While the Denver area isn’t nearly as rainy as other parts of the country, we still occasionally get quite heavy rains during the summer. Although rare, major rainstorms have the potential to cause flooding and can create serious problems for your home’s drains and sewer lines. The same is also true when the weather suddenly warms up after a major snowstorm and leads to huge snow melt and runoff. Today we’re going to take an in-depth look at the ways that rain and flooding can affect your plumbing and sewer system and also how to know when your home has a problem.
How Heavy Rains Affect Soil and Pipes
Heavy rains soak deep into the ground and cause the soil to expand quite a bit. This expansion of the soil can cause the ground to shift and potentially lead to your sewer line cracking or breaking. All of the heavy, wet soil on top of the sewer line also exerts a huge amount of pressure and can potentially cause the pipe to completely collapse.
If your sewer line were to break, it would quickly start flooding your yard with sewage. A collapsed or broken sewer line can also result in sewage backing up inside your home.
The same soil expansion and pressure issues also have the potential to break your damage the water line leading to your home. This is potentially an ever more serious problem as all the high-pressure water blasting out of the pipe could easily start flooding your basement or crawl space.
A broken sewer line or water line can also do serious structural damage to your home. All the water can cause the soil around your foundation to shift or settle and potentially lead to part of the foundation sinking. The water and soil expansion can also exert lots of pressure directly on the walls of the foundation and may lead to concrete cracking.
A broken water line is extremely easy to identify as it will usually result in the home having no water. A broken sewer line can sometimes be a bit tougher to spot as it won’t always affect your plumbing. That being said, if you smell a strong sewage odor in your yard, you should immediately call a plumber and stop using your plumbing until your sewer line has been inspected. The same is also true if you’re having issues with sewage backing up in your home or all of your drains are clogged or suddenly drain much slower than normal.
A broken sewer line or water line can easily flood your yard as well. If you notice that your yard still has standing water or is extremely wet and soggy for days after the rain has stopped, you will also want to have your plumbing inspected. A broken sewer line can also send lots of water and waste out into the soil where it will then act as fertilizer for your yard and plants. As such, you may start to notice that part of your yard is suddenly growing quicker or is much greener due to a broken sewer line.
Blocked Sewer Main Caused by Heavy Rainfall
Heavy rains don’t just have the potential to affect your home’s plumbing and sewer system as they can also cause major issues with the municipal sewer main that your sewer lateral drains into. It isn’t uncommon for trash, leaves, and other debris to get washed into the municipal sewer line by a major rainstorm.
When this happens, all of the debris can potentially clog the drain where your sewer lateral empties into the main sewer line. As a result, all of the waste and water that you put down your drains or toilets will eventually begin backing up inside your house since it can’t drain out.
A blocked sewer line can usually be fixed by using an auger or a hydro-jetting machine to remove the debris and clear the clog. While this is definitely an easier problem to fix than a broken sewer line, it is still something you’ll want to have taken care of immediately as the last thing you want is for your home to start being flooded and contaminated with sewage.
If your home is older and still has original plumbing, clearing a blockage in your sewer line may be a bit more difficult. Newer homes all have sewer cleanouts, which are usually located just outside the home and allow easy access to both the main sewer line leading out of your home and the sewer lateral running through your yard out to the street.
However, many older homes don’t have plumbing cleanouts, which means the only way to access the sewer line is usually either to remove a toilet or by going through the plumbing vent stack on your roof. For this reason, we would highly recommend having plumbing cleanouts installed if your home doesn’t already have them as it can save you a lot of money and headache should any future sewer issues arise.
How Rain Can Cause Backflow From the Municipal Sewer Line
Heavy rains can also sometimes completely overwhelm the municipal sewer line and cause it to fill up completely to the point where it starts to overflow. This can result in a sewage backflow, which is when wastewater from the municipal line starts to flow back up your sewer lateral and potentially into your home. This isn’t necessarily as serious of an issue since the sewer line will eventually start to empty once the rain stops. Nonetheless, it can still easily flood your home with sewage in a short time.
The good news is that this is one problem that is extremely easy to prevent by having a backflow preventer installed in your sewer line. A backflow preventer is essentially a flapper that is installed inside the sewer line. The wastewater coming from your home flows directly over the flapper with no issues. However, if water starts flowing back up the pipe, it will push against the flapper and cause it to close and block the pipe so that the sewage can’t flow back into your house.
Water Quality Issues
Heavy rains or runoff from snow melt also have the potential to cause issues with your water quality. This problem is obviously worse if your home relies on well water, which is why we recommend any home with a well has a high-quality well water filtration system. It is also a good idea to have your well water tested after any heavy flooding or if you ever notice any unusual tastes or smells.
Heavy rains can also wash lots of contaminants and pollutants into storm drains where they can then flow into the municipal water source. This usually isn’t something you need to worry about that much since municipal water supplies are tested regularly. Nonetheless, not all water companies treat or disinfect their water supply in the same way, which means there is still a chance that flooding could contaminate the municipal water supply and make it unsafe to drink.
If you suspect you have a broken sewer line or any other plumbing or drain issues, High 5 Plumbing is here 24/7 to help. We specialize in all types of plumbing and sewer repairs as well as drain cleaning, rooting, and hydro jetting. For more information or to schedule a plumbing inspection in the Denver Metro area, give us a call today.