Main Sewer Line Backups

A main sewer line clog can can affect every sink, tub, shower, and toilet in your home.  Or bring business operations to a standstill.  Washing machines, dishwashers… every drain eventually connects up to a single sewer pipe that goes from the building to the city line at the street.  From your perspective it’s the main sewer pipe, but from the city’s perspective its one of countless “lateral sewage lines” from their main on the street.  Whatever you call it, that lateral is your responsibility, not the city’s.  That includes backups caused by tree roots.

A main sewer line clog can occur suddenly, or gradually with your drains slowly running more and more slowly.  But either way you’ll want to take care of it immediately once you realize you have a problem.  In fact, for older buildings or if you’ve had problems before you may want to call in our hydro-jetting service to thoroughly clear out your main sewer line before runoff from the next big rain backs up all your drains.

What Causes Main Sewer Line Backups?

Any obstruction will slow or block water from flowing out to the city main.  Water then backs up in the pipes, often flowing up various drains in your home or business.  That obstruction could be a foreign object flushed down a toilet, accumulated bits of debris, or a buildup of grease and grime.  Accumulated “FOG” (fats, oils, and grease) are often a problem for commercial kitchens.  But tree roots making their way into the pipe is the most common cause of sewer backups.

Sewer pipes can also develop their own problems that promote the build up of debris, grease, and grime… or even collapse to directly cause a blockage or restriction.  That’s especially true for sewer lines more that around 25 years old.  Even if your building is newer than that it may be using an older line from a previous building.  So a video camera inspection could be a good idea if you suspect problems.

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What are the Symptoms?

A clogged sewer line doesn’t necessarily mean toilet overflows or sewage backing up through floor drains.  Here are some more common, and less severe, symptoms.

  • You have more than one “clogged drain” or several sinks, tubs, and/or showers draining slowly.
  • A backup in the washing machine drain (they’re often connected just before the main sewer line).
  • Gurgling sounds from drains, especially after flushing, running the clothes washer, or un-stopping a tub.
  • Water flowing out one drain and into another.

What to Do?

The first step is to keep water use to a minimum until a professional sewer cleaning service can clear the blockage.  If the problem is truly a main sewer line clog a plunger and drain cleaner simply aren’t going to do the job.  For an urgent problem you can locate the clean out for the line and remove the clean out cap — but be prepared for all that backed up drain water and even sewage to come pouring out.

Like most companies we have drain augers for clearing sewage backups, reaching 50 feet or more from the clean out access.  But we also have high-pressure hydro-jetting for absolutely complete drain and sewer cleaning.  But prior to that we’ll use our in-pipe video cameras to determine exactly what and where the obstruction is and assess the condition of the pipe throughout its length.

About Insurance

Most homeowner policies do not cover sewer backups unless it’s so severe that it renders your home uninhabitable (Insurance Information Institute, However it’s relatively inexpensive (on the order of $50 per year) to add, so you might be lucky and happen to have such a “rider.”

Prevention Tips

Prevention is always more convenient and less expensive than a “cure.”  Here are a few tips to keep problems from coming back.

  • Avoid letting cooking fats, oils, or grease go down the drain.
  • Send lots of hot water and some dish-washing detergent down the kitchen sink every few months, especially in winter (cooler temperatures makes fats and grease even more likely to solidify on the inside surfaces of pipes).
  • Let only toilet paper and human wastes go down the toilet.  Nothing else!
  • Have a video camera sewer line inspection performed.  That’s especially important for older buildings and any business with food services.

Hydro Jetting

Also called water jetting or pressure jetting, hydro jetting provides the most thorough and longest-lasting drain and sewer cleaning.  Unlike snakes and augers that may only poke a hole in the blockage this technology uses high-pressure (1,300 to 1,500 psi for drains, 3,500 psi for main sewer lines) and special nozzles.  Jets of water glance off pipe surfaces to safely knock of grease, grime, and other deposits leaving the insides of pipes as clean as when they were new.  It also cuts through some 90% of tree roots without digging up lawns and replacing pipes.

Don’t Wait Until After the Next Storm

Hydro jetting is also one of the best ways to prevent sewage backups by restoring flow to its designed maximum.  Homeowners, and especially business owners definitely benefit from a preventive maintenance plan for sewer lines, storm drains, and all their plumbing.

Choose ASAP Drain Guys & Plumbing

We provide emergency and same-day appointments 24/7 for both residential and commercial properties.  With master plumbers, plumbers, and well-trained technicians we’re an affordable full-service plumbing company ready for even gas line problems.  All work is done by our own employees, never contracted out, and we maintain $1 million in liability insurance.

ASAP Drain Guys & Plumbing is fully licensed, is a member of the BBB and SDCAA, and is approved by the Compliance Depot.