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Imagine you just finished cooking dinner after a long day at work. After putting the kids to bed you throw in your last load of laundry and FINALLY sit down to catch the nightly news. You hear something in the background but you can’t exactly identify what it is. After 5 minutes you mute the television and hear what sounds to be like splashing from the near by bathroom. Confused, you walk into the bathroom only to notice that water is, for whatever reason, pouring out of your toilet ALL OVER the ground, ruining your walls and carpet. You rush to the back of the toilet to turn off the water, but this doesn’t work. “Why is the water coming out from the drain part of the toilet?” you ask yourself.

What do you do now?

What we’re talking about here is a sewer line clog, and knowing how to do four simple things during this time of crisis can be very rewarding.

When a sewer line clogs up, you’ll notice water or sewage coming back up from drains (toilets & bathtubs are common). The reason why a sewer line can clog up is because it is obstructed; the source can vary but it usually happens because of a root, a collapsed pipe, a faulty pipe installation, or something that shouldn’t have been flushed.

In order to lessen any damage that will occur from one of these nightmares, do the following four steps RIGHT AWAY:

Turn of any appliances using water. Locate your “clean out” and open it. Shut off the main water supply to your house. Call a plumber, and tell them you think you have a sewer line clog.

1. Turn of any appliances using water

In order to understand why this is important, it’s important to understand what is actually happening to your plumbing during a sewer line clog. In plumbing, water comes in through the main water line, and everything that goes down your drains goes out through the sewer line. If your sewer line is clogged, all the water that is being used currently is not being drained (because of the clog) and is actually coming back up through your drains (along with any sewage, too). If you have any appliances running that are actively using water, they are essentially pushing water out of your drains, adding to the problem. The simple solution to this is to turn off any appliance which is actively using water, like a washing machine for instance.

2. Locate your “clean out” and open it

This is the most important part, the part which actually stops any more damage from happening. For the most part, every home has something called a “clean out”. All clean outs are, are vertical pipes connecting to your sewer line. They enable access to sewer lines from the ground, and are usually found in the front or side yards of houses, or in the backyard of houses near alley ways. They are made of PVC pipe, can range in colors, usually white or black, and have a lid screwed in on top, that has a square growth coming out from the top of it.

Once you locate this, remember exactly where it’s at. Once you know where it’s at, go and get a wrench, and unscrew the top of it by twisting the lid counter-clockwise. If you have multiple clean outs, open all of them. If you do this, you should notice water coming out from the PVC pipe; this is a good sign. What you’ve just done is relieved the pressure from the sewer line, and instead of sewage flowing out of your drains, it will flow out of the clean out.

3. Shut off the main supply of water to your house

The next thing you’ll want to do after you’ve opened the clean out is the turn off the main water supply from the side of your house or from the front of your yard depending on where yours is at.

4. Call a plumber

At this point, you have relieved the pressure from your sewer line and have stopped any water from entering your home. The only step left is to call a plumber and have them fix the clog. Remember, you have not fixed this problem, only remedied it for the time being. It is also something that won’t fix itself, so make sure that you get a plumber out to complete the repair.

Most plumbers can come out and snake the drain to remove any debris. However, I would recommend that you find a plumber that can also video camera the line to make sure you know what it is you are dealing with, and to know that the problem has been fixed correctly. The reason being sometimes a clog can be cleared with a plumbers drain snake, but without a video camera, the plumber cannot see if there is a root intrusion or a collapsed pipe. A video camera service can cost extra, but knowing exactly what the problem is, and that it has correctly been resolved are some of those things which are well worth the price.

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