of baking soda down the drain. Follow this up with a cup of vinegar. This is a natural method that doesn’t contain any of the nasty chemicals that are usually present in drain cleaner.
Why not just use drain cleaner? Because, if there is a problem with the main line, it’s likely to be a tree root, or collapsed pipe. There is nothing that drain cleaner can do about that. It can actually cause further damage because the chemicals in it are highly corrosive in nature.
The longer that they sit in the pipe for, the more potential there is for corrosive damage to occur.
Like with the clogged drains, to properly diagnose a mainline issue, the problem would have to be present in several drains in the home.
How to Avoid Further Sewer Line Damage
If you do have a problem with several drains in the house, or there is a foul smell, you need professional help. First things first, switch off the water to your home. It’s not a pleasant thought, but you should really not be flushing the toilet, using the washing machine, or draining water into the plumbing.
Your next step is to call in a professional. They will be able to properly assess the situation and find exactly what is wrong. They use pretty specialized equipment that helps them to locate the source of the problem quite effectively.
From there, they’ll tell you what your options are. If you have an older home, and the pipes are a good twenty to thirty years old, you might have to consider replacing all of them. This is not the fun option as it means that your yard will have to be dug up, but in some cases, it is essential.
If the pipes are generally in good shape, aside from the crack or blockage, the plumber should be able to make repairs to just the damaged section of the line.
If you notice any of the above-mentioned signs, it is a good idea to get a professional plumber in as soon as possible.