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Why Is Water Backing Up Into My Bathtub?

Water Backing Up Into Bathtub

Perhaps it happened when you decided to hop into the shower one evening after a long day. Just as your stress began to recede, you noticed you were standing in water up to your ankles, and it was still rising—and suddenly, what was supposed to be a relaxing way to unwind became a new stressor in your life as you wondered why you might have water backing up into the bathtub.

Since kitchens and bathrooms are high-traffic areas in most houses, most people depend on their plumbing to function properly, day in and day out. When any part of the bathroom is suddenly out of commission, it causes a big disruption in the daily routine.

It’s a relief when there is an easy fix to the problem, but unfortunately, this is often not the case when it comes to water backing up into a bathtub. The most likely culprit for this particular plumbing problem is a blockage in your main sewer line. Rather than being an annoyance, a sewer line obstruction is a major issue that could actually be a health concern for everyone living in your house, and which can’t be diagnosed or resolved by the average homeowner through do-it-yourself methods.

Sewer line clogs are actually considered plumbing emergencies that require immediate attention, since they often result in wastewater or even raw sewage backing up into the household plumbing. If this happens, no one should use any of the plumbing in the home until the problem has been fixed, since wastewater and raw sewage pose health risks to you and your loved ones.

If a blockage in the main sewer line is the cause of water backing up into the bathtub or other related plumbing issues—or even if you simply suspect it might be the cause—the best thing you can do is to call a reputable plumber to come to assess the problem as soon as possible. Plumbers can perform a video inspection of your pipes and sewer line to pinpoint the location and type of blockage, so they can then recommend the best and safest solution.

What are some other plumbing scenarios you might have as a homeowner, and what should you do if you find yourself in these predicaments? Read on to learn more about what do if your toilet and drain are both clogged, how to handle water coming from your bathroom sink into your tub, whether water going from the kitchen sink into your tub is a big problem and what is probably happening if both your shower and toilet are clogged at the same time.

how to unclog toilet and bathtub drain

How To Unclog A Toilet And Bathtub Drain

If your toilet clogs or if water is slow to drain after you take a shower, that’s usually not a plumbing emergency. However, if you experience more than one plumbing issue at the same time, the likely culprit a clog in your main sewer line. What are some examples of when this might happen?

A few warning signs that might signal a clogged sewer line include:

  • Water backing up in your shower or tub after flushing your toilet.
  • The water in your toilet bubbles or rises after you run the bathroom sink.
  • Water appears in your shower or tub—or your toilet overflows—when you run your washing machine.
  • You notice the unmistakable and unpleasant smell of raw sewage coming from your drains.

As we’ve already mentioned, if you suspect you have a problem with your main sewer line, you’ll want to immediately call in a licensed plumber to take a look. Better yet, try to find a company that uses video technology to solve drain issues, since these types of serious plumbing issues require special tools and expertise to successfully resolve. Better to call in a pro than risk making one of the many common plumbing mistakes that can result in damage to your pipes and additional time and expense.

Unfortunately, backed up sewers can cause extensive damage to your home’s walls, furniture, electrical systems and floors, as well as to your belongings. What might cause this type of plumbing problem? While there are a number of reasons, here are those which are the most common:

  • Aging systems are the culprit for at least a part of the 3% annual increase in sewer backups. Increased development is putting more pressure on the more than 500,000 miles of sewer lines in place in the U.S. which are over 30 years old.
  • Multipurpose pipes may be overtaxed if they have to handle an excess of stormwater and raw sewage during rainstorms, resulting in sewage backing up into low lying drains and basements.
  • Tree and shrub roots can crack sewer lines and service pipe joints as they grow and seek moisture in the ground.
  • Municipal sanitary main blockages can occur if your city’s sanitary main gets backed up. In most cases, these problems don’t occur overnight, and there are usually warning signs of a problem, so these occurrences are rare.

bathroom sink backing up into tub

When Water From The Bathroom Sink Is Backing Up Into The Tub

If you’re using the bathroom sink and then discover murky water from the bathroom sink backing up into the tub, again, it’s a sign that something could be blocking your main sewage line.

To understand the scope of a sewer line blockage, it helps to understand how your drains connect to the main sewer line. Every drain in your house ties into a central drain pipe that runs out of your home and connects underground to your city’s sewer system (or to your septic tank, if you have one). This means that all the drains in your home, including kitchen and bathroom sinks, showers and tubs, and utility room drains, are connected to each other.

When just one toilet or sink in your home is clogged, it could be a more localized issue, which indicates a simpler fix. But when you have clogs in multiple areas at once—for example, it’s not just your bathroom sink that’s affected, but the tub as well—or when your toilet backs up with every flush, this is a sign that the obstruction may be in the main sewer line. This line runs underground, and when it is blocked, it can be quite extensive and costly to fix.

kitchen sink backing up into bathtub

Water From The Kitchen Sink Backing Up Into Bathtub: DIY Or Call A Pro?

It can be quite alarming to discover water all the way from the kitchen sink backing up into the bathtub. This is yet another clear indication of a clog in the main sewage line, and your best bet is to call a plumber right away to inspect your pipes and sewer line to find the source of the obstruction and determine the next steps.

As we have mentioned, sewer line blockages sometimes occur because tree roots have grown into the pipes or the pipes are old, cracked or collapsing—conditions which are sometimes the responsibility of the homeowner and sometimes fall under the purview of a municipal government. More specifically, homeowners are generally responsible for any part of the sewer lateral which goes from a home into the public right of way. Homeowners can elect to purchase additional insurance coverage to protect against any costs associated with sewer backups.

There are certain steps homeowners can take to make sewer line blockages less likely:

  • Don’t flush anything other than toilet paper down the toilet—not facial tissues, feminine products, wet wipes (even those that are supposedly flushable), cotton balls or swabs or anything else. The only thing safe to flush along with human waste is toilet paper (and try not to use or flush too much of it at one time!).
  • Don’t dump grease down your kitchen sink’s drain, or anything too fatty. Grease and fat harden as they cool down and build up over time to create a clog.
  • Don’t dump too much at once into your garbage disposal. Insert only small quantities at a time—or better yet, use your compost bucket or garbage can to dispose of food waste.
  • Don’t put anything into the disposal that will turn gummy when ground up, such as rice, pasta or potato peelings; that is too hard, such as bones or fruit pits; or that is too fibrous, such as celery or rhubarb.

Toilet And Shower Clogged At The Same Time

Toilet And Shower Clogged At The Same Time: What’s Going On?

Having a toilet and shower clogged at the same time can also be linked to a clogged main sewer line. Homeowners wanting to take care of their pipes and sewer lines can avoid using harsh chemical drain cleaners that could damage their pipes, avoid putting anything inappropriate in the garbage disposal or toilet and use enzyme cleaners once a month to keep drains clear. When used properly, enzyme cleaners can help eliminate sediment and gunk inside pipes. These products are less toxic than chemical drain cleaners as well as less damaging to pipes and more environmentally friendly.

ABC Can Handle Your Plumbing Problems

Most homeowners are able to handle the occasional stopped-up toilet, slow-draining tub or a handful of other common plumbing problems on their own. But sometimes, more extensive plumbing problems occur that really need the attention and expertise of a trusted professional. If you suspect a blockage in your home’s main sewer line, or if you are experiencing water backing up in various household drains, contact ABC Home & Commercial Services today. Our licensed professional plumbers can handle any plumbing problem, large or small. We’ll save you time and make sure repairs are done both safely and correctly.

Jim Brant

Jim Brant is the Plumbing Director for ABC Dallas and Fort Worth branches and has been with the company for five years. Jim has 30 years of experience in the plumbing industry and 14 as a master plumber. When Jim isn't addressing plumbing issues in the Metroplex and beyond, he enjoys off-roading in his Jeep.

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