What to Do If You Have a Sewer Backup While on Vacation

Opinion & Expertise
February 6, 2019

by David Balkan

Sewer Backup On Vacation Family

Do you know what to do if you have a sewer backup on vacation? You have worked hard all year, and it is finally time to kick back and relax at your favorite vacation destination. As a responsible homeowner, you have a friend checking in on your home. Your friend is watering the plants, and picking up the mail. Your stress levels decrease, and you are having a great time. Then, your cell phone rings. Your sewer is backing up at your house, and your friend has no idea what to do. It is an unpleasant interruption for sure. Besides that, you need to act fast to save your home from damage.

Sewer Backup On Vacation Family

It might be tempting to pack your bags and cut your vacation short, but you might not want to do that just yet. Keep your wits about you and enlist some help to take care of the immediate issue. The 1st form of help, is knowledge and guidance, both of which follow.

Assessing a Sewer Backup

The first thing you want to do is make sure that you are dealing with a sewer backup. Other plumbing problems can sometimes appear to be a sewer backup. There are a couple of clues that will help you create a quick evaluation. You can also get a good idea of where the backup is so that you can determine your best course of action.

  • Clogged Drains/Toilets – Clogged drains and toilets can indicate a backup in the sewer line, especially if there are multiple clogs or slow drains. For example, the problem is in bathrooms and the kitchen. Multiple drain issues can be indicative of a main drain clog
  • Water Backing Up – Dirty, often smelly water coming up out of a drain, or from the toilet plumbing, is another indication that the water is not flowing correctly in your main sewer line. This can sometimes be indicative of a public sewer surcharge. This is especially true if no water was being used in your home (since you are on vacation).
  • Water in the Basement – If your home has a basement, have your friend check for standing water, a bad smell, or other indications that the sewer has backed up and collected there.
  • Your Plumbing Talks – A sewer backup causes a gurgling or percolating, sound to come from drains and toilets. If the plumbing in your house has been making noises like this, you might be on the verge of a back up. If you hear gurgling sounds, call a drain cleaner before you leave on vacation.

Ever have a sewer smell in your house after you return from a vacation, or time away? Frequently it is not from a sewer backup or a clog. It can simply mean that one of your drain traps dried out while you were away. That can happen when no water is used. Every drain trap depends upon a water barrier to prevent sewer gases from escaping into your home. To cure this, simply pour some water into floor drains, and run water in every sink to refill each trap.

Locating a Sewer Backup

The only way to know for sure where your sewer system is clogged is to have it professionally inspected. You can, however, get a general idea of where the backup is. You have to look at how the problem is manifesting itself in your home.

Main Sewer Line Clogs

If the problem is located within the main sewer line connected to your house, every drain and toilet is affected. You will hear the percolating sound if you run the water in the kitchen, or flush a toilet. The pipes will either drain slowly or not at all, and there may be a slight odor wafting through the air. If plumbing fixtures on the lowest level of your home are backing up, that’s another sign of a main line clog.

sewer backup
A main house trap clog will shut down your entire drain system

Secondary Line Issues

If your sewer backup problem is caused by a clog or obstruction in a secondary line, you will notice separate issues. For example, the bathtub and sink might backup with water if the toilet is flushed. The drains and toilet might also sound like a coffee pot percolating while the water drains.

The 5 Things to Do About a Sewer Backup

You are rightfully concerned about the damage that a sewer backup might cause your home. You’ll also want to take care of the problem right away. But, you have a few more vacation days, why ruin them? Ask a friend to do a few small things for you. Then you can handle the most significant problems when you return.

1. Turn the water to the house off at the main

Turning off the main water valve will help relieve pressure on the pipes and stop additional water from flowing in. If this is done in the Winter, your boiler will have to be fed with water while the main is off.

 shut water to house
Always use the valve on house side to the close water

2. Turn off the water heater

To avoid damage to your water heater while the water is off, have your friend turn it off. It also will not be wasting energy when it is not being used.

3. Clean up any water that has overflowed on the floor

Clean up any overflow of waste water. That way it will not cause damage to the flooring and structure. Perhaps more importantly, it will prevent the growth of mold and bacteria. A mopping using bleach would be a great idea as well.

4. When you return, call a professional plumber in

A professional plumber or drain technician can locate the source of the problem, even after the fact. They can likewise remove the clog, and get your sewer moving in the right direction.

5. Call a remediation specialist

Sewer water contains a myriad of contaminants, bacteria, and other nasty things. Cleaning up standing sewer water is dangerous and should be left to a professional to deal with.

Take Preventive Measures Before You Go On Vacation

Dealing with a sewer backup when you are on vacation is no fun at all, but if you plan, you can avoid the problem altogether. First of all, do not ignore early warning signs like slow, clogged, or noisy drains, the top signs of a sewer drain issue. If you are gone for a while, shut off the water to your home at the main. This will save you from water damage from inside leaks, backups, or running toilets overflowing.

If, despite your best efforts, you find that your sewer is backing up, contact Balkan Sewer and Water Main Service. We will send one of our highly trained professionals to your home to assess the problem and provide the best solution for your needs. Our services are available 7 days a week, and even after hours.

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David Balkan

David Balkan is the CEO of Balkan Sewer And Water Main, the largest and most trusted service in New York City. David is extremely active in various NYC plumber organizations being the Chairman of the Subsurface Committee in the Master Plumbers Council, and Vice President of the Subsurface Plumbers Association. In addition David’s expertise is respected by officials of New York City agencies such as the NYC DEP, NYC DOB, and the NYC DOT. He frequently provides valuable input on a variety of industry related matters.

Dave Balkan

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