Sewer (Sewage) Backup in a Basement?


There is nothing more disgusting or panic inducing to a homeowner than a backed up drain. Backed up drains are a definite sign of larger plumbing problems. A back up is characterized by the foul smell of sewer gas and dirty waste water. The mess can frustrate and discourage most homeowners. Knowing what causes back-ups can take some of the fear out of the problem.

The Difference between a Back-up and a Backflow

The first thing to know is the difference between aback up and a backflow. A back up happens after a faucet or toilet has been used in the home and other fixtures have standing water back up into them. A backflow happens while your fixtures haven’t been used. The difference between the two points to two very different problems. Back-ups are a sign that a clog is in your personal sewer connection. Backflows are a sign that the city sewer line has a problem. If the problem is a backflow, then call your city sewer department to report the issue.

Signs You Have a Back-up Problem

  • When you flush the toilet waste water backs up in the tub drain.
  • When you drain a tub of water it bubbles instead of draining. Sometimes this bubbling happens in the toilet.
  • Drain your kitchen sink and waste water backs up into the toilet.
  • Flushing your toilet makes a floor drain somewhere on the property back-up.
  • Running your washing machine sends soapy water back up your toilet or other house drain.

What Causes Drain Back-ups?

  • Damaged pipes like old crumbled lines or tree roots that break through
  • Poor plumbing — such as a drain that also accepts rainwater and sewage. One heavy rainstorm and there is a problem.
  • A clog in the main sewer line. If you check your drain clean out and water is overflowing or standing in the pipe then there is a clog in the sewer line

How to Prevent Back-Ups

First be watchful what goes down your drains. Two of the most common clogs are hair and grease. Use sink strainers so that stray hair can be easily removed. When you cook separate the grease into a jar and toss it in the garbage when it is full. When you use paper towels or toilet paper dispose of it in a waste can, not down the toilet. The same goes for Q-tips, sanitary napkins, and other solid objects.

Sometimes a back-up or backflow is unavoidable. If a homeowner is mindful of their habits, the chances of this messy nightmare are greatly reduced. If you are unlucky enough to see the mess of a back-up or backflow then a wet/dry shop vac is an ideal investment. Here is what to remember if you ever need to clean up after a backed up drain.

  1. Use a wet shop vac to clear the water.
  1. Mop the floor and walls with disinfectant.
  1. Run fresh water down the drains to clear them.
  1. Steam clean carpets or other affected fabrics.
  1. Repair damaged wood or molding.
  1. Make sure to clean the ducts.