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Question DetailsAsked on 11/13/2014

Why do I hear water backing up in my sinks and toilet when my washer empties?

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If you go to the Home > Plumbing link in Browse Projects at lower left, you will find a number of similar questions about backups and drain noise, with typical cost info too.

Almost certainly, you have a partial sewer pipe blockage that is causing the water in the pipes to back up to the lowest elevation drains in the house (usually basement tub or shower, laundry tub, or floor drain). Can start as backup at the lowest drain, or air gurgles in the traps as the water backing forces the air in the pipes back toward the drains. That is probably what you are hearing - air being forced back up through the traps at the fixtures as the water backing up in the sewer pipe displaces the air. Can go that way for months or turn into a complete clog that lets nothing by at any time, so best to get fixed immediately. The reason it occurs with the washer is that is typically your highest outflow rate and, aside from tubs, the largest volume, so initially other uses may be filling the sewer pipe with water till it trickles out, but not enough to cause the noise. Trustme - it will get worse, and start doing it with tubs and showers and toilets draining, till you have overflowing of the backup from the drains - so do NOT wait for thatto happen. Also check any floor drains - in basement or garage and basement laundry tub (if not basement level floor drains or bathroom)- because you may be having backup overflow there already - those are the usual first overflow spots if they exist.

If the backup/gurgling is NOT at the lowest elevation drains in the house, then you may have a partial blockage in the sewer pipes within the house, and a simple snaking might clear them out OK. If backing up at the lowest level drains/fixtures, then your blockage is probably in one of 6 common points - where the vertical pipes turn horizontal to exit the house (so solids drop out from the lower flow velocity), where several pipes come together into a wye (especially if one leg like to a garage floor drain is infrequently used, so sewage backs up into it and creates a junction blockage), where there is a break or offset joint in the pipe, where there is root blockage, where there is a low point in the pipe causing a buildup of solids, or due to general reduction of pipe diameter due to buildup of soap scum, tissue, and grease, which commonly happens if not routed out every 5-15 years or so depending largely on how much grease goes down the drains.

I recommend you find a plumber with capacity to rout out your pipes to the street, or a Sewer and Drain cleaning contractor, and I recommend full-diameter scraping be done rather than just punching a hole in the plug with a snake, and also that you convince them to bring a color sewer camera but not charge you if it is not used. Most will do that no problem (or at very low charge to just bring it, applicable to use charge if needed) but they need advance notice as a company commonly only has one camera. That way it is on-site and ready for scanning the pipe if during the scraping he feels a place that feels like broken or offset pipe, major roots, or graveland cobbles in the pipe - can save you $100 or more over having them come back for a second visit for a camera run.

Answered 5 years ago by LCD

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