Common Sewer Backup Causes & Quick Fixes

Sewer Backup Causes & Quick Fixes

Dealing with a sewer backup is never a pleasant experience. The smell, the mess, and the potential damage to your home can be overwhelming. But what causes sewer backups, and how can you prevent them? In this article, we'll explore the most common sewer backup causes and quick fixes to help you avoid a plumbing disaster.

What is a Sewer Backup?

Before we dive into the causes and quick fixes, let's define what a sewer backup is. A sewer backup occurs when water or sewage from the sewer system flows back into your home through the drain pipes. This can happen in the toilet, sink, or bathtub and is often accompanied by a foul odor.

Common Sewer Backup Causes

There are several common causes of sewer backups that you should be aware of:

Tree Roots

Tree roots are one of the most common causes of sewer backups. As trees grow, their roots can invade sewer pipes, causing blockages and damage. This is particularly common in older homes with clay or cast iron pipes.

Flushing the Wrong Things Down the Drain

Another common cause of sewer backups is flushing the wrong things down the drain. Items like baby wipes, feminine hygiene products, and cooking grease should never be flushed down the toilet or poured down the sink. These items can cause blockages and clog pipes, leading to a backup.

Old or Damaged Pipes

Old or damaged pipes can also cause sewer backups. Over time, pipes can deteriorate, crack, or collapse, leading to blockages and leaks. This is particularly common in homes with older plumbing systems.

Heavy Rainfall or Flooding

Heavy rainfall or flooding can also lead to sewer backups. When the sewer system becomes overwhelmed with water, it can cause water to flow back into homes through the drain pipes.

Quick Fixes for Sewer Backups

If you're dealing with a sewer backup, there are a few quick fixes you can try:

Use a Plunger

If the backup is in your toilet, try using a plunger to clear the blockage. Be sure to use a toilet plunger, not a sink plunger, as they are designed differently.

Pour Boiling Water Down the Drain

Boiling water can also help clear minor blockages. Simply boil a pot of water and pour it down the drain.

Use a Plumbing Snake

A plumbing snake can be used to clear more stubborn blockages. Insert the snake into the drain and rotate it until the blockage is cleared.

Call a Professional

If none of these quick fixes work, it's time to call in a professional plumber. They have Properly 

Dispose of Waste

One of the easiest ways to prevent sewer backups is to properly dispose of waste. Never flush anything down the toilet except toilet paper and human waste. Avoid pouring cooking grease, oil, or fat down the drain as they can solidify and clog pipes. Instead, dispose of them in the trash.

Install a Backwater Valve

Installing a backwater valve is another effective way to prevent sewer backups. This valve is installed in the sewer line and prevents water from flowing back into your home. It works by automatically closing the valve when the sewer line becomes overwhelmed.

Regular Maintenance

Regular maintenance of your plumbing system can also help prevent sewer backups. This includes having your pipes inspected and cleaned on a regular basis by a professional plumber. It's also important to keep an eye out for signs of a problem, such as slow drains, gurgling sounds, or foul odors.


Q: Can flushing baby wipes cause a sewer backup?

A: Yes, flushing baby wipes (even those labeled as "flushable") can cause a sewer backup. They do not break down like toilet paper and can easily clog pipes.

Q: Can a sewer backup be dangerous?

A: Yes, a sewer backup can be dangerous as it can expose you to harmful bacteria and other pathogens.

Q: How much does it cost to fix a sewer backup?

A: The cost to fix a sewer backup can vary depending on the cause and extent of the damage. It can range from a few hundred dollars for a simple blockage to thousands of dollars for more extensive damage.


Sewer backups can be messy and costly, but they are preventable. By understanding the common causes of sewer backups and taking preventative measures, you can avoid a plumbing disaster. Remember to properly dispose of waste, install a backwater valve, and have regular maintenance of your plumbing system. And if you do experience a sewer backup, try the quick fixes mentioned in this article or call a professional plumber to help.