Whew! What’s that smell? Rotten eggs, sulphur? That’s raw sewage. If you are smelling that in and around your house, it might be because you have a backup. Now you’ve discovered this problem, but let’s take a look at the causes, risk factors, symptoms, potential solutions, and preventions when it comes down to a sewage backup.


There are many different things that can cause a backed up sewer pipe. The following is a list of the most common backups.

Broken sewage line

A broken sewage line means the waste and sewage is not making it from the home to the sewers. Instead the sewage has nowhere to go and so it really just sits.


Clogs in the sewage line can be caused by a number of things. Most commonly: food, hair, sanitary products, and even clothes. That is why when things say do not flush down the toilet, it’s best to obey. Even if something is marketed as flushable, it is best to let only poop, pee, and paper down the toilet.

Tree roots

Tree roots are perhaps the biggest culprits that break sewer lines. As the tree roots grow, they create cracks in the porous clay and eventually cause breaks in the pipes. To learn more about tree roots and the impact they have on your home sewer system check out this article.

Municipal sewer system issues

Not every problem you are having with your sewers will be as a result of something on your property. Municipal sewers are known to have problems which affect homeowners’, and personal sewer lines. This commonly happens after a heavy rainfall, the time when sewers are overwhelmed and cannot accept household inputs.

Collapsed sewer line

Similar to a broken sewage line, a collapsed sewer line causes a backup, as waste cannot make it through. Collapsed drains are perhaps more dangerous as nothing can get through the line at all in certain cases.
Each of these situations cannot be solved on your own. If you have a problem with your sewage, you need to call a professional plumber who will know what to do and how to fix your smelly problem.

Risk factors

Maybe you don’t have a backup in your sewage line yet, but are you at risk? Glance through the following risk factors and assess the risk your home is in.

Clay Pipes

Clay pipes are commonly used when it comes to sewers, but these pipes are still relatively fragile. Having clay pipes does put you at a higher risk for a backup, because they are more susceptible to breaking, or becoming damaged.

Old Pipes

Having old pipes of any material is never any good when it comes to sewage. You may be one more flush from a backup and not even know it yet! Have your pipes checked if they are relatively old, and if you begin to see problems, have a plumber recommend whether or not you need them replaced.

Heavy usage

Using the sewer line frequently can cause extra wear and tear. No I don’t mean going to the washroom more than usual, rather having tens of people use a smaller scale sewer line frequently. This heavy usage can cause clogs in the pipes.


Built up dirt sand and other natural debris inside the pipe does not get flushed out property causing a buildup and eventually a backup of sewage. Some dirt can get in through cracks where other dirt is introduced in flushing, finally strong storms can wash dirt into pipes.

What goes down the drain?

Flushing things down the drain other than the 3 intended items can cause a blockage in your sewer line (toilet paper, urine, waste). Food, hair, small objects, feminine products, and grease are all items that people commonly flush down the toilet resulting in clogs.


Most times there’s a backup in the sewer line, the first thing you notice is a smell. The smell is usually revolting, as you would assume sewage is. It is compared to the smell of rotting eggs and sulphur. Each of the following symptoms is usually accompanied by this smell. The smell happens because raw sewage cannot pass through the line and smells.

Uprooting or groping drains or toilets and smell

Around your toilet a sewage backup may cause groping around the toilets or uprooting of trains. This of course will be accompanied by the dreaded smell in most cases as well

Drain cracks

You will notice cracks in many of your drains from pressures. These cracked drains will normally be on the drains lowest in your home. For example if you have a basement, they will normally appear there.

Visible backup

When your backup gets really bad, you may begin to see a backflow of sewage. This means raw sewage in baths, showers, and toilets. An extreme and unpleasant symptom of a backup. This symptom presents when the appliances are running because the sewer junk is just being moved around and overflowing. This is an extreme symptom that requires attention ASAP.


The first step to solving any sewage issue is to call a professional. An experienced plumber will know what and how to do exactly what must be done in order to clear your sewage line. Most likely, your plumber will go about fixing the issue in one of three ways. First, they will remove old pipes and put in new ones. If the pipe has collapsed or is broken, this is the method they will go about. Adding onto that, if the reason the pipe broke was as a result of tree roots, your plumber may move the line or trim roots. Thirdly, your plumber may be able to safely remove the blockage without replacing the pipe using a series of special tools.


While there are things that can be done in the event that your pipes become blocked. The best thing to do is avoid and prevent this. One way you can prevent a sewage backup is by only flushing items intended to be flushed down the toilet. Secondly, when gardening or putting in a sewer line avoid placing plants like trees and shrubs near where the sewer line is. THis way, you can prevent root damage to the pipes


A sewer blockage or backup is not something that will just fix itself. If not addressed a backup can and will cause permanent damage to your home and potentially cause damage to your belongings should it overflow. If your pipes are experiencing any of the mentioned symptoms, call Rooter Team for a free estimate today! The Rooter team is a group of trained licensed and experienced plumbers who are ready to fix your backed up sewage pipes no matter the difficulty!