• Geoff Burke

3 Signs Of An Impending Sewer Backup



Welcome to another episode of “How NOT to Call the Plumber!”. Today, we are going to talk about what to look for as the early signs of a sewer backup. I know, it’s off brand, but if you experience any of these listed below, it’s indeed time to call the plumber. Catching the early signs of a sewer backup early is one of the biggest keys to preventing a full-on sewage backup!


Here is a typical scenario:


John and Jane live in a house that is near it’s 100th birthday. It’s a good house; John says it has “good bones”. Of course, it has it’s issues, but John and Jane take care of them as they come along. One evening John goes down to the basement to do a load of laundry (this is how we know the story is fiction; John doesn’t even know how to work the washing machine). While he’s down there, he notices a bit of a sewage smell from the floor drain. Not thinking much of it, he goes to use the washroom. When he flushes the toilet, it does a bit of a “burp” as the water goes down the drain. Later that evening, as John and Jane go to bed, they hear some thunder in the distance. Again, not thinking much of it, they go to sleep. The next morning, John and Jane wake up to a stinky, very wet basement.


So what happened here? John was seeing a few of the signs of a partially blocked sewer, but didn’t realize it. Everything probably would have been fine for a few more days or even weeks, but then came the rain. Because John and Jane live in such an old house, they still have the downspouts from the roof connected to the sewer system. When all of that rain water came rushing through the drains, the partially blocked sewer just couldn’t keep up with the amount of water flowing through it and voila, flooded basement! Now John and Jane’s weekend is ruined by insurance adjusters and emergency restoration companies cutting out drywall and blowing huge fans all over the place. If only John knew what to look for, this could have been avoided!


Don’t be like John.


Here are 3 signs that you are in the beginning stages of a sewer backup:


1. Sewage Smell from Basement Floor Drains/Showers/Bathtubs


Under the ground, these drains all have P-Traps (the same U-shaped pipe you see under your sinks). If there has been a partial backup, often dirty wastewater will settle in these P-traps and give off a foul smell.


2. “Burping” Toilets


If you flush the toilet in the basement and it gives off a “burp”, it might be time to call someone in. When the toilet does this, it’s because as you flush, the water going down the drain is displacing air. Usually, it will “push” that air out of the way and keep going. Because there is a blockage further down the line, that air has nowhere to go and will subsequently show up as a “burp” in the basement toilet.


3. Slow Drains in Multiple Locations


Multiple slow drains in the basement are another sign of an impending sewer backup. If just one drain is acting up, it is possible that it is an issue exclusively with that drain rather than the whole system, but if you start to notice slow drains in multiple locations, it may be time to call the plumber.


So you’ve been a diligent homeowner and noticed some of these issues. You’ve gone ahead and called the plumber. After taking a look at the issue themselves, the plumber will likely want to send their snake down the drain and follow up with a camera inspection. It is the only way to see what is happening in the drains as well as what the next steps should be to make sure it doesn’t happen again!


That is it for this week! If you’ve stuck along and read this far, I applaud (and thank) you! I hope you all have a great weekend and enjoy the last bit of warm weather while we still have it. See you next time!

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