Whether you're purchasing a new home or worried about a problem in your current home, knowing the symptoms of a sewer problem can help you diagnose a problem early. For older homes, you should consider a sewer check a normal part of the home inspection process, so you are aware of any issues before you finalize the purchase. The sooner you are aware of issues, the more likely you can schedule a repair before there is any major damage, or arrange for the homeowners to fix it before you buy. The following symptoms and inspections are the best ways to find out the health of your sewer.
Symptom #1: Frequent Clogs
Does it feel like you are constantly taking the plunger or the drain snake to your home's toilets and sinks? If more than one fixture is experiencing frequent backups after use, the culprit is likely in the main sewer pipe. A localized clog will usually only affect one fixture. Occasionally, two fixtures on the same waste pipe, such as both the toilet and the bathroom sink, may experience problems from a localized clog. But if the kitchen sink, the downstairs bathtub, and the upstairs toilet are all clogged, the main sewer pipe is probably to blame.
Symptom #2: Foul Odors
The inability to drain properly means that waste is trapped inside the pipes in your home. This means you may experience foul odors from the drains and fixtures in your bathrooms or kitchen. If you smell sulfur or the odor of sewage or rotting meat, it's time to have the main sewer pipe inspected.
Symptom #3: Weird Drainage Issues
Sewer waste is typically separated into two categories – greywater, which doesn't contain human waste and typically comes from sinks or washing appliances, and blackwater, which is mainly from the toilet. In many municipalities, both usually drain into a main sewer pipe that travels from the house to the city sewer system. When there is a backup on this main line, you may experience odd drainage problems. For example, water may come up through a bathtub drain every time you flush the toilet, or your kitchen sink drain may overflow when the dishwasher is running. This is because the clog in the main drain isn't allowing the water to flow past, so it's instead flowing to the next available outlet inside your home.
What to Do:
Your first task is to have the main waste pipe inspected. A sewer scope is the simplest way to do this, and it provides the most accurate diagnostics. The scoping company will send a camera into the waste pipe, inspecting it until it meets with the main city pipe. They can then inspect the pipe from the inside for common blockages. Most often, these blockages are caused by sediment or foreign objects trapped in the pipe. Occasionally, tree roots are to blame. Both of these can be cleared out relatively inexpensively. In rare cases, the pipe may be damaged. This is more common with older homes. In this instance, you will need to replace the entire waste pipe.