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Signs of a Problem with Your Sewer Lines

It's the nightmare of every homeowner: backed-up sewer pipes. A sewer backup can cause damage and inconvenience to your home and property. Without proper diagnosis, you won't be able to determine why your main sewer line is backing up or how to resolve the problem.

In order to diagnose a sewer backup, there are several things homeowners can investigate on their own before calling a plumber for help. Many times, homeowners may not understand what's causing their sewer backup in the first place or they might miss something small that could save them money.

By learning more about basic sewer maintenance and water drainage systems, homeowners will be better able to identify warning signs in their plumbing lines in order to take action quickly.

Common Types of Sewer Problems

It's critical that all homeowners be able to recognize the possible signs of problems with their sewer lines. Sewer issues not only make your home less pleasant, they can pose serious health risks and be quite costly to fix.

Here are the top 5 most common sewer line problems our plumbers encounter on a regular basis:

#1: Collapsed Sewer Line

One of the most obvious signs of a damaged sewer line is damage itself -- such as a broken sewer line or when sections of pipe suddenly cave inwards and create visible holes in your yard or driveway. This is often caused by water erosion and shifting soil, which weakens the structural integrity of the pipe. Depending on where the collapse occurs, it can also be a sign that your sewer lines are about to burst open and cause sewage leaks in your home.

#2: Tree Roots in Line

Tree roots are most likely to find their way into sewer lines that run through woodland or forested areas or near trees and bushes growing too close beside them. They'll most definitely find their way into older clay tile pipes, but tree root intrusion is just as likely with newer PVC pipes. Once they're there, not only do they create blockages that reduce drainage capacity, they're quite capable of causing extensive damage to even ultra-modern sewer lines.

#3: Pipe Corrosion

Sewer lines are composed of either metal or clay tile. Both can be susceptible to corrosion if they're exposed to acidic water. This is most likely to occur when old plumbing in your home leaks acidic substances such as toilet bowl cleaner into nearby drains and then eventually into your sewer line.

#4: Leaking Pipe Joints

A leaking joint in an underground sewer line not only wastes water, it also produces significant amounts of sewer gas that are highly toxic to people. Solder joints are most susceptible to this type of leak.

#5: Bellied Sewer Pipe

A bellied pipe is a condition in which the sewage line becomes swollen and full of water due to blockage or leakage. This typically happens around the spot where tree roots have grown inside and caused damage to the piping. If you suspect your sewer line has become bellied, contact a local plumber immediately for emergency service before any sewage spills into your yard or home!

Signs of a Major Sewer Line Problem

If you’re like most homeowners, you don’t give much thought to your sewer lines, but in reality, they are one of the most important components in your home. Dial your plumber if you notice any of these symptoms of a sewer line failure.

Slow Drains

One of the first signs of a possible sewer backup is slow drains. Slow draining water might not necessarily be due to an active sewage problem but it could indicate that there are foreign objects that need to be cleared out of your system before they cause trouble down the road.

A slow drain is another indication that you may have a backed up sewer line somewhere in your system. The more frequently this occurs, the greater chance you have of having a sewer line problem.

Smell Sewer Gas

Smelling rotten eggs is generally an indication that your water is contaminated with hydrogen sulfide, which is created when organic materials sit in stagnant water for too long and begin to decompose. Chief causes of this include an active blockage or slow draining sewer lines. This sewer gas smell can also signal other issues such as gas leaks in the ground (which should be handled by professionals), but if it's accompanied by slow drains and foul-smelling garbage disposals, there's a good chance you're dealing with a sewer backup.

Gurgling Drains

Once sewage backups into your home and enters the floor drain, you may notice that your drains are making strange gurgling sounds. The more sewage that backs up into your home, the louder these sounds will become. If you think about it logically, there's only two ways water can make noise in a closed space: by running through an empty pipe or running through one full of gas. If you're hearing strange noises coming from your drains, there is likely some kind of blockage or gas backup happening in your sewer system.

Water Backups

If water will drain properly in one drain, but then bubbles up in another, a sewage backup in your main line could be forcing that water back up. For instance, you may flush your toilet and then hear water bubbling up in your sink or run your dishwasher and hear gurgling in a toilet. This means water cannot drain as it should and that your sewer lines should be inspected as soon as possible.


The possibility of sinkholes forming around your property might seem like something out of a horror movie but it's actually not too uncommon when sewer lines begin to break down and cause damage to underground utilities such as water and gas mains. When soil collapses due to sewer line problems, homeowners may have to worry about their yard falling in overnight or long periods of time where the ground doesn't seem safe enough to walk on.

Lush Lawn

Since sewer lines are often buried underground, it's important to know what your yard should look like around the areas that are most susceptible to sinkholes and other visible signs of broken pipes. If your seeing green lush patches more than usual, you might want to take a closer look at any depressions in the land because they could signal problems with your drains below.

Can Sewer Line Replacement Be Your Sewer Line Solution?

In some situations, simply replacing the sewer line is a more cost-effective option than attempting to repair it. If your pipes are constructed of poor materials, they are more prone to leaks, damage, and root intrusion. This can lead to significant future issues that will be more expensive than the initial replacement would have been.

If you're experiencing any of these issues with your plumbing system, there's a good chance you have problems with your sewer line. Fortunately, diagnosing these kinds of problems can be done quickly and easily by homeowners without too much hassle or money. By learning about the signs of sewer line problems, you'll be better equipped to handle these issues.

A licensed plumber from ARS/Rescue Rooter will be able to explain the alternatives with you so that you may make the best decision for your needs and budget. Call our plumbers now at 866-399-2885 or find your nearest ARS/Rescue Rooter location online to have your sewer line inspected today!

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