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What Do I Do If I Have a Clogged Sewer Line?

John Turpin is our resident home service repair expert here at Service Direct. He’s got the knowledge and experience to help homeowners like you make sense of most home repair issues. And with Service Direct, we connect you with top-tier service professionals to help with any repairs needed.

Learn Different Ways to Unclog a Clogged Sewer Line

Your sewer line keeps clogging and you’re tempted to take your plunger to deal with it.  But a plunger or a snake doesn’t always work when it comes to a clogged sewer line. Sometimes, the issue is so much worse and can be costly if not handled properly. In this case, it may be better to call for professional help.

This doesn’t mean there is nothing you can do. Before calling a plumber, you can try a few tricks to clear the main sewer line and restore your sewer system’s function. First, look for the signs and then identify the possible cause of the clog. Once you have an idea why your sewer line keeps clogging, you can choose the right trick to try and fix it.

On that note, let’s talk about what causes a clogged sewer line first.

Possible Causes of a Clogged Sewer Line

A clogged sewer line could be due to a number of reasons. Some of them are:

Oil, Fats, and Grease

It’s a common bad habit of many people to pour grease, fats, and oil down the drain. They do this without the knowledge that once this hot liquid hits cold pipes it will solidify and create blockages. The problem is these blockages are difficult to remove and often have to be jetted out, which is a relatively expensive service.

Tree Roots

Tree roots are often the main culprit of clogged sewer lines in most houses, especially older homes. Sewer lines are moist and warm, which attracts the tree roots and causes them to enter the pipes through loose joints and cracks. The roots continue to grow there from the plentiful nutrients available, effectively creating a blockage in the sewer line.

Hygiene Products and Other Foreign Objects

Many foreign objects somehow end up down the drain and plumbing which can lead to blockages. Examples of these are paper towels, flushable wipes, hygiene products like pads and tampons, diapers, and more. They get stuck in the pipes, collecting debris and causing your sewer line to clog.

Learn the causes of common sewer line clogs and let our resident home repair expert John Turpin give you some tips on how to diagnose and fix these sewer line issues when they happen.

Improper Garbage Disposal Use

If you haven’t been using your garbage disposal properly, that could also cause a build-up in the piping. There could be scraps down the garbage disposal that create blockages, causing a slow-draining sewer line. Examples of items that can clog the disposal and the sewer include eggshells, bones, coffee grounds, and vegetable scraps.

Old Plumbing and Sewer Lines

Old sewer lines and plumbing are also possible causes of clogging. It happens in older homes where the piping system hasn’t been replaced. The old piping eventually cracks until the piping system breaks down entirely. Even if you have a newer piping system, if the connections are old or poorly made, it can cause a clogged sewer line.

How to Diagnose a Sewer Line Clog Repair
Sewer line cleanout pipes provide access for cameras and snakes to diagnose sewer line clogs.

How to Diagnose a Clogged Sewer Line?

Diagnosis first involves looking out for signs of a clogged main line. Inspect your sewer line for signs of foul smells, and gurgling sounds coming from the toilet. Check out the drains as well, confirming whether it is draining slowly or has low water pressure. Other indicators of a clogged sewer line include water in strange places and sewage backup.

Once you notice these signs, the next step is to determine the exact cause. This is done by exploring all the different parts of your sewer line, including inside it. Professional plumbers do this through camera inspection. A professional comes to your house, runs a video line through the pipes, and locates the exact location of the blockage.

After diagnosis, the next step is unclogging the sewer line.

How to Fix a Sewer Line Clog Tips
Professional plumbers work with fixing clogged sewer lines.

How to Fix a Clogged Sewer Line

There are various ways to unclog a sewer line. Ideally, you should let an experienced plumber handle fixing a clogged sewer line, including the diagnosis. But if you were able to locate the blockage without professional help and find out it’s not too complicated, you may try the DIY approach. If it doesn’t work, you can always call for a professional.

But before doing anything, be sure to shut off your water first. This is to release the sewer line pressure. If there’s a main sewer line clog, releasing the screw-on cap should also help with releasing built-up pressure. Once you are done, you can now call for a plumber’s assistance or try any of the following ways to clear a clogged main sewer line.

Plumbing Auger

You can use a plumbing auger to break or remove the clog. Try snaking it down the sewer line and see if it works. However, do remember that it’s often already too late to use a standard drain auger in a clogged main sewer line. You will likely need something more powerful, like a truck-mounted or power-assisted professional auger.

High-Pressure Water Jet

One of the tools that professional plumbers use to unclog sewer lines is a high-pressure water jet. A water hose is connected to pressurized water, which helps break down debris and remove the stoppage inside the pipe. The water is strong enough to pulverize any built-up debris as well as clean it out of the piping.

Non-Chemical Cleaner

There is also a non-chemical cleaner that can be used by environment-conscious homeowners. Baking soda combined with vinegar and lemon juice is a common home remedy that falls under this category. All you need to do is mix these ingredients and pour them down the drain. Let it sit for an hour or so then pour running hot water down the drain to break down the clog.

Chemical Cleaner

You may also use a chemical cleaner to unclog sewer lines. Copper sulfate is one of the most common chemical cleaners plumbers use for clogged sewer lines. It’s an easy home remedy, effective for types of sewer line blockages. The issue is it can be a safety hazard, so be sure that you follow the guidelines and use the right safety attire.

Sewer Drain Clog FAQs

What Are the Signs of a Clogged Water Line?

One obvious sign of a clogged water line is having more than one fixture that is clogged. You may also have a clogged water line if you hear odd sounds from plumbing fixtures, or notice it showing unusual behaviors, particularly at the house’s lowest level. Slow drains, water flowing out of the cleanout, and the toilet’s water level rising and falling for no reason are all signs of a clogged sewer line. There may also be exterior issues like water puddles or your lawn showing yellow and brown patches.

Should You Call a Professional Plumber for a Clogged Sewer Line Problem?

If your main drain is clogged, we suggest calling a professional plumber as soon as possible. A clogged sewer line is an emergency and leads to more serious problems like water damage if not addressed right away. It’s best to let a professional handle this as they are more capable of diagnosing the problem. Professionals will likely perform a drain inspection and if a clog on the main sewer is uncovered, a drain cleaning will be done promptly to resolve the issue.

Does a Home Warranty Cover Cleaning Out a Clogged Sewer Line?

Some home warranty plans do include coverage for the main sewer line, but most don’t. Most plans also don’t cover the ensuing damage of a clogged sewer line. It’s important that you read through all the terms and conditions outlined in your existing home warranty insurance. If you are concerned about the possibility of a clogged sewer line, getting a home warranty plan with this particular coverage is a good idea.

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