What Causes Sewer Backup in Old Homes, and How Can You Prevent It?

Although quite a charm, older homes often have problems such as sewer backup. Sadly, these problems are often discovered once something goes wrong. It pays to understand an older home’s plumbing system, from the materials used to the design and common issues that can occur.

Acquiring drain cleaning tips ideal for your home will also prevent messy issues and a costly sewer backup. Here are the leading causes of sewer backup and how to avoid the problems.

Flushing Non-Flushable Items

The entire family is responsible for what goes down the drain and into the sewer. Many people assume that because something can go down the drain, it should. Large items such as diapers, feminine hygiene products, paper towels, and even some flushable wipes should not go down the toilet. These items can cause a clog in the sewer line, eventually leading to a backup. It is best to dispose of these items in the trashcan.

Additionally, some drain cleaning products are too harsh, leading to cracks, holes, and leaks in the sewer line. These allow tree roots to enter and cause a blockage. Use only mild drain cleaners that are biodegradable and safer for your home’s plumbing. If a clog does occur, use a plunger or a plumber’s snake. Better still, contact a professional.

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Tree Root Infiltration

Older sewer lines are often made of clay, making them more susceptible to tree root infiltration. Once tree roots enter the sewer line, they grow and cause a blockage. There are two ways to prevent tree roots from infiltrating the sewer line:

  • Cut the tree roots that are close to the sewer line.
  • Install a root barrier around the sewer line.

Note that leaks around the drainage attract the roots as they seek water. Periodically inspect the drainage for leaks by looking for wet spots on the ground or moldy patches on walls. Other signs are slow drains and gurgling toilets.

Worn Out or Broken Sewer Line

Your home’s sewer line will eventually wear out and break, especially if made of clay. It can cause the entire sewer system to fail, resulting in a backup. Prevent this by having the sewer line inspected and repaired as necessary. You should also have it replaced if it is more than 50 years old.

Opt for more durable options such as PVC or copper. Additionally, ensure the sewer line slopes downwards so water and waste can flow toward the main sewer. If it needs to be appropriately sloped, have a plumber fix it.

Poor Maintenance Practices

Properly maintain your sewer line to prevent a backup. The effort includes regularly cleaning the gutters, clearing the drainage, and inspecting the sewer line for leaks or blockages. Pour hot water down all drains twice a year to melt any accumulated grease. You can also flush the sewer line with a hose, removing any built-up debris. Other measures include:

  • Putting a grate over the drain to catch hair and other materials that cause clogs
  • Avoid planting trees or shrubs too close to the sewer line
  • Regularly inspect your plumbing for leaks

Floating Debris

During heavy rains, gutters and drainpipes can overflow, leading to flooding. This often pushes floating debris, such as twigs, leaves, and even garbage, into the sewer line, causing a blockage that leads to a backup.

Prevent this by regularly cleaning the gutters and downspouts. If you expect heavy downfall, install a backwater valve. It prevents water from flowing back into your home in the event of a sewer line backup.

Grease and Oil Buildup

Pouring grease and oil down the drain is a leading cause of a clogged sewer line. The oil will solidify in the sewer line, causing a blockage. Dispose of grease and oil in the trash.

To prevent a grease buildup, wipe all pots, pans, and plates with a paper towel before washing them. Periodically pour hot water, detergent, and baking soda down the drain to remove accumulated grease.

Lack of Ventilation

Sewer gases can build up if there’s inadequate ventilation. These gases are not only unpleasant but dangerous, especially in winter. To ventilate the home, open all doors and windows and install a sewer gas vent. Signs of a sewer backup are:

  • A foul smell in the home or yard
  • Wet spots on the ground or walls
  • Moldy patches on walls
  • Slow drains
  • Gurgling toilets

Symptoms of sewer gas poisoning are nausea, headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. If you experience these symptoms, immediately leave home and call a plumber.

Even with proper ventilation, sewer gases can still enter the home if there is a problem with the drainage system. The problem is usually due to a blockage or leak. If you detect a foul smell, check the drains for leaks and have a plumber inspect and repair the sewer line as soon as possible.

Never Ignore Sewer Issues

Sewer backups are a severe problem that can cause extensive damage to your home. Always replace the system on time if you suspect it’s too old, and follow good maintenance practices. If you experience a backup, immediately call a plumber to fix the problem.

Home Base Project Team
Home Base Project Team
At The Home Base Project, we offer practical, real-life tips and inspiration about DIY, decorating and gardening. The Home Base Project provide the best information about home renovation and design, connecting home design enthusiasts and home professionals across the world.