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Top 5 Signs You Have a Collapsed Sewer Line


Signs of a Collapsed Sewer Line

When most people think of a clog, they imagine the nuisance clogs that occur in toilets and sinks that need to be plunged. These clogs are a pain, but not the nightmare that occurs with a main sewer line clog or collapse.

All of the drainage pipes run into the main sewer line that is underground and outside the home. When this line gets clogged or collapses, it can cost thousands to fix, and you’ll have no drainage until it does. Luckily, the signs of a collapsed sewer line are obvious.

The quicker you notice the changes, the better the chances it won’t cost you an arm and a leg. Check out these five signs your sewer line is clogged or collapsed.

1. Signs of a Collapsed Sewer Line Include Frequent Backups

When the toilet backs up, your bathroom gets soaked in wastewater. It’s disgusting, and you’re more likely to call a plumber than if the sink or the bathtub backup. The truth is that frequent backups, especially those in the lower regions of your home, are signs your main sewer line is clogged or collapsed.

You’ll likely notice it first in any plumbing you have in the basement as these would be closest to the main sewer line. What happens is the water from all the other drains converges into the main sewer line. If the pipe is collapsed or clogged, then the water has nowhere to go.

It then reverses and uses the path of least resistance. That’s likely the lowest drain in the basement.

If the pipe is collapsed and there is access to the dirt surrounding the pipe, the dirt will slowly absorb the water, and the water recedes. Since the pipe is still collapsed, the water frequently backs up over and over again.

Since the major drainage points are usually in the basement, you may not even notice it, but if it isn’t taken care of it gets worse and worse.

2. More Than One Fixture Clogs

Since all the drainage connects to the main sewer line, when it collapses, it impacts every drain. If the water has nowhere to go, then multiple fixtures can clog or have backups. For example, if you take a bath and the water doesn’t drain quickly, and then your toilet starts bubbling, then it could be water or air rushing into the toilet.

It could also manifest in your bath not draining followed by the toilet, bathroom sink, and other drain outlets. If the collapse is major, then plunging the toilet may not work in removing the water.

Instead, the collapsed pipe either drains the water slowly or not at all. This is an obvious sign, and the plumber uses a camera to view the pipe and find where the clog or collapse occurred. The location is a major factor in the cost of fixing the problem.

There are many causes of the collapse or clog from pipe corrosion, grease, and other detritus collecting in the pipe. Tree roots can also grow into the pipe, breaking it and causing a collapse. Since this happens underground, it can be a tremendous undertaking to replace or repair the pipe.

3. Your Plumbing Gets a Mind of Its Own

When you main sewer pipe clogs or collapses, it can impact your drains in surprising and disturbing ways. The drainage pipes in your home are a complicated tapestry of connections, bends, and turns.

When your sewer line clogs, it can cause drains to emit strange sounds, odors, or bubble up. You might think your toilet is haunted, but it’s just air rushing back to the surface.

If your toilet suddenly starts bubbling and does it often, then run the bathroom faucet for a bit and see if continues unabated. You might also notice a gurgling sound coming from the toilet or bathtub drain, which is another clear sign that something isn’t right.

You also might notice an odor coming from the drains. This is because waste and sewage aren’t draining properly from the toilet, so the smell can come rushing back through the other drains. It may not be a full sewage backup into your bathtub, but you’ll smell something isn’t right.

Sewage backups into other drains are not only smelly and disgusting but also a health hazard to your family. Wastewater teems with bacteria and other pollutants that cause illness. The diseases it spreads can be run the gambit from a minor cold to serious health problems.

4. Your Lawn is Constantly Soaked

Since the main sewage line is outside, it can cause changes in your lawn. When a pipe corrodes or breaks from a tree root, it causes dirt from the outside can rush in and water now has access to the outside world.

When you flush or drain water from dishes, etc., it flows down the pipes and into the main sewer line. When the water hits the collapsed area, the surrounding dirt absorbs the water. Slowly over time, the ground saturates, and you’ll notice the lawn above the collapse soaked with water or even have standing puddles.

If you have standing water in your lawn caused by the pipe collapse, the plumber will need to dig down to the collapsed pipe to fix it.

5. Your Grass Grows Like Crazy

One of the common side effects of having an area of your lawn saturated with water is the grass in that area grows faster than in other areas. It might start out slowly as water seeps to the surface, but eventually, you’ll see a dramatic increase in growth over the collapsed sewer line.

You’ll mow the grass, but that area continues to grow faster. If the water puddles, then the grass in that area can become oversaturated and will die. It takes time for this to happen, so if it gets to the point where the grass dies off or if the area of fast growing grass gets bigger, then it could be a major project to fix the collapsed pipe.

Catch a Collapsed Sewer Pipe as Soon as Possible

When you have a collapsed sewer line, the cost of fixing it and the inconvenience of it make it imperative to catch it early. By noticing the signs of a collapsed sewer line early, you might be able to reduce the cost.

If you want to learn more about plumbing and sewer line repair, please explore our site.

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  1. Stefan Bradley

    I didn’t realize that your fixtures might become clogged if you have a collapsed sewer line. My wife and I have noticed that our sewer has been having a difficult time functioning properly. It may be best for us to find someone who can clean out our sewer.

  2. Darrien Hansen

    I had no idea that your main sewer line may be damaged or clogged if you experience frequent backups. My wife and I need to hire a plumber soon. Hopefully, we can find someone who can help us prevent backups.

  3. Bob slaney

    I just noticed that there was a lot of dry dirt pushed up around the main drain in the basement and after removing it there is mud in the pipe nothing backed up just the dirt but the dirt was dry now and the drain is draining I ran water through it no problem but all mud what do I do??

    • Chris Walter


      • Jim Doss

        Then when you sell and hide the problem you will be sued . Then you’ll have to pay to have it fixed. If you hide home problems you can still be sued even 20 yrs later.J

  4. Stephen Jeeves

    Have put new toilet in on first floor and cut into cast iron external soil stack. Flushed away at first but now backs up from time to time. Lifted man hole cover when toilet flush but no signs of water discharge. Help

    • Julie

      There. Is a bad odor after the washing machine is run.The odor comes into one room.We have ran a water hose down all house vents.

      • Jim Doss

        More than likely it’s the washer itself. There are products that you use in the washer to rid it of the smell.


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