How to Prevent Sewer Backup | A Guide to Keeping Your Sanitary Sewer Line Clear

How to prevent sewer backups by Woodard Cleaning & Restoration in St. Louis, Mo.

Every time you wash your hands, rinse a dish, run the washing machine, or flush the toilet, water flows from your sanitary sewer line to a city-wide sewer system, or if you have one, your septic tank. With that being said, a little clog could cause a big problem for every drain and toilet in your home. To avoid a costly plumbing issue, water damage in your home, or expensive replacement, learn how to prevent sewer backup; we’ll show you how it’s done!

Sewer Lines in Older Homes

If you reside in an older home with a clay pipe sanitary service, you’ll need to take extra precautions to prevent clogs and back-ups since these types of pipes are easily penetrated and ruptured by tree roots. Homeowners with clay pipes may want to remove large trees in their yard and embrace proper landscaping techniques to prevent water damage.

Drain Consciously

When it comes to draining, be mindful! As much as possible, avoid putting sticky, bulky, or textured items down your drain. The most common items that cause drain clogs include:

  • Grease
  • Oil
  • Coffee Grounds
  • Egg Shells
  • Animal Fat

Flush Consciously

When it comes to flushing the toilet, or placing contents in the bowl, also be mindful! To avoid clogging your sanitary sewer line, refrain from flushing these items, and items similar to these:

  • Diapers
  • Tampons & Sanitary Napkins
  • Cleaning Wipes
  • Make-Up Remover Towelettes
  • Paper Towels
  • Mass Amounts of Toilet Tissue

Find Your Sanitary Sewer Line

Don’t worry, to locate your sanitary sewer line you don’t have to be a plumbing expert – just be familiar with a few plumbing basics, and you should be fine! Plus, all you need to do is determine the general area, rather than the exact path of the line.

Take a look at your yard: do you have a sewer line cleanout (a capped pipe sticking out of the ground, usually located about 20 feet from your home)? If so, line up the location with your city sewer system, or septic tank; this will determine where the main line runs.

If you do not have a cleanout line, all you’ll need to do is determine where your sewer line exits your home. Generally, sewer lines exit through basements or crawlspaces, so keep that in mind as you’re searching. Once you’ve located the exit path, make note of the flow direction.

Inspect the Ground Above Your Sanitary Line

When you own a home, you don’t just own the inside; the yard is your responsibility too! One huge, and highly-common cause of sewer line blockages is tree roots, rocks, and improper landscaping techniques. While this is a much more common issue for homeowners who live in a home with clay pipes, that  doesn’t mean it can’t happen to homes with other types of piping.

If your yard is packed full of trees, specifically around your sanitary sewer line, you should have the line cleared every two years. For some, this is an easy DIY project. For others, the assistance of a professional plumbing team is a must! Typically, to have your sewer line cleared by a professional, costs run between $100 and $300. Be sure to add that into your homeowner’s budget!

Be Proactive

When you’re getting your sewer line cleared, be sure to ask just how backed up your system was. If it wasn't too bad, you may be able to get away with fewer line clearings. If the line was cluttered, or even clogged, it’s best to schedule more frequent clearings. Additionally, if a clog was found, or you've had other issues with your sanitary sewer line, it is highly-likely that these issues will surface again in the future.

To save time, money, and unnecessary headaches, take a proactive approach to maintaining your sanitary sewer line. If invasive tree roots are the culprit, experiment with root killing products, such as RootX or Root Clear. If your issues aren't specific enough to narrow down to one area or cause, contact a plumber to investigate the issues with professional equipment.