Basement Drain Backup


Experiencing a sewer backup can be a daunting problem for any homeowner, especially when it manifests in your home’s lower levels. Understanding the symptoms of a sewer backup is crucial for early detection and resolution, helping to prevent extensive damage and costly repairs.

A basement drain backup occurs when sewage water reverses its flow back into your home through the basement floor drains. This issue is more than just a nuisance; it can lead to significant property damage, health hazards from sewer gases and bacteria, and a disrupted daily life. By recognizing the early signs of a backup in your basement, you can take swift action to mitigate the issue.


Recognizing the symptoms of a basement floor drain backing up is the first step toward addressing the problem. Here are the key signs that indicate a potential sewer backup:

1. Slow Draining

When water drains more slowly than usual from your basement floor drain or other low lying plumbing fixtures like tub basins, it’s often the first indication of a clogged drain line. This slow drainage suggests that there is a blockage somewhere in your plumbing system, preventing water from flowing freely.

2. Unpleasant Odors

Foul smells emanating from your basement drains are a telltale sign of a backup. These odors, often resembling rotten eggs or sewage, indicate trapped waste and the presence of sewer gases seeping into your home due to a clogged or improperly vented drain system.

3. Gurgling Sounds

If you hear gurgling noises coming from your drains, toilets, or plumbing fixtures, it’s a sign that air is trapped in your drain lines due to a blockage. These sounds can occur when running the kitchen sink, washing clothes, or even after flushing the toilet, indicating that your sewer line may be compromised.

4. Water Pooling

Visible water pooling around basement floor drains or other low areas like the wash tub basin in your laundry room suggest a backup is occurring. This standing water can quickly lead to a flooded basement if the main sewer line or sump pump fails to properly route excess water away from your home.

5. Changes In Toilet Flush

If you notice difficulty in flushing or if water backs up into the tub or shower when you flush the toilet, it’s a clear indication of a sewage backup. This happens because the main drain line that carries waste away from your home is blocked, causing sewage to reverse its flow back toward low-lying plumbing fixtures.


Understanding the underlying causes of basement drain backups can help you take preventative measures and make informed decisions when addressing these issues. Here are some common reasons why your basement drain might be backing up:

Clogs In The Main Sewer Line

One of the primary culprits behind basement drain backups is clogs in the main sewer line. These clogs can result from accumulated waste, grease, or foreign objects that shouldn’t be in the sewer system. Over time, materials like kitchen fats, oils, and other non-biodegradable items can build up inside the pipes, restricting water flow and causing backups.

Tree Root Intrusion

Tree roots seeking moisture can intrude into sewer lines, causing significant damage and blockages. As roots grow, they can crack through pipe walls or grow into existing fissures, leading to partial or complete blockages in the sewer lines. This natural intrusion disrupts the regular flow of sewage and leads to backups into the basement.

Damage To Sewer Lines

Sewer lines can also suffer from damage due to external forces or deterioration over time. Ground movement, heavy construction nearby, or the settling of the earth can exert pressure on pipes, causing them to break or collapse. Similarly, older pipes made from clay or other less durable materials can deteriorate, leading to leaks and backups.

Improper Disposal Of Waste

Flushing inappropriate materials down toilets or drains is a significant factor in causing backups. Items such as paper towels, baby wipes, and feminine hygiene products are not designed to break down in the sewer system like toilet paper. Their presence can lead to immediate blockages in your home’s sewer line or even further down the city sewer line, causing backups.

Overwhelmed Sewer Systems

During heavy rainfall or rapid snowmelt, municipal sewer systems can become overwhelmed by the sudden influx of water. When the system’s capacity is exceeded, excess water can flow backward through sewer lines, leading to backflows into homes. This is particularly problematic in areas with combined stormwater and sewage drainage systems, where large volumes of stormwater are funneled into the same pipes that handle sewage.


Preventing basement drain backups requires a combination of regular maintenance, proper waste disposal, infrastructure improvements, and landscape management. Here are effective strategies to help keep your basement dry and your sewer lines clear:

Regular Drain Maintenance

Regularly cleaning your drains can significantly reduce the risk of backups. This involves removing debris and build-up that can lead to clogs. For homeowners, this might mean:

  • Regularly checking and cleaning basement floor drains, ensuring they’re free of debris.

  • Using boiling water, a simple and effective method, to flush through the drains regularly, helping to dissolve any fats, oils, and greases that have started to accumulate.

Proper Disposal Of Waste

What you put down your drains has a significant impact on the health of your plumbing system. To avoid clogs:

  • Never flush items that don’t break down easily, such as baby wipes, paper towels, and feminine hygiene products. These items should be disposed of in the trash.

  • Be cautious about washing grease and food scraps down the kitchen sink. Instead, dispose of grease in the trash and use a compost bin for organic waste.

Installation Of Backwater Valves

A backwater valve is a critical defense mechanism against sewage backflows. It allows waste to exit your home but closes automatically if sewage attempts to back up into your home. Installing a backwater valve:

  • Requires a professional plumber but is a worthwhile investment to prevent the risk of sewage backups.

  • Is especially recommended in areas prone to heavy rains or in homes that have experienced backups before.

Ensuring Good Drainage Around The Property

Water accumulation around your foundation can lead to increased pressure on your basement drains and sewer lines. To ensure good drainage:

  • Make sure the ground slopes away from your foundation, directing water away from your home.

  • Clean your gutters and downspouts regularly, ensuring they’re directing water away from your foundation effectively.


For minor basement drain backing issues, there are several DIY solutions you can try before calling a professional:

Use Of Plungers Or Drain Snakes

  • A plunger can be effective for minor clogs close to the drain opening. It’s most homeowners’ first line of defense.

  • A drain snake, or auger, can reach deeper into the pipe, helping to dislodge clogs that are further down the drain line

Homemade Drain Cleaners

  • Baking soda and vinegar can be used to create an effervescent reaction that helps break down fatty acids into soap and glycerine, allowing clogs to wash down the drain.

  • Pouring a mixture of hot water and dish soap down the drain can also help to dissolve grease build-ups.


While many minor clogs and backups can be resolved with DIY methods, there are circumstances when it’s essential to call in our professional help. Here are situations when you should consider contacting us for a professional plumbing service:

    • Severe or Persistent Backups: If you’ve attempted DIY solutions and the problem persists, or if the backup is severe, causing significant water accumulation or sewage exposure, it’s time to call a professional. Persistent issues could indicate a deeper problem within your plumbing system that requires specialized tools and knowledge to fix.

    • Professional Services: Companies like us at Cirigliano Plumbing specialize in addressing and resolving complex sewer and drain issues. We offer comprehensive services including drain cleaning, maintenance, and pipe replacement. We have the expertise and equipment necessary to diagnose the root cause of backups and provide lasting solutions.

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Contact Us

If you’re facing sewer line issues in Pittsburgh, PA or the surrounding area, don’t hesitate to reach out to Cirigliano Plumbing. We offer comprehensive inspections and consultations to precisely assess your needs and propose the most efficient repair solutions. For new clients, we’re excited to offer special promotions and discounts to make your experience even more rewarding. Choose Cirigliano Plumbing for reliable, non-intrusive sewer repair solutions. Contact us today to schedule your inspection and take the first step toward a hassle-free repair process.

call us at (412) 618-1031

(412) 618-1031

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