Okay, let’s be honest: your sewer line is probably one of those things in your home that you don’t really think much about… until something goes wrong. But, what does something going “wrong” even entail with a sewer line? What do you even look for?
In this blog post, we’ll break down both the causes of sewer line woes and the signs you need to look out for to indicate that you need plumbing repair.
If you suspect that your Bay Area home has sewer line issues, contact our team here at ABC Cooling, Heating & Plumbing. We offer emergency line inspection and repair services in Hayward, San Jose, and Oakland.
To get started, give us a call at (510) 471-8181 or contact us online.
Read our other Plumbing 101 articles:
Causes of sewer line issues
Here are three of the most common causes of sewer line problems:
- Your sewer line can clog if the line is obstructed by what’s popularly known as a “grease-berg”. This is a collection of grease, oils, fats, and other material—typically poured down the kitchen sink—that collects in a physical mass, until it eventually clogs the entire 6-inch line. (Read: Here’s an example of what this looks like on a larger scale!)
- Your sewer line can also clog if obstructed by trash. This is why it’s not recommended that you throw anything that isn’t biodegradable down the kitchen sink or toilet. We’ve seen q-tips form the basis for a major clog!
- Your sewer line can crack if a tree root—searching for water—breaks into the pipe and begins to fill it. More on this in a minute!
4 Signs Of Sewer Line Problems
Here are the four big signs of sewer line troubles:
Simultaneous drain clogging
Think of your home’s plumbing like a river that is fed by multiple smaller streams. If you were to dam one of those creeks, it might not impact the larger river all that much, and the river would continue to flow downstream.
However, if you dammed the large river, the water from the entire system would have nowhere to go, and would start to rise above the banks. What’s more, that water would get pushed back into the creeks, and they’d flood, too.
A single clogged sink or kitchen drain is like the stream in the analogy. You might need our drain cleaning services, but it probably doesn’t mean you have a sewer line clog.
A sewer line clog or blockage is the damming of the river, in that your entire home’s plumbing is going to backup. If your sewer line clogs, all of the drains in your home will clog simultaneously. That’s when you need to drop everything and give us a call for emergency plumbing repair.
Wet ground above the line
A cracked sewer line that leaks can be a major problem. Before we get started, think about the answers to the following:
- When was your home built? If your home was built in the 1980s or later, it likely has a PVC sewer line. PVC can crack or collapse when put under pressure (more on that in a second), but with no outside duress, it should last for the lifetime of the home. Older materials—such as cast-iron or clay—are durable, but don’t have quite the lifespan of PVC.
- Where does your sewer line run? Find your sewer cleanout lines and determine where the sewer line runs from your home to the municipal sewer. For many homes, the line runs to the street.
- What’s above the sewer line? Now that you know where the line runs, what’s above it? Take note of any trees, bushes, or other yard foliage.
Trace the sewer line’s location and look for any abnormal “wet” spots on the ground, when there has been no rain and there’s no irrigation for water to pool there. If it’s right above the line, this may be a sign that your sewer line has a leak.
Trees or bushes above the line
If there’s a tree or bush right above or near the line, you should be extra wary. Over time, tree roots dig deep in search of water. Roots can destroy or block sewer lines even without a leak, but a sewer leak acts as a positive feedback loop for the tree. As they find water, the roots snarl around the line, breaking into it.
Tree roots are a common cause of sewer line clogs here in the Bay Area. Even a tree that’s feet away from the line can have roots that find their way to it.
Sewer odors outside and inside
If you step outside and your yard smells like a garbage heap, that’s a pretty good sign that something is wrong. A cracked sewer line will emit sewer gases, which smell about as great as you might assume.
Sewer smells inside the home could indicate the same problem, or they could indicate that the sewer trap plugs aren’t doing their job. Either way, we recommend giving us a call. We’ll diagnose whether you need your traps fixed, or if the issue is more serious.
Schedule a sewer inspection
All of the signs above are good indicators that something is wrong with your sewer line. However, the only way to be 100% sure that’s there a blockage—and to know what exactly is causing it—is to schedule a sewer line inspection from our team here at ABC.
The best way to see a clog is to, well, actually see it. We have specialized cameras that we place on lines to go into your sewer line and identify the problem before digging things up. Depending on the type of clog, there may be a way to clear it without opening up the line.
For service in the Bay Area, turn to the experts at ABC
At ABC Cooling, Heating & Plumbing, we know our way around sewer lines and the problems homeowners face. Our experienced, expert plumbers are plumbing repair experts, and we offer emergency service in much of the Bay Area, including Hayward, San Jose, and Oakland.
If you need emergency service or you need a sewer camera inspection, give us a call at (510) 471-8181 or contact us online.