Blocked or defective sewer: what to do?23 October 2013
We handymen take pride in being able to deal with situations ourselves. When something goes wrong in the house, we make a beeline for our toolboxes instead of calling someone to help us out. This works great for most maintenance tasks. Sewer problems are not most tasks. Such situations are one of the few where calling a plumber makes far more sense than trying to muddle through on your own.
“Wait”, you say, “I have a plumber snake, and I’m not afraid to use it!”
There is actually one situation where that may be enough. If an upstairs toilet is backing up while downstairs toilets work fine, the problem is in the home. In these rare instances, it may just be possible to clear the block with a plumber snake. Even in this situation, assuming that snake didn’t fix things, you run into the first reason to call a professional – finding the problem. Even among the most well equipped handymen, a camera to see into pipes is an amazingly rare piece of equipment to actually own, what with all the other things screaming to be bought and the incredible rarity of actually needing the camera. A professional, on the other hand, encounters such situations enough to justify the purchase and short of ripping up the walls and replacing every bit of sewer pipe in the house, the camera system is the only way to be sure the problem is found and fixed.
The previous was largely a moot point because the vast majority of blocked sewer lines take place outside the home. The number one culprit is trees. In a perfect example of how Mother Nature refuses to be stymied for more than a short time, tree roots will often grow straight through sewer lines. When this happens, those roots become a screen that does not allow waste to flow. Once again, this is a situation that requires equipment and experience beyond what most do-it-yourselfers can boast.
Perhaps the worst scenario occurs when the problem is beyond the realm that belongs to the home and into the realm that belongs to the government. In most places, it is literally a crime to tamper with pipe that belongs to the city, or whatever government is actually in charge of the sewer. A good plumber knows not only where the line between home pipe and government pipe is drawn, but maybe more importantly, knows what department to call to get repair accomplished. Anyone who has had a call transferred around a government building like an electronic ping pong ball should appreciate this fact.
Great handymen can fix anything. Smart handymen understand that some things are better left to professionals. A sewer problem is usually one of these things.
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