One clogged drain is an annoyance, but several clogs can quickly become a more severe (and costly) problem. Backed-up drains can be particularly frustrating when you've already had a plumber out to your home, only for the problem to return a few days or weeks later. Unfortunately, persistent clogs are all too common, and dealing with them can often be surprisingly challenging.
Of course, the best way to resolve any issue with your plumbing is to work with an experienced expert. Still, understanding the reason behind a stubborn returning clog can be helpful. If your home's drains keep backing up despite your best efforts, these three questions may help you get to the bottom of your frustrating problem.
1. Is the Problem Confined to a Single Drain?
You can think of your home's drains as branches that eventually converge on a single trunk — your main sewer line. Each drain has a relatively short pipe that may connect to a shared line for an entire room or floor. These shared lines typically connect to soil stacks that run downward and transport waste to the sewer line.
Clogs at a single drain usually indicate a problem with the short connection immediately after that drain. If the problem returns repeatedly, there may be an issue with the plumbing design in this area. One common culprit may be an improperly installed P-trap. P-traps prevent sewer gases from entering your home, but a poorly installed one may also be a source of consistent clogs.
2. Is Water Draining Slowly?
If water drains away slowly despite your best efforts to clear clogs, the problem may not be a clog at all! At least not a clog where you might expect. Your drains contain sewer gases along with wastewater. Your P-traps prevent these gases from entering your home, but you still need vents to allow the gases to escape safely.
Vents don't clog due to things you flush down your toilet or put in your sink drain, but animals or debris can sometimes become trapped in them. When this occurs, the gases in your plumbing cannot easily escape. As a result, these gases will block the flow of wastewater, causing your drains to run slowly or back up entirely.
3. Can You Smell Sewage?
The odor of sewage is usually one of the earliest indications of a sewer blockage, and it should be especially troubling if you have multiple drains clogging up. Although your P-traps will block sewer gases from entering your home, a backup in your pipes can produce a noticeable odor. You'll typically detect this smell in your lowest drains first, although the location will depend on the severity of the problem.
Never ignore the smell of sewage or assume it will go away. If you're facing a problem with consistent clogging and notice this foul odor, there's a high likelihood you have a blockage somewhere in your main sewer line. Dealing with this problem is the best option to avoid a messy and potentially dangerous sewage backup. Call a plumber to help you find the clog.