How to Unclog a Sewer Line

As annoying as it is when your toilet, bathtub or sink drain clogs, can you just imagine your nightmare once it happens to your sewer drain? Put simply, when this area gets affected, the obstruction is enough to affect all the plumbing fixtures in your house. So whereas a toilet clog affects just the toilet (and considering you have others in your home, that can be used while the issue is being fixed), a blockage in the sewer line means you are in deep trouble.

The worst thing that can happen to you is having sewage backing out of the drains. And this is if the situation is really bad. Then again, sewer blockages aren’t issues easily solved by you alone. Depending on how bad the situation is, you can alleviate the problem by yourself, clear it completely or require the help of professionals.

Why Do Sewers Clog?

A sewer line is around six inches or even more in diameter. As such, it takes much more than paper or loose debris to build up for a line to clog up. In fact, most of the clogs that happen on sewer lines are caused when tree roots get into the pipes. This is one of the reasons why trees or shrubs shouldn’t be planted in your absorption field because when the roots grow out, they can get into your pipes.

Sewer lines are warm and moist, and these two are what attracts roots to them. They send out signals through cracks and loose joints and roots then make their way towards them. When there, they feed themselves on the nutrients that are available. The next thing you know, debris collects on the roots, therefore, obstructing the flow of water. When this obstruction builds faster than expected, the flow of water slows down thus making it a lot easier for debris to settle.

How to Determine the Problem?

A good sign indicating that your sewer line is clogged is that your drain runs slowly. And when you’ve cleared your drain and the problem still happens, then that’s a clear indication of a problem.

Another sign that an issue is present is the noise that comes from the waste pipes when you use the toilet. To be more specific, you hear gurgling noises from the waste pipes when you flush the toilet.

You can also check other possible causes like blocked vents but if the problem is still there, then you will need visual inspection to be really sure. One of the best tools you can use is a miniature camera. The camera will be your eyes, so to speak, in the insides of a sewer pipe. In short, they help tell you whether the sluggish draining you’re suffering is indeed caused by a clog in your sewer pipe.

That said, the use of a camera to inspect blockages is offered by professionals. With a camera, professionals can see a bigger picture of the problem. In short, they may find that it’s not only roots and other blockages causing your problems. Sometimes, there might even be cracks and breaks in the pipes (again, caused by the roots) that are causing the problems.

How to Clear Blocked Sewer Lines?

There are two methods involved in the clearing of clogged sewer lines: mechanical cleaning methods and chemical cleaning methods.

Mechanical Cleaning Methods
Professionals who clear sewer blockages use a host of tools to solve the issue they are faced with. The auger is one such tool. Basically, it looks like an auger used for sinks and toilets but the difference is that it is much longer and is aided by power. An auger used to clear sewer lines is usually mounted on the back of a truck and is then fed into the sewer by sections.

Another tool that professionals use if a high-pressure water jet that can develop up to 4,000 psi. With this much power, the jet can blow away roots and obstructions that are blocking the line.

Chemical Cleaning Methods
Although using chemicals is discouraged, sometimes they are employed. That said, smaller drain lines can be cleared with chemicals. Again, even if they are not recommended, sometimes they are used just to do something about the tree roots.

A lot of plumbers you’ll talk to will recommend copper sulfate. They’ll instruct you to flush this down the toilet so that the roots will be killed. But since this flushes way too quickly, you have to do this lots of times to successfully clear the blockage.

Some would recommend an alternative like a root-killing foam to flush down the toilet. There are root-killing foams that contain metam-sodium and dichlobenil and they latch themselves to the pipes. As such, the chemicals can get rid of the roots in just a few hours. Then again, it might take weeks or even months before they are washed away.

How to Make Sure a Clog Doesn’t Happen Again?

Going through the clogging process allows you to determine what caused the problem in the first place. If it was roots, then that tells you you shouldn’t have planted trees, plants or shrubs in your absorption field. However, if the issue was caused by flushing paper towels or toilet paper down the toilet, then you must enforce rules on what can and can’t be thrown. This way, you eliminate the same problems in the future.

A sewer line is important but it causes a massive headache once it gets clogged up. The last thing you want is for it to get worse and back up into your home which leads to even bigger problems. That said, when you notice even the slightest change in how your plumbing fixtures work, try to remedy the issue straight away before it escalates into something much worse.

It’s easy to forget these days with how fast-paced life is but a major sewer line problem is definitely a problem you do not want to face. Even if you sense a minor issue, don’t shrug and say everything will be fine because it won’t. Deal with it immediately and take good care of your plumbing fixtures so you don’t face headache-inducing problems in the future.

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