The plumbing in your home is a complex system that many of us take for granted on a daily basis, but it’s susceptible to problems like clogging that can create backflow issues. We’re accustomed to clean water routinely coming into the home and wastewater leaving it. It happens at our command, and we seldom give the complexity of the process a second thought. These systems have been engineered over time to be efficient, but because of its complexity, sewage piping needs attention, care, and maintenance. It’s possible for the flow of wastewater to be reversed, which results in backflow. Backflow can cause costly repairs to your plumbing system and even damage to your health. It’s easy to identify but not necessarily easy to repair.
Whether your home is a single story or multiple levels, the plumbing system will essentially work the same way. The outside water is sent to you under pressure from a city or county treatment plant. The water enters your home through a meter, which gauges the amount of water you use. From there, your home plumbing system goes to work.
How Home Plumbing Systems Function
The number one principle that makes a plumbing system work flawlessly is simple gravity. The design of home plumbing systems depends on the idea that everything eventually is pulled downward by this force. From the first septic systems to modern plumbing units, gravity is depended upon to prevent backflow.
Two systems work within each plumbing arrangement. One set of pipes brings clean water into your sinks, showers, toilets, and any other appliance that needs clean water to operate. Another set of pipes takes the water back out of your home and into a treatment unit. It’s this system of pipes that can clog from below your sink or tub, which leads to possible clogs or breaks far into your building or your yard.
Your sink and tub fixtures each have drainpipes that use gravity to pull the water through them and out of your house. Sinks also have a drainpipe trap just below the drain itself. This trap is there to keep a small amount of water consistently in the pipe so that gases can’t return from outside and enter your home.
Unfortunately, the trap also holds hair, grease, and other debris that gets through the drain. In time, these solids can back up and cause minor drainage issues.
When they’re working properly, these two systems are essentially unnoticeable. On occasion, the pipes can clog or even break. Broken pipes are often the result of age, corrosion, or random changes in pressure Either of these problems can cause wastewater to reverse its usual course and culminate in backflow. Aside from the possible material damage, the toxins in backflow can pose a serious health risk.
Ways Your Home Plumbing Can Back Up or Break
In older homes, the age of the sewer lines usually matches that of the property. They can become brittle and break. In some older homes, sewer pipes could actually be made of clay or ceramic, which gives in to weather and erosion over time. Once a hole has formed in one of these sewage pipes, your water discharge will be affected. Usually, it will appear as a large puddle in your yard.
You might also detect an odor if the sewage is backed up for a long period. It could be somewhere in your home or a random spot in your yard outdoors.
Another issue that often arises in properties with many older trees is a tree root obstruction. Large trees like oaks and maples send hundreds of roots throughout your lawn. Eventually, one of the larger roots could come in contact with a brittle sewer pipe, find its way in, and cause a blockage. Generally, a professional plumbing company can run a tool called a “snake” through the pipe. The snake tears apart roots and breaks through other obstructions so water pressure equalizes and gravity again pulls water out of your home and back to the treatment center. Of course, if you have a septic system, the wastewater is drawn into your septic tank instead.
Inside your home, common causes of blocked pipes can be prevented by using plastic or wired traps at the drain. These inexpensive traps will catch the majority of hair, food particles, and other solids, preventing them from entering the drain. Keeping these traps intact and clean is a major advantage in maintaining clear pipes.
There are some common and easy fixes to small clogs. Drain cleaners are available almost anywhere. Also, the drainpipe that traps solids is often easy to remove, clean, and replace. Generally, it’s under the sink, and it comes off with a few tugs of a wrench.
What Causes Backflow In Plumbing?
As we know, backflow is when the water reverses course and sends wastewater back into your home’s sinks and showers. When gravity is countered by some other force, it can run in the direction opposite from where it’s intended.
Backflow can be a dangerous situation if not addressed right away. You will know you have backflow in one of a few ways. In your sink, you will notice a sudden drop in water pressure. This simply means the water is not flowing or it is not flowing in the correct direction.
Another indicator that you have a backflow problem is discoloration of the water that does appear. It can appear from either a drain or your faucet. A flow of pink, grey, or yellow water indicates a very serious and potentially dangerous situation. This water should not be used without consulting a professional.
The causes of backflow are sometimes out of your control. It could be due to the city performing maintenance or dealing with a major leak someplace. If this happens, your town will usually put out an alert to boil the water, which means the water isn’t safe to consume unless the bacteria in it is eliminated.
Any change in pressure that causes the clean water to have less pressure than the wastewater could cause backflow. If a pipe within your property were to break and change this pressure, you could see backflow. If a faucet or tub fixture is installed incorrectly it could also prevent proper flow and cause this problem.
Installation of air gaps can help prevent this change in pressure so that the wastewater does not flow in reverse. Most of the time, professional help is necessary when it comes to identifying and reversing backflow in your plumbing.
Plumbing Maintenance and Care
Near your meter, you’ll have a valve that controls the pressurized water coming into your home. Some homes allow you to shut the water off yourself in case of an emergency or to perform small repairs or installations. Otherwise, it’s necessary to call the city or a professional plumber to come and turn off the water going into your residence.
If you have concerns or you want preventative maintenance on your water and sewage system anywhere in the Tucson area, trust Rite Way Heating, Cooling, and Plumbing to do the work. In addition to offering a full line of electrical and plumbing services, we also perform heating, cooling, and indoor air quality equipment installation, repair, and maintenance. At Rite Way Heating, Cooling, and Plumbing, we’re fully licensed and insured, and we’ve been helping locals since 1959. Give us a call to set up an appointment.