Everyone has had a single drain clog once in a while. You plunge it or use a little drain cleaner, and the problem rights itself quite quickly. But what do you do when every drain in your home stops working, and sewage starts backing up into your toilets? Unfortunately, this is a sign of a pretty serious plumbing issue: a blocked sewer main. Here's a closer look.
What's a blocked sewer main?
There's a large pipe that gathers all of the waste and waste water from your home and delivers it to the public sewer system. Usually, that pipe is about 8 or 10 inches in diameter, and it runs perpendicularly from the street to your home. When the line gets clogged, every drain and toilet in your home stops draining since the main sewer line collects waste from all of them.
What causes a blocked main sewer line?
Usually, blocked main sewer lines are caused at least in part by tree roots. The roots grow into the pipe, initially through a small crack or fissure, and then grow larger over time. Since the roots are rough, they grab onto small debris that comes down with drain water, including paper, hair, and food particles. Over time, the mass grows larger and larger until it blocks the line completely.
Sometimes, blocked sewer lines are caused by pouring grease down the drain or by a child's toy that gets flushed down the toilet.
What can you do about a blocked sewer line?
Having all of your drains fail at once is considered a plumbing emergency, so call your plumber (or an after-hours service if it is late) immediately. Your plumber will come out and send a special camera made for sewer inspections down into your sewer line to assess the clog. Then, depending on the severity of the clog and what is causing it, they may recommend any one of these remedies:
Keep in mind that many blocked sewer lines start showing symptoms before they result in a total blockage. If your drains have been a bit slow or there are odors coming from your sinks, contact your plumber for a sewer inspection before things get any worse.
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