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Basement Drain Backing Up? Here’s What to Do Right Now

This homeowner’s nightmare is a mess. Sewer water in the basement smells awful. It’s hard to clean up, and you can’t be sure of the source. You can be sure the situation poses serious health risks to everyone in the house.

What do you do when you realize the basement floor drain is backing up? If you’re prepared in advance, it’s easier to tackle this type of home disaster.

Let’s start now.

How Basement Drains Work

basement drain with water

Your basement drain is part of the main sewer line that drains waste water from the house, so it’s the lowest point in your plumbing system.

If you’re not sure how to tell where water is coming from as it floods up through the floor drain, you’re in good company with most homeowners.

It’s hard to diagnose the point of origin because this part of your home’s plumbing empties into the city’s sewer lines.

Toilets, sinks, tubs and washing machines all drain waste water through the pipe that runs under the basement drain.

Why is My Basement Drain Backing up?

why is basement drain backing up

What causes basement drains to back up? Here are a few of the most common culprits:

1. Backed-up appliances, like dishwashers and washing machines

Washing machines, dishwashers, and other water-bearing appliances rely on functional drains to move water out of their basins and into plumbing lines. 

When those drains become clogged, though, they can cause water to back up into the house, creating flooding or water intrusion problems.

2. Damage from tree roots

When large trees grow close to homes, their roots can cause damage to sewer and water lines, leading them to back up into a home’s basement. 

Unfortunately, it’s tough for homeowners to address or resolve this problem. In most cases, the only solution is to hire a professional tree root removal or restoration company that can provide a sewer scope inspection and remove any roots that are causing problems. 

3. Deteriorated pipes

Over time, certain sewer pipe materials can accumulate rust, which will cause them to corrode and break down. 

When this happens, it becomes more difficult for water, solids, and sediment to run through the pipe effectively, which may cause the pipe to back up into the basement.

4. Dips or flat spots in the drain line

In older homes, the ground may settle under the drain lines. 

These dips or flat spots are called “bellies” and can cause debris to pile up, leading to drain backups and a higher flooding risk. 

Sometimes, the only way to fix these backups is to dig up the lines, resolve the bellies, and replace the pipes.

5. Flushing the wrong items

Drain lines move liquids and solids effectively, but there is a limit to what they can handle. 

Non-flushable items like feminine products, paper towels, napkins, and baby wipes can all clog drains and back up the system, leading to overflowing drains and expensive water damage. 

To prevent this – avoid flushing anything but toilet paper down your toilet.

6. A dried-out drain and trap

When drains go unused for a long time, the trap and the drain itself may dry out, causing sewer gasses and, possibly, water to drift back into the home.

Fortunately, this issue is usually solvable by running water through all drains regularly and adding traps to any drains that are missing them. 

Sure Signs of Basement Drain Trouble

standing water in basement

You can sometimes spot small drainage problems before they turn into puddles of sewer water in the basement. Watch out for these early warning signs of floor drain trouble.

Water comes up into the basement drain after rain storms.

• The basement drain backs up when you’re washing clothes.

• When toilets are flushed upstairs, you hear a gurgling sound in the drain.

• Sinks and tubs begin to empty more slowly than usual.

• The floor drain looks clear, but the basement smells like sewage.

How to Fix a Basement Floor Drain That’s Backing Up

basement drain back up

It’s important to understand the risks of dealing with water from a backed-up basement drain. This type of flooding exposes you to health hazards ranging from sewer gases to dangerous pathogens.

It’s safer to let professionals handle repairs and cleanup. However, there are critical steps you need to take right away.

1. Turn Off Inside Water

As soon as you realize you have a basement drain problem, shut down all appliances that might be using water. Keep faucets turned off. Avoid flushing toilets.

You don’t want to add to the overflow in your home’s sewer pipe.

2. Shut Down the Main Water Supply

Locate your home’s main water supply valve, and shut it off. This reduces pressure at the source causing water backup in your basement.

It’s also a necessary step before diagnosing the trouble and making repairs.

3. Proceed With Caution

Don’t try to solve the problem unless you’re experienced with home plumbing systems and repairs. If you’re not familiar with the work, using chemicals or a power auger to unclog the basement drain can damage pipes and make things worse.

It’s best to call a licensed plumber.

4. Be Very Careful With Cleanup

A backed-up basement floor drain exposes you to contaminated water. Be very careful with initial cleanup.

If flooding is more than an inch deep, let an experienced cleaning contractor take care of the water removal, sanitizing and restoration process.

Why You Should Call in Professionals

basement flood cleanup

Most flooded basements belong in the hands of industry professionals who know how to handle floor drain problems.

A licensed plumber uses high-tech tools to identify the source of the backup. He or she quickly gets the situation under control and makes necessary repairs so that you can start the cleanup process.

A certified restoration company specializes in contaminated water removal. Highly trained teams sanitize and disinfect areas impacted by sewage backups. Restoration technicians also tear out and replace damaged materials, and they follow through with mold removal and remediation.

If the drain backup is small, you might be able to take care of it. If you have any doubts about dealing with your home’s sewer line and contaminated water, call in the pros.

How to Prevent Basement Drain Backups

You can’t guarantee it won’t ever happen, but you can reduce the chances of a floor drain flooding the basement. Try these tips for heading off basement drain backups.

• Install a backwater valve that automatically senses and reverses backflow in home sewer pipes.

• Inspect the valve every three months or after a drain backup incident.

• Clean the basement floor drain regularly, and routinely check to make sure it isn’t blocked.

• Pay attention to tree and shrub growth near outside sewer lines.

Is Your Basement Drain Backing up in Chicago or the Suburbs? We Can Help!

service master lake of shore

When you’re facing a disaster like a sewer water in the basement, you want 24/7 access to industry specialists.

ServiceMaster of Lake Shore stands ready to answer your call for all types of water damage at your home or business in Chicagoland.

Put us on your list of experts to call when you need help right away. We’re always here for you at 312-707-8597