Is that slow drain innocent or could it be a sign of a bigger issue? Our plumbing expert offers tips for telling the difference.
Oftentimes the thought of a clogged drain or sewer line brings up toilets and sinks that could use a drain cleaning or plunge. However, that’s not always the case as your drainage pipes run into your main sewer line located on the outside of your home.
Occasionally these sewer lines will get clogged and even collapsed, leaving you with thousands of dollars in repair costs and no drainage capability until you pay to repair it. However, you can take preventive measures to ensure that you catch a damaged sewer line before it collapses.
Here are the signs of a collapsed sewer line:
When the toilet backs up, your bathroom gets soaked in wastewater. It’s disgusting, and you’re more likely to call a plumber than if the sink or the bathtub backup. The truth is that frequent backups, especially those in the lower regions of your home, are signs your main sewer line is clogged or collapsed.
You’ll likely notice it first in any plumbing you have in the basement as these would be closest to the main sewer line. What happens is the water from all the other drains converges into the main sewer line. If the pipe is collapsed or clogged, then the water has nowhere to go.
It then reverses and uses the path of least resistance. That’s likely the lowest drain in the basement.
If the pipe is collapsed and there is access to the dirt surrounding the pipe, the dirt will slowly absorb the water, and the water recedes. Since the pipe is still collapsed, the water frequently backs up over and over again.
Since the major drainage points are usually in the basement, you may not even notice it, but if it isn’t taken care of it gets worse and worse.
More than One Fixture Clogs
Since all the drainage connects to the main sewer line, when it collapses, it impacts every drain. If the water has nowhere to go, then multiple fixtures can clog or have backups. For example, if you take a bath and the water doesn’t drain quickly, and then your toilet starts bubbling, then it could be water or air rushing into the toilet.
It could also manifest in your bath not draining followed by the toilet, bathroom sink, and other drain outlets. If the collapse is major, then plunging the toilet may not work in removing the water.
Instead, the collapsed pipe either drains the water slowly or not at all. This is an obvious sign, and the plumber uses a camera to view the pipe and find where the clog or collapse occurred. The location is a major factor in the cost of fixing the problem.
There are many causes of the collapse or clog from pipe corrosion, grease, and other detritus collecting in the pipe. Tree roots can also grow into the pipe, breaking it and causing a collapse. Since this happens underground, it can be a tremendous undertaking to replace or repair the pipe.
Your Plumbing Does What It Wants
When you main sewer pipe clogs or collapses, it can impact your drains in surprising and disturbing ways. The drainage pipes in your home are a complicated tapestry of connections, bends, and turns.
When your sewer line clogs, it can cause drains to emit strange sounds, odors, or bubble up. You might think your toilet is haunted, but it’s just air rushing back to the surface.
If your toilet suddenly starts bubbling and does it often, then run the bathroom faucet for a bit and see if continues unabated. You might also notice a gurgling sound coming from the toilet or bathtub drain, which is another clear sign that something isn’t right.
You also might notice an odor coming from the drains. This is because waste and sewage aren’t draining properly from the toilet, so the smell can come rushing back through the other drains. It may not be a full sewage backup into your bathtub, but you’ll smell something isn’t right.
Sewage backups into other drains are not only smelly and disgusting but also a health hazard to your family. Wastewater teems with bacteria and other pollutants that cause illness. The diseases it spreads can be run the gambit from a minor cold to serious health problems.
Your Lawn Is Wet
Since the main sewage line is outside, it can cause changes in your lawn. When a pipe corrodes or breaks from a tree root, it causes dirt from the outside can rush in and water now has access to the outside world.
When you flush or drain water from dishes, etc., it flows down the pipes and into the main sewer line. When the water hits the collapsed area, the surrounding dirt absorbs the water. Slowly over time, the ground saturates, and you’ll notice the lawn above the collapse soaked with water or even have standing puddles.
If you have standing water in your lawn caused by the pipe collapse, the plumber will need to dig down to the collapsed pipe to fix it.
The Grass is Growing
One of the common side effects of having an area of your lawn saturated with water is the grass in that area grows faster than in other areas. It might start out slowly as water seeps to the surface, but eventually, you’ll see a dramatic increase in growth over the collapsed sewer line.
You’ll mow the grass, but that area continues to grow faster. If the water puddles, then the grass in that area can become oversaturated and will die. It takes time for this to happen, so if it gets to the point where the grass dies off or if the area of fast growing grass gets bigger, then it could be a major project to fix the collapsed pipe.