A sewer backup is a situation most folks want to prevent well before it happens. While no home sewage system is 100% risk-free of clogs, a well-serviced home is better off. There’s some wisdom out there to help you decide when your home is at risk. And we’ve learned a few things about drain and sewer inspections and cleanings that help our customers mitigate that risk.
What’s a Sewer Backup?
Homeowners don’t always know how their plumbing works, and that’s understandable. Unless you have that knowledge, you might wonder how a clogged bathroom sink or a tree root in your yard could cause sewer gasses to waft into your bathroom. A sewer backup is a problem with your drainage, which might involve flooding fixtures or the escape of toxic fumes.
How Does Drainage Work?
Your plumbing has two phases: water and wastewater, respectively, your home’s water supply and wastewater drainage. Water coming from your home’s water utility line flows in a pressurized system.
Cold water flows right from the main to your fixtures, such as your faucets, toilets, showerheads. It also flows into your hot water tank, assuming you don’t have tankless hot water. After it heats up, it flows to the fixtures and can be mixed with cold water.
Wastewater is unpressurized. It uses gravity to take used up water and drain it down carefully angled pipes, dropping a volume of wastewater into the main wastewater line. All wastewater ends up in the same line, whether from your kitchen sink or your toilet.
The Dangers of Improper Drainage
One obvious danger of a drainage problem lies in having sewage begin to flood. Wastewater won’t flow away, simply spilling over from the drain. But if there’s a clog, it might still drain but slowly. Both are problems.
Raw sewage contains hydrogen sulfide, carbon dioxide, methane, and ammonia. Household cleaners have other volatile gasses that can mix into other toxic fumes in your main wastewater line. These gasses can cause nausea, headaches, and other adverse effects on your lungs.
How Traps Protect Your Home from Raw Sewage
Drainage traps are simple, economical solutions to the problem posed by sewage gas. The u-bend or s-shape under your fixtures, from dishwashers to sinks, all serve that purpose. They hold sitting wastewater by design.
These pipes in this shape trap a small volume of water, and noxious gasses can’t infiltrate this water layer. Toilets trap gasses by the normal clean water level in the toilet bowl.
What Factors Create a Risk for Sewer Backups?
A sewer backup can’t be blamed on any one cause. Your home’s wastewater drainage is a system, so a problem in one part of the system can have effects anywhere along the line. But we’ve noticed a few common causes.
Your toilets, sinks, bathtubs, and showers can develop blockages when debris that goes down the drain clogs the drainage system. Sometimes they can build up over time. Clogs can form in the drainage traps or the drainage pipes beyond the trap.
Tree roots can grow outwards, seeking water sources and more fertile soil. If their constant, subtle pressure acts with enough force, they can crush a sewer line causing a blockage that might backup your entire house. If you slowly find any clogs developing over many fixtures, this outdoor, underground factor might be the cause.
Main Sewer Line Clogs
A clog can really form anywhere, but sometimes chemical reactions from all the household cleaners you wash down the sink can interfere with drainage at the main wastewater line. In that event, you’ve got a drainage emergency. You should shut off the main water supply and seal all drainage openings in your home’s fixtures.
Hard water contains minerals, and Calgary’s municipal water supply averages some of the country’s highest. These minerals can slowly accumulate in your pipes, constricting the flow.
There are some water softening options available to homeowners looking to avoid the typical damage of mineral deposits. Blockages due to exceptionally hard water stem from a steady buildup of minerals, which can act as a foothold for other debris.
What’s a Sewer Inspection?
We use professional methods to assess your drainage system, from bathroom drains all the way to your main wastewater line. We look for clogs, worn-out components like seals or joints, and any leaks interfering with the main line running through your home or under your property. We also inspect the drainage from your toilet fixtures and locate problems anywhere along the drainage system.
We typically recommend this option on a scheduled basis. There’s often been a long gap between plumbing inspections in the homes we’ve had to help with drain and sewer problems. Given time, small clogs can turn into big problems, and sometimes tree roots can shift your sewer line well outside your home, where you might not expect any changes.
What’s a Drain & Sewer Cleaning?
Professional tools and know-how allow us to snake or auger the drainage coming from your toilet fixtures, so you can avoid a sewage backup internally. We can ensure the cleaning is safe and minimize damage to your drainage pipes.
Call Us for Help
When in doubt, every 2-3 years is a great time to clean your sewer line. In that time, a lot of debris can form blockages affecting your drains. At the very least, a sewer inspection is a quick and easy way to avoid disasters in the future.