The Usual and Unusual Signs of a Clogged Sewer Drain

A sewer drain is not fail-safe against plumbing problems. It often falls victim to one very serious issue: clogs.

Clogs obstruct the passage of liquids, such as water, out of the house. Without an outlet for used water, waste materials will come back up the pipes and into your household’s drainage system. Until you, or a professional plumber, can determine what the blockage is and how to remove it, you have a quandary in your hands.

If you think something is blocking your sewer drain, find someone who knows how to confirm and clear it immediately. Another more second of waiting may only speed up the water’s filling up the plumbing system.

The Usual Suspects – Clogged Fixtures

A sewer drain clogs up when plumbing fixtures choke at the same time. Clogged fixtures are common in toilets, but other fixtures may also experience the plight. If you suspect a clogged sewer drain inside the house, start checking the fixtures in the right order, as presented below.

1. Toilet

Toilet. Featured image by Jesus Rodriguez / Flickr (CC)

Plumbing fixture for defecation and urination. It has the most direct route and the biggest sewer drain pipe in the house. A search for the problem with the sewer’s plumbing usually starts here. It is rare to have a perfectly working toilet with a clogged main-line sewer drain.

2. Tub and Shower

tub and shower
Tub. Featured image by Juhan Sonin / Flickr (CC)

Main line stoppage often affects the tub and shower because both fixtures are lower down than other fixtures such as a sink drain. Check the tub and shower if the toilet plumbing is not responsible for the clogged sewer drain.

Unusual Responses From A Fixture

Now that you know where to look for a clogged sewer drain, it’s time to determine if your hunches are true. Check for unexpected reactions from the plumbing fixtures.

Follow these steps:

1. Flush The Toilet

toilet without cistern
Toilet without a cistern. Featured image by Jason Rogers / Flickr (CC)

Monitor how the toilet will react after you flush it. If this results to water coming back up into the tub or shower, this often means a clogged sewer drain. This means the flushed, used water that cannot pass through the sewer drain flows back into the plumbing and comes out at the lowest point – the shower drain.

2. Run The Water In The Sink

clogged sewer drain
A clogged sewer drain blocks the path of water from the sink. Featured image by Bailey Weaver / Flickr (CC)

Air may be trapped in the plumbing, so you have to confirm if it is there. Run the water in the sink closest to the toilet for more than a minute. If bubbles appear in the toilet bowl, or the water level rises, the stoppage is highly likely in the main sewer drain, not in the toilet.

3. Run The Washing Machine

washing machine
A Japanese washing machine. Featured image by jim212jim / Flickr (CC)

A clogged sewer drain may reveal itself through an unusual reaction after running the washing machine. If the water draining from the washing machine makes the toilet overflow or flow into the tub or shower, the stoppage may be in the main sewer drain.

But this issue may be a problem related to the washing machine itself or the shower, and not the sewer drain. If the toilet still flushes without any hiccups, the problem is likely because of a stoppage in the washing machine, not the main sewer line.

The Sewer Clean Out

If you have tried all the tips above and the problem persists, another way to confirm a clogged sewer drain is through a main clean out line.

You have to find the sewer clean out, unscrew or pull to remove its cap, and check for any waste material or used water that may have caused the stoppage. If water is not coming up the clean out pipe, you are safe. Water flowing up from and out of the clean out pipe means a stoppage in the main line sewer drain.

After The Diagnosis

sewer drain snake
Ridgid SeeSnake, a sewer drain snake with a lighted camera. Featured image by Wonderlane / Flickr (CC)

Now that you have identified the cause and nature of the clogged sewer drain, it’s time to take a step further by clearing it. But this requires a sewer drain snake that may not be immediately available to you. Do-it-yourself warriors, or DIYers, often rent the machine and clean the sewer drain on their own. People who do not want to get their hands dirty, or are too busy with other tasks, usually hire the services of a professional plumber. Both ways of handling the situation should be enough to clear the clogged sewer drain post-haste.