It's every homeowner's nightmare: sewer problems. If your sewer pipe is clogged, damaged or leaking, you may find yourself in a messy – and unsanitary – situation.
What should you do if your sewer system backs up?
Your first call should be to a plumber. The next steps? Clean up and repair the problem.
What to Do Immediately after a Back Up
Your home's sewer drain line is the drainage piping that starts about two feet outside of your home's foundation wall. This pipe connects to the sewer main.
The goal right now is to find the sewer drain cleanout. If you don't know where it is, it's typically located between about one to two feet away from the home between the home's foundation and the sewer main.
Once you've found it, remove the cap and check for standing water. If there is no water, the backup is located somewhere between your home and the cleanout. That means the repair is your responsibility. If there's standing water, the city's main sewer line is the problem. You'll need to call them immediately to make repairs.
Once you've pinpointed the source of the problem, you can determine whether you need to turn off your home's electricity. Shutting off power to the entire house is typically the safest option, but if you're absolutely sure that the risk is confined to one area, you can turn off power to just that area. Be sure to shut off the water and gas, too.
If there's a chance that wastewater has come into contact with your home's HVAC system, call in a professional for clean-up.
If you haven't done so already, call out a professional plumber to repair the issue (if the city's water main isn't the problem).
Cleaning Up after a Sewer Backup
The next step is the messiest – and least fun – to tackle. The most important thing at this stage is to get things drying. Use dehumidifiers and your home's AC system (if the ductwork has not become contaminated). Keep the windows closed while drying. You don't want to introduce any additional moisture from the outdoors.
Next, get rid of anything that has come in contact with the wastewater, including furniture, rugs and carpeting. Make sure that you're wearing rubber gloves and rubber boots to protect yourself from wastewater contaminants.
Irreplaceable items like photos, books and important papers can be placed in a sealed plastic bag and placed in the freezer. Placing the bag in the freezer will help inhibit mold growth.
Anything that is salvageable should be moved out of the contaminated area. If you can, place these items outdoors on top of a plastic tarp.
If you see any water lines on the wall, you will need to replace the drywall above that point. If you're handy, you can do this job yourself. If not, you'll need to hire a contractor.
Start with an initial disinfecting to stop bacterial growth. Follow up with a deep cleaning agent, and then allow everything to dry out. Once everything is completely dry, you'll need to go through with a real disinfectant. Allow the solution to sit for 15-20 minutes before you start cleaning.
Repairing the Problem
Sewer lines can backup for a number of reasons:
- Tree roots, which can literally grow into the pipes. When this happens, it can cause blockages or holes. In some cases, tree roots can wrap around the pipe and crush it.
- Clogs. When sewer lines are clogged, backups occur. Unless the blockage is cleared, backups will continue.
- Damaged sewer lines. Older homes usually have older plumbing systems. Lines may be cracked, broken or collapsed. Pipes in old homes were built using cast iron and clay, which can rust and break down over time.
No matter the reason for the backup, it's important to hire a professional to repair the issue. A camera inspection can help pinpoint the problem.
"Camera inspections show our technicians what is wrong and how to fix it through a live stream," says . "Closed circuit television (CCTV) are mounted on crawlers taken through the pipes so the professionals aboveground can record exactly what is happening through a monitor. This inspection allows our technicians to inspect possible damages and leaks and determine the best course of action."
Once the source of the problem has been identified, repair work can begin, and you can start going back to life as normal.