What to do when you have a clogged pipe

Handyman on the scene

Clogged pipes are one of the most common problems in sewer lines, but do you know what to do when it happens?

When sewer pipes clog, it is a plumbing emergency because your wastewater has nowhere to go and could inevitably cause other plumbing fixtures to back up as well.

There are warning signs that will alert you to a problem – like a slow drain or a foul odor emanating from the drain. This means that something is impeding the flow in the line. When multiple drains are slow, it may be a sign of a bigger problem in the main line. Toilets are particularly prone to this problem, but other pipes could be involved. Toilets generally have the most direct path to the sewer with the biggest drain line in the house, so if you’re having a problem with the toilet, it’s likely affecting the entire household plumbing system.

If you suspect you have a clogged sewer pipe, it’s best to consult with a professional plumber rather than attempt to unclog the line yourself. It’s possible the problem could be more extensive than a simple fix and attempts at repairing the line yourself could cause more damage.

If you’re enrolled in external sewer line repair or in-home plumbing coverage with Service Line Warranties of America, this consultation would be a covered expense through the warranty program.

Call before you dig

Shovel in Dirt

Have you ever started to shovel in your yard and hit something hard? While you might think it’s just a rock or clay – it could be your water, sewer or gas line and accidentally puncturing it could be costly and potentially dangerous. While most utility and service lines are buried several feet beneath the ground’s surface, some areas have very shallow lines, which increase the chances of hitting a utility line located on your property. According to “The Top 5 Home Repairs You Should Never Do Yourself,” homeowners often get into trouble when they attempt to modify a plumbing system, like rerouting, repairing or replacing sewer pipes. Should a homeowner choose to repair or replace a utility line, a utility line location service is available to help determine the location of the lines.

Call Before You Dig is a federally-mandated national program that provides homeowners a utility line location service. By calling 811, the service will provide a locator who will help a homeowner locate the utility lines on their property to keep them from inadvertently hitting an underground line while digging. Even repairing a failed water or sewer line caused by root infiltration could disrupt service to neighbors if a homeowner is unaware that the underground lines on their property are connected to a shared line, which could result in a hefty repair bill and city-imposed fines.

Homeowners can have the utility lines on their property marked for reference – what a great idea! Knowing where the water and sewer lines outside the home are located will enable homeowners to monitor ground conditions for potential leaks or breaks via soft spots, pooling water or foul odors.

Calling 811 is simple from anywhere in the country. The number routes the call to a local call center that works with your local utility companies. Simply tell the agent your address and describe the intended project. Within a few days a locator will mark the approximate position of the pipes, lines and cables at your residence so digging can be done safely or noted for future reference. The locators will use color-coded flags as markers for the appropriate utility line:

  • Red – Electric
  • Orange – Communications and Telephone
  • Blue – Water
  • Green – Sewer and Drainage
  • Yellow – Gas
  • Purple – Reclaimed Water
  • White – Project Site

To contact your local 811 center, visit http://www.call811.com.