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What causes a sewer drain to back up?

Jul. 28, 2014
The main reasons for sewer back ups are not always because of the items people put down their drain pipe. Although we don’t recommend that people put paper towels, feminine products, “flushable” wipes or vegetable peelings down sinks, garbage disposals or in toilets; reasons for sewer back ups are largely caused by root intrusion, scale build-up, pipe misalignment, pipe shifting, and pipe failure.

It’s amazing what people flush down the drain. Our plumbing experts have found bizarre items blocking sewer pipes for sure. But the reality is, most items do pass through the drain system. Read on to learn what the top four reasons for sewer backups are actually doing to your pipes.

Root Intrusion is the most common cause of a sewer back up. It is extremely important to know that root intrusion, although common, is not normal. Intruding roots indicates that there is a breach in the sewer pipe and future major issues, like pipe repair or replacement, may loom in the future if not properly addressed. Root intrusion can range in severity however. It can be localized to one area of the pipe or throughout the whole piping system. The intrusion can be caused by small hair-like roots or larger roots, as thick as your thumb.

Scale Build Up accumulates within a drain pipe as minerals and calcium within water settles in the pipe. The amount of scale accumulation can certainly result from poor water quality within the home but mostly occurs from minerals picked up in ground and storm water as it travels through the ground.

Pipe Misalignment & Pipe Shifting is typically caused by two things: improper installation and/or joint deterioration. Improper installation stems from improper bedding, which is improper pipe support; it allows sewer water to escape. As the sewer water escapes through the failing joints, it causes erosion of the ground below the pipe eliminating support in the process. Without proper support, the ground settles and the pipe bends. This bending causes the water to pool, resulting in solids and debris to dam there.

Pipe Failure. All piping materials have a life expectancy. Many homes prior to the 1970s have sewer pipes made from clay or crock, cast iron, or Orangeburg. All of these materials have a life expectancy ranging from 40-60 years. As these materials fail, they collapse within themselves and block the flow within the pipe. These catastrophic failures can often be prevented through a routine sewer camera inspection and pipe restoration.

If you are having more frequent or continuous sewer back ups, one of these reasons could be the culprit. Restoring the flow, rodding, or clearing a drain can be helpful for the moment but may not be solving the actual problem. Call a certified plumber to perform a camera inspection on your sewer drains to discover your cause for a sewer back up.
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Thornton & Grooms
24565 Hallwood Ct
Farmington Hills, MI 48335
(248) 644-7810
MI Plumbing Lic. #: 8106666
MI Contractors Lic. #: 7100232
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