Signs You Could Have a Broken Sewer Line

As a homeowner, dealing with systems going awry can be frustrating, especially if it’s sewer problems. You may wake up one day and smell a funky odor in your home. Smelling sewer gas is one of the tell-tale signs of a broken sewer line. Here are some other ways to detect this issue.

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Slow Drainage

Is your toilet taking forever to flush? When emptying the sink after doing dishes, is the water taking more time to drain? If you answered yes, then these are the symptoms of slow drainage and a leaking sewage pipe.

If only one appliance in your home is draining slowly, then it may just be a pipe blockage. However, if it’s more than one appliance, then it’s most likely a broken sewer line. Wear and tear could be the cause, or roots from outdoor trees could have broken through the pipes.

Backups and Clogs

If a clog is the cause of water or sewage backup in your home, then it usually only affects one fixture, like your toilet. However, if it’s a sewer leak, sewage will overflow in more than one area.

You can try to unclog your drains with a snake, but if that doesn’t work, you’ll need to call in a professional to fix the issue.

Smell of Sewer Gas

If you have slow drainage and backups in your home mixed with the smell of rotten eggs, then you’re definitely facing a sewer line leak. Sewer gas is high in sulfur and carries a distinct odor and can be toxic.

If you notice the smell is more distinct the closer you get to your drains, then your sewer line is to blame, and it could be a cracked pipe.

Spots of Lush Green Lawn

You may be thinking, “Isn’t having a lush, green lawn a good thing?” in most cases, yes. But in this case, it could be one of the signs of sewer line problems. Look for random patches of vibrant green grass surrounded by dead, brown areas.

The liquid leaked from a broken sewer line actually acts as a beneficial fertilizer for your grass, carrying essential nutrients. Unfortunately, this isn’t the healthiest version of fertilizer because these toxins can build and make their way into the air.

Soggy Lawn

A soggy lawn may not always be caused by a leaking sewer pipe (you may have poor drainage) but here’s what to look for: stinky sinkholes.

A sewer line leak can actually leave you feeling like Shrek living in a swamp, creating marshy conditions.

Insects and Rodents

Even worse, a soggy lawn environment is a magnet for rodents and insects, making your home uncleanly and a space for disease harbouring.

Additionally, if a crack in your sewer line is to blame, rodents can make their way through these gaps and make their way into your home.

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Broken Slabs and Wall Cracks

Houses are made to move and shift over the years, but if you notice more cracks than usual in your home’s concrete base, then this may be a sign of sewer problems.

When you have a crack in your sewer line, the fluid can deteriorate the soil that supports your house. It is a big issue if you don’t fix this because as more soil is depleted, the foundation will eventually give away.

Mould and Mildew

Look for wet patterns on your walls, ceilings, and floors. If sewer fluid has infiltrated these areas, it can cause mould and mildew, creating an unhealthy living environment.

Left untreated, it can lead to allergies and your home’s foundation deteriorating.

You Have a Broken Pipe. What to Do Next?

From time to time, it’s normal to have a slow-draining shower or sink from hair and debris build-up. However, if slow drainage is accompanied by water backup, wet patterns, and a foul-smelling odor, you have a bigger issue on your hands. The damage a broken sewer line can wreak on your home can be severe, so we don’t recommend you try to fix the issue on your own.

Call in the experts at Summit Drain and Plumbing and we will take care of you straight away.


A main sewer line blockage can cause water to backup in random places. For instance, you run your washing machine and notice your sink overflowing – this can be a clear sign that you have a clogged drain line.

If you have ruled out a potential sewer drain clog, you can rinse your sewer drain by flushing it with water. When you flush your lines, try adding a bit of drain cleaner to the water. A great place to flush your sewer line is the toilet – a larger amount of water and drain cleaner can enter your system quickly and easily. Unfortunately, if you do this when you have a clog, it can cause backup and potential flooding – if this is the case, clear the clog first.

You should generally know if your sewer line is blocked with slow drainage. The purpose of the sewer line is to take all the water drainage away from your house via sinks, bathtubs or toilets – if you find that there is slower drainage in one drain then you can essentially clear that yourself using a drain snake or a plunger.

There is confusion regarding when you are responsible for sewer line repair. While some may believe that the homeowner is only responsible for repairing the part of the line that’s on their property, this is not the case. Sewer lines consist of multiple sections, the upper lateral, lower lateral and the main line. The city is only responsible for repairing the main sewer line.

If issues with the main sewer line cause damage to your lower lateral, which is most likely where the damage would generally first start – the city would repair this damage when they work on the main sewer line. Unfortunately, if there is backup and flooding on your property from the main sewer line, then the city would not be responsible. It is best to follow up with the city to see if they will repair any damage in these cases.

Unpleasant smells coming from your drains is indicative of sewer line issues and damage. You should always take these types of smells seriously as it could be toxic fumes slowly releasing from the sewer below into your home.

There are a number of ways to clear a slow drain using products found around the home:

Bent Wire – If you do not have a drain snake, you can try using a stiff wire – like one from a clothes hanger, leaving the hook to enter pipes and pull out any clogs. Try to make sure you don’t push debris further into the pipe.

Homemade Flush – Mixing baking soda and vinegar can dissolve any materials that are potentially clogging your drain pipes. This is a good and much safer alternative to store-bought chemical cleaners.

Toilet Plunger – Like plunging a toilet, you can try using this on your drains. Using a plunger on your drains can help get things moving by using suction. This should be enough to fix any mild blockages.

Aged drain pipes are at risk for corrosion which can lead to breaks. Summit Drain has both the technology and expertise to fix this if necessary.

Yes. Drain pipes are durable, but not meant to last forever. If you live in an older home in Ottawa, most likely the pipes are made from copper and can collapse in this day and age.

When it comes to a collapsed drain, call Summit Drain. We use trenchless technology to replace sewer pipes made from original materials without ruining your property.

Rock salt
Rock salt helps by removing moisture from the roots, which in turn kills them. Two lbs should do the trick, pour 1 down the toilet. Flush until gone. And repeat with the next. Then leave for 12 hours and don’t run any water.

Foaming root killers
Another effective way to treat roots in pipes is with foaming root killers. Pour powder into toilet and flush. It will foam upon contact with water. Not only does it help dissolve current roots, but also helps to protect against future ones.

Copper sulfate
Copper sulfate is another good option. Available at most hardware stores, pour roughly half a cup into toilet and flush until gone. Leave the home and take all pets and family members along. This is a toxic substance and banned in some places.

Should I replace old pipes?
There does come a time where it makes sense to replace your pipes. Over time they crack and corrode. It is recommended to begin routine inspections once your home reaches 50 years in age. For plumbing Services in and around the Ottawa area, nobody does it like Summit Drain.

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