Five Warning Signs of a Sewer Line Clog

sewer line clog

Sewer line clogs sometimes seem to occur out of the blue without any advance tip-off. Soon enough, however, toxic, disgusting sewage flows backwards out of the sewer pipe and into your home, eliminating all doubt about what’s happening. In other cases, blockages in the sewer line form more gradually, providing advance warning signs that severe distress and expense are on the way. Recognizing these signs allows you to take immediate action—contact a qualified plumber, ASAP— to prevent the worst from happening.

Here are some red flags to be aware of:

  • Bubbling or gurgling drains. If water draining from a sink or bathtub momentarily bubbles back up and out of the drain, it may indicate a nascent sewer blockage. As draining water moving through the sewer pipe reaches the blockage that inhibits flow, trapped air in the system escapes back up the pipe and causes bubbles and gurgles.  
  • Bad odors from drains. Free-flowing waste water through a fully functional sewage line tends to pull odors away with it. A blockage forming in the sewer line, however, causes odors to be pushed back up the pipe and into the house.
  • Several drains are slow at once. A single slow or clogged drain is common.  However, if more than one drain in the house is suddenly running very slow—or totally clogged—at the same time, it’s probably not a coincidence. An obstruction forming somewhere in the central sewer line will cause multiple drains to run slower and/or eventually clog entirely.   
  • Water down one drain comes up out of another. Let’s say soapy, shampoo-scented water disappearing down the shower drain mysteriously reappears in the kitchen sink moments later. Most likely explanation: impending sewer line clog.    
  • Weak toilet flushes. Effective flushing requires an open, unobstructed sewer pipe for proper function. If a toilet’s flushing action seems to be losing its mojo, however—and a toilet plunger doesn’t help—the sewer pipe may be closing up due to a clog, tree roots or other obstruction interfering with proper flow. Contact a plumber before worse things happen.

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