The Stages of Clogged Pipes
Stage One. You lack outdoor drainage.
People don't often think of their lawns flooding as a sign of weak pipe drainage. The two are completely separate issues, right? This flooding brings its own set of problems. Without proper drainage on your property, you can have flooding in the home and a weakened foundation. Those are reasons enough to slope your lawn away from the house and fix your outdoor drainage, but here's another: heavy rain builds up debris in sewer lines. This can result in lines getting blocked and your pipes beginning to back up.
Stage Two. Debris is clogging your lines.
The first signs of this are your sinks and tubs taking longer to drain. This could be because of build up in the home from things like hair clogs, but take special note if it's been raining a lot or if it's happening across the home. These both point to a larger, property-wide problem: debris in the pipes.
Stage Three. Sewage backs up into the home.
When a sewer line is blocked, it has to go somewhere. If the only place left for it to go is back up into your home, that's exactly where it will go. This can result in nasty, stinking sewage oozing back up your drains. The first place you'll notice this is typically tub and shower drains. They lie lowest to the ground. This cuts out being able to take a shower since there's no place for the water to drain. It also means that you'd be sloshing around ankle-deep in sewage as the shower water mixes with the sewage backing up out of your drain.
Stage Four. Pipes start to burst.
If sewage is backing up into your drains, this means an immense amount of pressure is being placed on your pipes. That sewage wants to go anywhere else but up. So long as the pipes are intact, the only place it can go is up, but once that pressure builds and builds, it will burst your pipes. And it will burst them with sewage. An added risk is that burst pipes can contaminate the clean water coming into your home, meaning you won't be able to drink your freshwater either.
What You Can Do
Keep an eye out: There are a number of warning signs that let you tackle this problem early on, in stage one before it gets worse. Keep an eye on how well your sinks, tubs, etc. are draining after heavy rain. Look for water pooling on your property to assess whether the rainfall is overwhelming the environment's ability to absorb it. Keep an eye out for trees that fall, as they can damage pipes through impact or even tear them up as their roots come out. You might also cut back on the amount of water you use during particularly heavy rainfalls.
Have a plumbing inspection: It's a good idea to have a plumber come out after heavy rainfall, or if you suspect your drains are draining more slowly. A plumber can run a sewer inspection camera down your sewer line. Often, tree roots break pipes, debris clogs them, or seepage starts happening in older pipes down the line. Plumbers run a video line down the length of the sewer pipe. They can inspect from the inside out for any damage, breakage, or corrosion. Not only does this identify any current damage, but it can also help warn you of the risks for any future damage.
Root-killing solution: Sometimes, the answer is as simple as a root-killing solution. This is flushed down any affected pipes and can kill roots that have grown into pipes. It's an easy solution for problems before they get too large.
Mechanical sewer cleaning: The next step up is a sewer cleaning machine that uses blades to remove roots from pipes. Pipes such as plastic or cast iron can handle this with ease, but this solution may not work with thin-walled pipes.
Tree removal: The next step up is only for a particularly bad problem, and may involve root cutting or tree removal from the surface. This involves going in from the top and replacing the pipes fully. Most situations don't require this, but it is the most complete solution for older pipes where the problem is too far gone.
The most important thing to remember is this: call early. It's straightforward for a plumber to run a small camera down your sewer line and look for problems. This helps protect you in the future, too, since they can identify potential weak spots, pressure points, corrosion, and future problems before they happen.
Wait too long, and it becomes much harder and more expensive to handle. Too late means the debris is harder to remove or tree roots are too set in for root killer to do its work. Too late means you ignored initial drainage problems and you're at the point where sewage will start backing up into your home. This is no one’s idea of a good time!
It's far easier, less stressful, more hygienic, and less expensive to have a sewer line inspection now when you're seeing the very first symptoms. Need help to fix a problem - big or small? Give Iredell County’s most trusted plumbers a call.