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5 Signs of a Frozen Sewer Line (And How to Fix it)

The sooner you can recognize the signs of a frozen sewer line, the quicker you can take steps to ensure the issue doesn’t lead to extensive damage and an expensive repair.

When water becomes trapped in your sewer line during periods of sub-zero temperatures, it can cause the water to expand and create blockages.

Eventually, these blockages can lead to breaks and bursts in the pipes – the last thing you want to return to after a warm winter holiday is a flooded house!

Signs of a Frozen Sewer Line

Before that happens, be sure to frequently inspect your pipes. If you notice any of these signs of a frozen sewer line, you’ll know it’s time to fix the issue or call a professional:

  1. Foul smells from the drainage system. If you are noticing odd or foul smells coming from your drainage system, this means that there is already a blockage in your pipes.
  2. No water coming from the faucets. This one may be obvious but, if there is no water coming from your taps, there is a blockage somewhere in the line.
  3. Gurgling noises in your sewer system. You may be experiencing a partial blockage if you hear gurgling sounds. This is the sound of the water trying to push past a chunk of ice.
  4. Flooding or damp walls and ceilings. Instead of bursting, you may end up with a leak in your sewage system. These leaks, whether big or small, will definitely cause dampness throughout your home and could eventually lead to flooding.
  5. Frost on your pipes. If there is frost on the outside of your pipes, there’s a good chance there is frost or ice on the inside as well.

While noticing the signs of a frozen sewer line may buy you enough to time fix the issue before disaster strikes, the best defense against frozen pipes is a good offense. 

Taking preventative measures can help to avoid having your pipes freeze in the first place.

How to Prevent Sewer Lines from Freezing

You can avoid damage to your pipes and your home by taking the following steps to ensure your pipes don’t freeze during the wintertime:

  1. Insulate your pipes. This is fairly easy to do – simply wrap your pipes with insulation and secure with electrical tape.
  2. Seal off outside vents. Preventing cold air from entering your basement or crawlspace will help keep your pipes from freezing.
  3. Check the temperature of your water heater. During the wintertime, you may find that you need to turn your water heater up a couple of degrees to prevent freezing.
  4. Keep water running. Even the smallest stream of water from one of your taps will keep water flowing through your pipes, which will keep it from freezing.
  5. Keep your drains clear. Remove snow from on or around your outdoors drains and septic tank.

Should other industrial parts of your sewer line end up freezing, you can thaw the pipes on your own by pouring very hot water (not boiling) down the drain.

The hot water will thaw the blockage but be careful – if the water you use is too hot, you risk damaging PVC pipes or causing a pressure build that can lead the pipe to burst.

Call in the Professionals

Your sewage lines are not an aspect of your home that you want to trifle with. The best thing to do if your sewer line is frozen is to call a professional plumber.

They can figure out where the blockage is occurring and troubleshoot the safest way to thaw it.

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