Educate yourself
It is always difficult to assess dilemmas that we cannot see nor understand. For most of us, like our vehicles if we cannot fix it, or know nothing about troubleshooting we hire a professional. Some of us rely on our machismo or handyman skills to temporarily alleviate unsuspected drain system shutdowns.
Troubleshooting waste systems is similar to vehicles in fashion if not more difficult because we cannot see the problem or its origin. Could it be simple or complex, a maintainable issue or a repair issue? It may be deep underground or require a specialized training to assess. My goal is to educate my clients that in the event of a crisis one will have gained the knowledge and understanding to make responsible decisions with respect to waste system backups and be able to restore their household for every day activities.
Over eighty percent of drain stoppages can be prevented the other twenty percent are new, have been recently cleared or are under a preventative maintenance program.
So let’s begin. In older homes the basic structure is a metal or cast iron receiving waste from other metal drains connecting to a larger six inch clay tile just outside the home.
All the drains inside the home connect together before leaving the home as one drain, usually referred to as a mainline.
On the outside deep underground the cast iron drain is joined to a larger clay style sewer which was placed in sections three to four feet long and continues until it is joined to a metropolitan or city sewer system.
In newer homes plastic drains were installed with a stronger version on the inside and a weaker version on the outside. In the majority of cities the sewer is considered the homeowners responsibility all the way to the city sewer and including the portion that is used to join the two together called a wye connection, which may be in a front yard, in the street or across the street in a neighbors yard.
Inside the home a number of stoppages can occur resulting from soap, food, grease, lint, toothpaste, hair or any other material placed in the system.
Many of the waste materials AND QUICK DRAIN OPENING CHEMICALS are corrosive to cast iron drains and cause premature deterioration and expensive repairs. Most anyone can run a snake down a drain to unclog a blockage temporarily, however only an expert in the field has the proper training and equipment to diagnose and thoroughly clean problem drain systems. Drain connections underneath the floor can be difficult to assess because no one knows exactly how they were joined together. Black sludge from a kitchen sink may cause a laundry or floor drain to back up one time and a mainline may cause the same floor drain to back up another time.
The difficulty consumers and novice professionals have in the stoppage diagnosis causes a great deal of frustration and financial burdens. Many of my clients have spent a great deal of time and money dealing with a false diagnosis for a simple problem. Worse yet many of them have wasted hundreds of dollars on poor service. Just to spend it again a few days or weeks later to have their drains cleaned correctly.

On the outside of the home the mainline is an easy target for devastating sewage flooding.
When this drain clogs it shuts the normal activities of the home down. Showers cannot be taken, toilets cannot be used, and laundry and dishes tend to pile up. Many times personal property and finished basements are damaged and destroyed. Insurance companies sometimes cover damage, service, and repair costs resulting in increased premiums and cancellations. It seems that everybody wins except the home owner. Mainlines outside the home are mostly damaged by tree root growth. The tree root searches for fertile ground found next to most sewer drains and works its way into the sewer through connections between pieces of drain tile.

Once attacked by a root the sewers integrity diminishes. It can be spread apart causing waste to leak, sink and accumulate waste for routine sewer backups. Roots grow large enough to restrict proper flow and ultimately crack and break the sewer creating sudden emergency repairs that hardly anyone is prepared for.
Typically a cable or snake is used to unstop root blockages and can take several expensive hours to alleviate by cutting the roots out of a sewer. This task is mastered by only a few.
Unfortunately, tree roots tend to grows back thicker and stronger every time they are cut causing a little more damage every time as well as more frequent backups. Some residents decide to sell their homes to get rid of the problem. Others try to cut down trees only to find out that the root continues to grow or a sewer repair was less expensive. Many cities and municipalities have adopted sewer lateral repair programs to ease the financial burden of costly repair bills.
Even so many of these are difficult to get approval due to limited funds or sewers are deemed as maintainable. Nevertheless it is always a good idea for the homeowner to be aware of the condition and maintenance schedules involving such a vital organ of their home, one that could potentially destroy a homeowner’s quality of life. The stress alone is something I wish on no one. A Baseline Drain Assessment is the most effective method of eliminating any concern and aggravation with respect to sewer backups. This service is designed to restore drainage systems in the home to their fullest potential, gain awareness to any future risks, and implement a comprehensive strategy to prevent future disasters. Sewers are out sight out of mind until it is too late.