Sewer Line Problems – What the heck is going on?


Your toilet is backing up, water won’t go down the tub or shower in the house, or black water is coming up in your tub or shower.  What does this mean? You probably have a sewer main line backup. Somewhere between a common point in your house (where your drains meet) and the city sewer system something is blocking your sewer main line.

Unleash The Snake

The first step is usually to snake the sewer main line. This is not a DIY project. The sewer main line on your property is usually a 3” to 6” pipe. Most non-commercial grade sewer snakes are not strong enough to cut through main line obstructions.  Contact a professional plumber to perform this task. When snaking a main line, the plumber will often need to snake the line multiple times using a cutter head on the snake of increasing size in order to get through the obstruction.

When the snake is removed from the sewer main, the residual debris on the snake cutter head will often provide some limited insight as to what is causing the problem.  It may show roots, grease, personal products flushed down the drain, or even mud. The plumber can make an educated guess as to what this debris means and the extent of the problem but the only way to know for sure is to look into the pipe.

Lights, Camera, Action!

The best way to look into the pipe is with an Inline Sewer Video Camera. The camera is fed into the sewer main like a snake and provides a real time view of the inside of the sewer main line.  Most cameras have the ability to record the session along with commentary by the plumbers as things are observed.  (If you ever have your line videoed, insist that the plumber give you access to the recorded video.  This is your best way to insure that unnecessary work is not proposed.)

What The Heck Do I Do Now?

If you’re lucky, the clog in the sewer line is just a buildup of hair, household waste, or grease. These can be cleared with a thorough snaking of the main line.

Of more impact is the presence of roots in the main line.  Roots can grow into the main line though joints in the line (usually in clay pipe) or breaks in the line.  These roots can be cut out with a snake but will rapidly grow back. It is common to see a main line with 90% obstruction due to roots.  The only real solution is to remove all trees contributing to the problem (unhappy solution), frequent snaking of the main line, or a replacement of the sewer line.

The other common problems identified by the camera inspection are breaks in the sewer line, sags in the line, or offsets at the joints.  All of these problems will cause sewerage to run slower at these locations and results in main line blockages at high use times.  The only solution for this is a partial or full replacement of the sewer main line.  Partial replacements can be cheaper in the short term but you will probably see additional problems later resulting in substantially higher total costs.

Call An Expert for All Your Plumber Services

If you are having trouble with your drains and need your sewer line inspected, or require any other plumber services, call Good Land Plumbing today.

Good Land Plumbing can replace your sewer line using the traditional trenching method or using the trenchless method.  See our blog posting on these two methods and the advantages of each.

About The Author