Many homeowners have had to deal with a malfunctioning sewer line at one time or another—often, at the expense of limited know-how. It pays to be prepared if the sewer line breaks down, says Michael Petri, owner of New York-based Petri Plumbing and Heating, Inc.
According to Petri, a sewer line can fail for a number of reasons, including excessive rainfall; therefore, the first step to remedy a breakdown is to identify its cause.
“First, look for any backflow, issues flushing the toilet, and clogged drains,” Petri advises. “This is often an indication of potential sewer problems in need of repair, sewer cleanout, or replacement.”
In most cases, issues can be fixed by clearing drains that have backed up, says Petri. Garbage disposal and kitchen sink drains are often the culprits.
“We suggest examining your drains regularly,” Petri says. “Use grates to prevent debris, such as hair, from getting clogged going down the drain. In addition, pour water down the drain to check the speed of the water flow into the pipes.”
This type of maintenance—“preventative,” notes Petri—staves off damage that could warrant replacement of the system.
Ensure the sewer drains near the property are not blocked by litter, as well, Petri says—sometimes, the solution is a simple sweep of a nearby drain.
Petri also recommends inspecting the foundation of the home for standing water—this could be a sign of a worsening problem. (Standing water can also encourage mold growth, Petri adds.)
Work to minimize water use in the home during bouts of heavy rainfall. According to Petri, high volumes of household water, combined with rainwater, can place undue strain on the sewer system.