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Sewer Backup Causes: What’s Causing your Backup?

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Sewer backups can be caused by a lot of things - and they are a huge, and sometimes, completely unexpected, headache for virtually every homeowner. Sewer backups can cause a great deal of damage to your home, but not every instance will be the same. Unless you are able to properly identify the cause of your backup, it’s impossible to fix the problem. In this post, several common sewer backup causes are identified, along with tips for diagnosing the cause.

Common Sewer Backup Causes

Clogged or Blocked Sewer Pipes

Often times, a sewer backup is the result of a simple clog or backup within your home’s pipes.

Sewer clogs are easily preventable with maintenance and proper care. Proper use of your pipes and drains will go a long way toward preventing clogged and blocked sewer pipes. Some quick tips:

  • Avoid pouring grease down the drain. Grease will solidify in your pipes, creating blockages in your pipes.
  • Non-flushable means non-flushable. Items such as diapers, paper towels and facial tissues can all create backups within your pipes.

During our sewer repair projects at PipeSpy, we’ve found many items blocking pipes. For more information on these items, visit our What Not to Flush FAQ.

Tree Roots

Tree roots commonly cause problems for sewer lines. Trees and other plants seek the water and other nutrients found in your sewer line. Once the tree roots are able to penetrate your pipes, they often grow and create blockages within your pipes.

Tree root blockage is especially common in older homes. Many older homes in Oakland, Berkeley and the Bay Area use clay pipes for their sewer line, and these pipes can be susceptible to cracking. Tree or other plant roots can exploit these cracks, no matter how minimal they may seem. Additionally, clay pipes have a very porous surface; even without cracking, tree roots can attach to the surface and cause issues down the road.

These blockages are prevalent during droughts or dry seasons – much like the one California is currently facing. Because the ground is extremely dry, trees and other plants seek out alternative water sources - your sewer line may be the nearest alternative source.

Damaged Sewer Pipes

An obvious reason for sewer backups could be damaged, broken, or even collapsed sewer lines. Earth movement or insufficient ground support under your pipes can cause damage. Any one of these problems will lead to big issues for your home’s sewer line.

While these issues can happen to any home, this type of problem is common with older homes. Older homes typically use clay or cast iron pipes, and these types of piping don’t hold up as long as HDPE piping.

Sewer Sanitary Main Blockage

In some instances, you may not find the cause of your sewer backup in your home at all. Some sewer backups are caused by a city sewer main blockage.

Although these are usually detected and treated before they become an issue, a sewer main blockage could impact residential and commercial sewer lines in the area. Here at PipeSpy, we have identified sewer main blockage on occasion; customers with this issue will work directly with their city to fix the problem.

Heavy Rainfall

Unfortunately, there is a limited capacity for every public sewer. Heavy rainfall, especially for a prolonged period of time, can cause major problems for sewer lines. If the rainfall exceeds the capacity of the sewer line, the excess water coming into the line may find its way to your sewer line.

Diagnosing the Cause of Your Sewer Backup

Often times, the cause of your sewer backup is difficult to diagnose. Homeowners do not have the proper equipment or experience to properly diagnose the problem. In these cases, it’s best to work with a professional to properly identify the reason for your backup.

It’s also important to regularly schedule a sewer pipe inspection. We recommend checking your sewer line every 4-5 years to make sure your line isn’t damaged in any way and your pipes are clear of debris clogs and blockages.

Periodic inspections, proper care for your pipes and early maintenance to manage small pipe breaks or root intrusion will save you money and time, and will keep your home’s pipes in good condition for years to come.

Need help clearing out your backed up sewer? Pipe Spy is here to help. We've serviced the Bay Area for over 17 years, and all work comes with our three-year service warranty. Contact us today to request a quote.