Plumbing problems — like being unable to flush a toilet, or a drain clearing slowly — are a nuisance, but nothing triggers alarm quite as much as having water come up through a drain in a sink or bathtub. If you're having this problem, read this simple guide to find out what's causing it and what you can do to get it fixed.
What Triggers It
For most people, simply running water won't cause the sink or tub to start backing up. Instead, it will trigger when you send a large amount of water or other substances down a drain, like flushing a toilet, draining a dishwasher, or draining a washing machine.
What's Causing It
The problem that's going on here is that there's something either in your indoor plumbing or the sewer line itself that's created a blockage. While each appliance and sink has its own plumbing, they meet up at a point where all the nearby drains merge into one pipe. But if there's something at this point or beyond it blocking the pipe, there's no where for a large amount of water or other debris to go. In many cases, just running the water won't trigger it because a small amount of water can still slide by the blockage and make it to the sewer line. However, larger quantities of water with a lot of pressure behind it and stuff you flush down your toilet won't be able to make it through.
What to Do
There's no real fix for this other than to call a plumber. If the blockage is in the sewer line, it's completely out of your reach, and even if it's still indoors, you'd have to manually disassemble the pipes in an attempt to find the blockage and fix it. This is too much to ask of most homeowners and could result in a lot of trial and error. It's better to call a professional and just get the job done.
When a plumber comes out to do the job, the first thing they'll do is track down the blockage. This can be accomplished with a portable camera that's threaded down the pipe. It displays results in real time on a monitor, so your plumber can see what's going on and find the blockage.
If the blockage is indoors, your plumber may be able to use hydrojetting, which uses a blast of high-powered water to clear the blockage. If not, a mechanical snake may do the job.
If the blockage is outside in the sewer line, it may require a bit more work. This type of blockage is usually larger and more problematic as the sewer line is wider than a standard indoor pipe. However, your plumber should be able to break it up with a high-powered plumbing snake that effectively grinds up anything it comes across, allowing it to pass through the pipe.
Contact a company like Complete Plumbing for more information.