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Did you know that a problem with a backed-up sewer can cause thousands of dollars' worth of damage to your furniture, walls, electrical systems, and floors? It can be a real hassle to deal with this problem, not to mention that smell.
If you're having problems with your sewer, then chances are you're trying to figure out how to fix a backup sewer issue. You may be asking yourself, "Can I fix this on my own?" Or, "Do I need to call a plumber to fix this problem, and how much will that cost?"
It's stressful to be dealing with this problem and trying to find the right solution. Maybe you've already tried a few fixes, and they've only made things worse. Maybe you're too anxious to do anything at all.
That's why we've put together this article. You can learn about the different issues that might be causing that bad sewer smell or making it so you can't shower comfortably. We'll also give you tips on how to fix the problem and tell you when you might need a professional to fix it.
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How to Fix a Backup Sewer Problem
If you want to learn how to fix a backup sewer problem, you first need to learn what the causes of the backup might be. Once you've determined that, you'll know if (and how) you can fix the problem—or if you'll need to call in a plumber.
Reasons for the Backup
One of the reasons your sewer might be backed up is because of a clog. A clog occurs when some material gets stuck in the pipe, which blocks the flow of water. They don't usually occur overnight but slowly build up over time.
Clogs can be caused by a variety of materials, including grease from cooking that's hardened over time, hair from showering, pads or tampons, baby or facial wipes, and toys. (If you have kids, it could definitely be toys.)
Another reason for backups is main blockages in your local sewer system. These are just like clogs, but instead of occurring in your home, they occur in the sewer system that's run by your county, city, town, or state.
If this has happened, some signs are that your entire sewer system throughout your house isn't working (instead of just in one area, which means it's a problem in your home).
Finally, another reason for the backup is tree roots. If you have trees in your front yard or behind the house, then their roots can slowly grow beneath your home over time, damaging the plumbing pipes beneath it.
If there's a blockage in your local sewer system or a tree root that has taken out your home's sewer pipes, then you'll have to get in touch with a professional or with your local sewage administrators.
However, if it's a clog in your home, it's worth trying out a few fixes before calling a plumber.
If you're having a problem with your sewer at home, there are a few different fixes you should try out. The first is using your plunger. Even though you might be used to only using it for toilet blockages, it can actually be used on any drain and easily fix the problem.
Another way to fix the problem is by using an auger. Though you may not have one at home, you can buy one. Buy the hand-cranked type, and stick it into the pipe, reaching the clog and destroying it by putting it deep into the pipe.
Finally, you can use a liquid drain cleaner. If you're not able to fix the issue with the plunger, then this chemical substance can break apart whatever's causing the clog. Don't forget, though: you can't use liquid drain cleaner on toilet blockages as this creates a leak!
When using a liquid drain cleaner, remember to wear gloves and any other protective gear while you're pouring it in. Follow instructions, so you don't risk getting toxins on your skin when you shower the next morning!
How to Fix a Sewer Backing up Into a Ditch
If you have a sewer backing up into a ditch, then this means that the water from your septic tank is leaking. This can be unsafe, putting polluted water out into the ground.
However, it can be difficult to spot this issue since so many of your pipes are underground. If there's a ditch near your property, though, you might be able to spot it by seeing if your septic pipe tank is spilling there.
Another option is to look beneath the manhole.
However, it can be dangerous to look into the manhole, both because it's difficult to lift and because it can be quite a drop down to the sewer system. If you find yourself in this position, we recommend calling in a plumber to deal with this problem.
What to Do if You Notice a Bad Sewer Smell
A bad sewer smell can be a nasty problem. Not only is it a sign that something's gone wrong with your sewer, but it's also a problem that negatively impacts your everyday life by making your bathroom, kitchen, or whole house stink.
If this is happening to you, then it isn't a simple clog.
Chances are, your entire sewage system is clogged up, and it's raw sewage causing the smell. Aside from the nasty smell, you can tell this is going off if your toilets aren't flushing or your sinks aren't emptying out quickly or fully.
Because it's raw sewage you're dealing with, it's not safe to fix this problem yourself. Instead, get a professional to come in and fix it.
How to Know if My Sewer Needs Service
You may be wondering to yourself, "How do I know if my sewer needs service?" Generally speaking, unless you're dealing with a simple clog, you'll probably need to call in an expert plumber.
And if you tried to unclog a simple clog and weren't able to, then you'll need help with that too.
A few other tips for what to do before calling someone to help you out include:
Pouring boiling water down the drain to clear the clog
Pulling the clog out yourself with your hand
Using a hook to get it out
Putting in vinegar and baking soda to clear the clog
If you decide to do any of these, remember to be safe. If the clog has caused a flood in your home, turn off all electronics before dealing with it. Put on the right clothes, such as a sturdy pair of boots, if you're going to walk through sewage water, and wear a mask and goggles.
Even then, considering that there are health risks associated with being around sewage—such as Hepatitis A, salmonella, and dysentery—we recommend a professional to deal with any sewage flooding issues you may have in your home.
A Few Extra Tips
Here are a few extra tips for dealing with a clog in your home. First, remember that you can use Coca Cola or Pepsi to dissolve a clog. Because of the dissolving agents in it, it will eventually break apart the clog.
Another tip: to avoid having clogs in the future, replace your pipes with plastic pipes.
They're resistant and strong, and if you're constantly dealing with blockages, it's time to get your pipes replaced anyway. While this is pricey, it'll save you money (and headaches) in the future.
If you can't afford that, just remember to be careful about what you put down the drain.
If you notice a clog starting to form (the water takes just a few extra seconds to drain, for example), then destroy it before it gets so bad that you need to bring in a plumber.
Need More Help With Your Home?
Do you need more help with your home? Maybe it's not just clogs you want to deal with, but also issues with the heating not working properly or needing a new gas line installed.
Whether you want to know how to fix a backup sewer problem or something else, here at 1-800-Plumber +Air, we can help. Visit our plumbing services page to learn more about our services.