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Sewage Water Coming Up through the Bathtub/Shower Drain

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  • We take a bath or a shower because we want to feel squeaky clean. Now tell me. How are we supposed to feel that way if we see, smell and feel sewage water coming up through the bathtub/shower drain? I’ll tell you how. We don’t.

    The feeling of relaxation of a warm bath or shower is quickly replaced with a feeling of disgust. That’s sewage water. We all know where it came from. The question is – how did it get from there to the drain?

    Once you’ve overcome the feeling of disgust, a feeling of confusion comes next. After all, it’s called a drain for a reason. Stuff should drain out of your bathtub and shower, not pump them out. How exactly did this happen?

    On this page:

    We know that a lot of homeowners have this problem and this is why we’ve put together this comprehensive article to tell you everything there is to know about this problem. We’ll answer a lot of your questions and solve your problems associated with this issue.

    What is the black water or stuff in my drain? That’s probably the first question you asked. We’ll tell you exactly what it is.

    More importantly, why is sewage water coming up through the bathtub or shower drain? You have to know these causes of sewer backups so you can understand the situation that you’re going through. More importantly, this information can help avoid a repeat of this problem. Prevention is better than cure.

    Speaking of prevention, we’ll also talk about warning signs the sewer line is clogged. Don’t wait until the sewer backs up. Avoid a disgusting problem by learning how to spot these warning signs so you can solve the problem before it gets bigger.

    More importantly, we’ll tell you how to fix a clogged sewer line. We’ll provide you with a step-by-step guide so you’ll know how to do it provided that you have a lot of time on your hands and you’re willing to get down and dirty with dirt and gunk and not guarantee fast and effective results.

    On that note, we’ll also list down the reasons why you should hire a professional for this job. While an experienced DIYer can take care of this issue, most homeowners are better off hiring a professional. We’ll tell you why.

    The main reason why a lot of homeowners don’t want to hire a professional is because they want to save up on labor costs. This is understandable because the labor cost can be really high. An important tip is to get quotes from competing contractors. Basically, have them compete for your business. With an understanding that they’re competing with their competitors for your business, you’ll be receiving the best available quotes that you can choose from.

    We made the process of asking for quotes easier. We’ve set up a free service that allows you to get in touch with the best contractors in your area with a few clicks. Yes, you don’t have to go out and drive around town asking for their quotes. Read on to know more.

    What is the Black Water or Stuff in my Drain?

    Before you find the answer to that question, the first thing that you have to do is to stop using your sink, toilet, shower, faucets and anything that drops water into the drain. You’re just going to make things worse if you keep on using it.

    Now to answer your question, there’s a very good chance that it’s a backup from the sewer. Basically, the stuff that went down the drain is going back up instead of going down and staying in the sewer. Usually, this problem is more municipal in nature. This means that the municipality has a problem in the sewer system and it’s leading to backups across town.

    The first ones affected are usually the drains in the basement since they sit at the lowest part of your home. If the municipality doesn’t do something about it, the backup will reach the higher parts of your home, flooding your basement in the process.

    It’s also possible that your septic tank is full and overflowing. Obviously, they have nowhere to go but back up the drain pipes out the drains. In this case, you need to contact a professional to empty it. Another possibility is there’s a clog somewhere in the drain pipe. You need the assistance of a professional plumber to remove the clog.

    Here are some of the stuff that you may be dealing with:

    • Black film made of biological materials.

    What you may not know is your body is contributing waste into the sewage system in the form of biological materials. These include hair that falls when you shower, dead skin from when you scrub your body, natural oils when you take a bath, shower, or wash your hands, and the likes. These materials don’t automatically go into the sewage system. Usually accompanied by soap, they have the tendency to stick to the sides of the pipes and even in the drain itself.

    They will turn into a black film. The film is black because of the presence of bacteria. They may lead to clogging and may go back up the drain.

    Speaking of clogs, it’s not just biological materials that can cause a clog. Food particles, soap, and the likes may contribute to the clogging as well.

    • There are clogs in the vent pipes.

    If there are trees around your house, there’s a possibility that the vent pipes are getting clogged by the tree roots. Obviously, this is a major problem, so professional assistance is required.

    Why is Sewage Water Coming Up through the Bathtub or Shower Drain?

    The first thing that you have to know is that no, it’s not the bathtub or shower that has a problem. Replacing them isn’t going to solve the problem because the issue is bigger than you think.

    The issue is with your sewer line. This line is very important in ensuring that the system works. Water and other particles are drained from the tub or shower. They’re supposed to go into the sewer line. If they don’t, then there’s obviously a problem.

    Besides, these two drains use different pipes before the pipes meet at the main sewer line. There are also other pipes that lead to the main sewer line. These are pipes from your sink and toilet. Yes, your toilet.

    This is why it’s a wonder for homeowners when they see sewage water coming up through the bathtub or shower drain. They see (and smell) things that shouldn’t be coming from their bathtub or shower.

    Generally speaking, this issue is caused by a problem in the main sewer line. It could be because there’s an obstruction in it. There’ll be residue buildup. This will cause clogging and with their inability to go down, the sewage water will come back up. This is why they’re also called sewer backups.

    Causes of Sewer Backups

    So now that you know what sewer backups are, you’re probably now wondering what are the causes of sewer backups. Again generally speaking, it’s probably because of a clogged main sewer line. Here are the more specific causes:

    • The pipes are severely damaged.

    Pipes will only work efficiently if there’s no damage to them. If there are, there could be leaks. Worse, the severe damages will prevent the water from draining properly. This will lead to the backups.

    Here are some of the possible reasons behind the damaged pipes:

    • Shifting or settling soil
    • Additional weight on the aboveground like construction equipment or increased foot traffic
    • Old age of the pipes
    • Corrosion
    • Damaged seals that should be connecting the pipes
    • Tree roots are clogging the line.

    Tree roots naturally gravitate towards a water source. This is why they will latch onto sewer pipes and will continue growing until they reach the water inside the pipes. This can be problematic if you have an older line wherein clay was used and the seals in between the pipes aren’t as secure as the seals done today.

    Obviously, this will cause the pipes to get damaged. It will also clog the lines.

    • You’re using your toilet as a trash bin.

    There’s a reason why public toilets have a sign saying that you shouldn’t flush down debris like napkins, diapers, trash and the likes. Their pipes are not designed to handle the debris. They can handle tissue paper and human waste just fine. But you’ll end up clogging the sewer line if you continue the bad habit of flushing down debris.

    • You’re pouring down grease.

    A lot of homeowners are guilty of this. They’re done cooking and they pour down the grease in the kitchen sink. The hot grease should have no problems getting drained, right? That’s where you’re wrong.

    The cold pipes will make the hot grease cooler. It will eventually cool down and harden. It will stick to the pipes, making the line clogged.

    Unfortunately, pouring down hot water to try and melt the grease wouldn’t help.

    Warning Signs the Sewer Line is Clogged

    It’s a good idea to solve the problem before it gets worse. This is why you have to spot the warning signs before a major backup happens. In order to spot them, you have to of course know what these warning signs are:

    • There’s sewage backup.

    This is quite obvious. The sewage is backing up because there’s a clog.

    • Water is draining slowly.

    This means that something is blocking the water and is preventing it from draining quickly.

    • More than one fixture is clogged.

    This could be a sign that there’s a major problem with the sewer line. It’s not just the bathroom pipes that are clogged. It’s more than likely the sewer line that’s clogged so more than one fixture is clogged.

    Speaking of fixtures, you may also notice them acting differently. One clear sign is when you use one fixture and sewage starts to back up in another. You may also see toilet water bubbling. Do you hear a gurgling sound every time water drains? That’s another sign.

    • There are damages to your lawn.

    This could be because of damages to your sewer line. You could see indentations and wet patches wherein there shouldn’t be any.

    How to Fix a Clogged Sewer Line

    The best way on how to fix a clogged sewer line is to contact a professional. An experienced plumber can do a proper diagnosis and perform solutions to clear the clog. However, there are things that you can do for the meantime including the following:

    • Relieve the pressure.

    This is to stop the water from backing up. The first thing that you need to do is to turn off the main water supply. Then, look for the cleanout line. This is usually located in your yard, although it can also be installed in your roof or basement. It’s commonly a white pipe with a diameter of about 3 or 4 inches.

    Once you find it, find the cap that’s screwed on. Remove this cap and this should relieve the pressure that will drain the sewage backup back down.

    • Pour chemicals down the drain.

    There are certain chemicals that can work against certain clogs. For example, copper sulfate has been proven to kill tree roots that will allow you to clear the line of tree roots. However, you may need to do the process several times.

    It’s important to note though that this can be dangerous for some septic systems and this is why some municipalities don’t allow its use. You may want to check first if it’s allowed.

    If not, there are foams that are designed to kill tree roots. These have herbicide dichlobenil in them. They’re designed to be flushed down the toilet and the chemicals in the foam will do their job of killing the roots. They’ll be killed within hours but will require several months for the foam to do the complete job of flushing the roots out of the system.

    Again, it’s better to just hire a professional especially if these don’t work. They’re armed with cameras that can snake through the pipes to see exactly what’s causing the clogging. They also know the best chemicals to use to unclog the pipes.

    If chemicals don’t work, they can also use mechanical tools like a drain snake. It’s not the usual drain snake that you have at home. What they have is assisted by power and is sometimes even mounted on a truck. This is snaked through the pipes until it reaches the clog. By then, it will clear the clog.

    Hydro jetting may be employed as well. A hydro jet employs high pressure water to blast tree roots or whatever is clogging the pipes.

    Cost to Snake a Main Sewer Line

    You can expect to pay close to $300 on average to have a sewer line snaked. Smaller jobs cost around $175. This is usually the service cost call. Snaking a line usually costs around $175, with the lowest at around a hundred bucks.

    Bigger jobs may cost around $450. Hydro jetting falls in this range. It can cost as low as $350 and as high as $600. However, be warned that more complicated jobs can easily cost over a thousand dollars. This is when you’ve neglected the problem for so long or you tried fixing it DIY and you ended up making the issue worse.

    Hope and pray that a replacement isn’t necessary because that can cost around $2,500. If you have trenchless pipes that require repair, expect to pay over $150 per foot.

    Reasons You Need a Pro when your Drain or Sewer Line is Clogged

    You’re probably thinking that you can just buy chemicals that you can flush down. While true in a lot of cases, you already know that they sometimes don’t work or can make things worse when they damage the sewer line or the municipality found out that you used a chemical that they don’t allow.

    Here are more specific reasons you need a pro when your drain or sewer line is clogged:

    • They have tools that you don’t have.

    Do you have a power-assisted drain snake? How about a hydro jet? No? Sure, you can rent one, but that’s an expense right there. You’re thinking you can buy them so you can continue using them in the future, but they’re very expensive especially since they’re designed for commercial use. Besides, a good professional will educate you on how to avoid a repeat in the future.

    • They can work on the issue quickly.

    In most cases, they already know what the problem is after you explain the symptoms. They just need a quick inspection to confirm this. This means that the work can get started. Also, this can prevent the issue from getting worse.

    • They can do a better job than you.

    It goes without saying. They’re professionals. You’re not. They do this for a living. You do something else for a living. This is not a knock on you. It’s just the truth. You’ll do a better job than these plumbers at what you do for a living. In the same way, they’ll do a better job at this than you.

    Why is this important? It’s important because this is a complicated issue that needs immediate solutions. Only a trained professional can ensure this. With their experience, they can make a proper diagnosis. This can help them perform the right solution.

    More importantly, hiring a professional can help prevent the issue from getting worse. A lot has changed since plumbing was invented in 2500 BC. Plumbing systems nowadays are more complicated and are usually connected to other systems. One wrong move can make the issue worse for you and for others in your municipality. This can lead to a very expensive problem.

    • You can save money in the end.

    Speaking of very expensive problems, hiring a professional can actually help you save money. How? You already know that mistakes can get pretty expensive. Mistakes are inevitable if you’re a casual DIYer.

    A lot of DIYers also end up dissatisfied with the final results. They end up hiring a professional for better results – something that they should have done in the first place.

    • Working on plumbing is dangerous.

    We’ve already talked about the use of chemicals. That can be dangerous for you and for the pipes. You also need to work on tight spaces with a lot of protruding sharp things because of the damaged pipes.

    Get the Best Quotes from Competing Contractors

    The main reason why homeowners are considering doing it DIY is because they want to save money. Well, the list of reasons above should convince you that hiring and paying for a professional is better. But still, no one can blame you for wanting to save money.

    You can actually save a lot of money if you know how to hire a professional. You just have to reach out to the best professionals in your area and ask them for their best quote. Obviously, they won’t give you their best quote. Best for them, sure, but not best for you.

    How can you make this work in your favor? It’s by letting them know that you’re shopping around for the best deal. Tell them to give you their best quote because you’ll be comparing it with the quotes of their competitors. Watch as they give you their best quote. Of course, they recognize that they need to do so for them to be considered.

    This has long been the secret of many homeowners. It consumes a lot of time and effort, though, and this is why we’ve made the process easier.

    All you need to do is to complete the form that you see on this page. Fill it out with complete and accurate details and the best contractors in your area will receive your details. They’ll get the understanding that their competitors also received your details and will be sending their best quotes. This is why they’ll send their best quotes.

    Try this free service today and expect to receive around 4 of the best quotes!

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