Water flowing into basement floor main drain backup

Why Did My Basement Floor Drain Backup? 

A basement floor drain backup is almost never caused by a clog in the basement floor drain itself. In every home, the basement floor drain connects to the main drain line. Therefore, it’s a main sewer line clog that almost almost always causes the floor drain to back up. In fact, main drain line clogs cause 99% of floor drain backups.

Liquids always take the path of least resistance. Because the basement floor drain is the lowest opening in the home’s drainage system, sewage and water coming up from the basement floor drain backup is a sign that your home has a main sewer line clog. And the potentially expensive water damage that results is a plumbing emergency that needs to be dealt with immediately.

What Causes a Main Drain Clog?

1. Tree Roots:

So, how do tree roots get into the sewer line and cause a main sewer line clog? Great question.

Trees are pretty incredible: Trees are pretty incredible: a tree can grow on the side of a cliff. What’s not incredible is finding out that you have tree roots in your sewer line. Roots naturally grow towards any moisture. So, if there are any cracks or weak points in your drain line, roots will find their way in and cause a basement floor drain backup.

Here’s how to clean tree roots out of the main drain line:

  • Cleaning your sewer line with a hydro jetter is always your best bet. The hydro jetter keeps the roots away for 5 to 7 years.
  • The auger is also a great tool for removing roots from your home’s sewer main. However, the auger doesn’t get all of the roots out of the drain line. Because of this, they will come back much faster.
  • Roots can damage the home’s main drain line. These roots can crack and eventually collapse a sewer line.
  • To learn more about tree roots in your pipes, check out our blog on roots in a sewer line.
This picture shows what it looks like then a plumber uses a drain machine to remove roots from a sewer line.
This picture shows what it looks like then a plumber uses an auger to remove roots from a sewer line.

2. Deteriorated Pipe:

Why does an old sewer main (main sewer drain) clog more often?

  • Your main drain has an expiration date just like anything else in your home (except honey).
  • As it gets closer to that expiration date, you can experience more frequent main sewer line clogs and, therefore, more basement floor drain backups.
  • Over time, scale and debris builds up on the inside of the pipe’s walls. If the main drain is made out of cast iron, it will rust. As the inside walls of the pipe rust, the pipe becomes smaller and smaller. This decreases the amount of liquid that can flow through the pipe.
  • If the main drain is given more than it can handle, the liquid will up up through the basement floor drain.
  • The rust and build-up on the inside of the pipe is extremely rough. So anything soft, like toilet paper, has the possibility of getting caught on the pipe’s walls, kind of like Velcro.

What are the solutions to fix, replace, or clean out a deteriorated pipe that’s causing a main sewer line clog?

a) Hydro Jetting

  • A hydro jet is a piece of plumbing equipment (designed specifically for drain clearing and cleaning) that uses high-pressure water to blast the scale, rush, and other debris off of the main drain’s walls.
  • The high volume of water helps flush all of the gunk and nastiness out of the main drain line, eliminating your problem with basement floor drain backups.
  • Once the pipe has been cleared, your emergency plumbing and drain specialist will also use his or her equipment to clean the inside of the pipe’s walls.

b) Pipe Lining & Replacement

  • Pipe lining – or trenchless sewer replacement – is a good way to replace the pipe without digging.
  • This is a great solution when digging is not feasible or desired by the property owner.
  • Keep in mind, digging up and replacing the pipe is usually less expensive than pipe lining. However, it requires digging a large trench on the property.

3. Break or Separation in the Home Main Drain Line

A break or separation in the main drain line is worst case scenario. This is by far the most expensive and requires a costly pipe lining or replacement. The broken section is the only part that needs to be replaced, but many times homeowners will choose to replace the entire line.

4. Bellies in The Main Drain Line

A belly is a flat spot or dip in the main drain line. This can happen over time as the ground settles.

How do you fix a belly in a sewer line?

  • The only way to fix a belly is to dig it up and replace it. This usually requires the use of a mini-excavator.
  • Routine preventative hydro jetting will not fix the belly but can prevent unexpected clogs and basement floor drain backups. Many people choose to go this route (using hydro jetting for main sewer line maintenance) because it is much less expensive than a full sewer replacement.

5. Abuse from Improper Flushing

Generally, abuse is something like flushing more materials (or the wrong items) than your main drain line can handle. It’s the most common cause of floor drain backups. Here are some tips to avoid an unexpected clog:

  • Be careful about what you flush down your toilets. Toilet paper and most non-corrosive liquids are okay. But never flush paper towels, baby wipes, and feminine hygiene products. They’re simply too thick to dissolve thoroughly and flow through your pipes.
  • Make sure little ones don’t play in the toilet (hey, we’ve all been there with our kids!). They’ll often dump toys and other plastic items into the toilet bowl and flush.
  • Ironically, of the most common causes of floor drain and toilet drain backups, toilet paper is the number one culprit of clogged drains.
  • Certain toilet papers are better than others and we strongly encourage you to choose your brand wisely. It can save you thousands of dollars down the road.

Best Toilet Paper to Prevent a Basement Floor Drain Backup

  • Scott 1-Ply bath tissue is best for dissolving more efficiently and thoroughly in water. This makes your pipes less vulnerable to clogs.
  • If you absolutely need more cushion from your toilet paper, try Angel Soft 2-Ply bath tissue. Not quite as good as the Scott but it’s much better than most.
  • 100% recycled toilet paper is probably the most dissolvable bath tissue and therefore the safest for your pipes. If you don’t mind spending a bit more per sheet to help with the environment, then a brand like Seventh Generation is your best bet.
  • We do not recommend brands like Quilted Northern Ultra Plush or Cottonelle Ultra Comfort Care. These 2-Ply toilet papers do not dissolve well in water.
  • KEEP IN MIND: 1-Ply bath tissues will prevent clogging issues better than 2-Ply bath tissues. However, it’s up to you on how to balance your clogging issues with the usually better comfort provided by a 2-Ply bath tissue.

Call 1-Tom-Plumber

Don’t hesitate to contact or call us at 1-Tom-Plumber (1-866-758-6237). We will immediately handle any emergency plumbingdrain cleaning and drain clearing, and water damage problem, including excavation of underground water lines and sewer main lines.

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