sewer line carries wastewaterThere are two types of sewage: sanitary and storm.

Sanitary sewage is waste water that contains human impurities, bacteria, viruses and other pathogens, which can be very harmful if touched or inhaled. Storm sewage is natural ground water that is less dangerous. Residential sewer infrastructure in Toronto is located underground, and consists of 4” pipe that is installed with a slope. It extends from the basement of the house to the nearest road, where it connects to the city sewer system. In older Toronto houses, you can find sewer pipes that are made of clay and are as wide as 6” in diameter. But, this is becoming much less common, even in older homes.

A main drain and sewer system are similar in appearance to a trunk and branches.

With this kind of infrastructure, a waste water pipe, extending from any particular fixture, will always connect to a primary or main pipe. It is essential that a building drain is installed with a slope, so that sewage pipes remain functional, stable and clean. If there is no slope, or even an inadequate slope, there is a likelihood that sewage buildup and blockage will occur. If this happens, waste water will collect and force itself through the closest and easiest adjoining outlet. Since the basement occupies the lowest level in the house, it will be the first place where sewage backup will manifest itself. Due to this and other possible problems that can arise, it is crucial that a home owner checks the basement drain on a regular basis.

To better appreciate both the value of and risks associated with drain infrastructure, it is helpful to understand how sewage backup can arise. When sewage comes up from the floor drain, or other plumbing fixtures, it indicates that there is problem either with the main drain inside the basement or with the outside sewer pipe. If this ever occurs, the first thing you should do immediately is stop using water in the house. Since the problem could potentially be related to your main drain, discontinuing water usage would prevent additional water from being routed to blocked drain pipes in the basement, where it could cause significant damage to the plumbing infrastructure, as well as your house.

pipe blockageThe second step when dealing with sewage issues is to consider alternative causes.

If sewage continues to rise from the floor drain, there is a possibility that it could be related to an issue with the city pipes. You can confirm if your sewage obstruction is related to city plumbing infrastructure by calling your neighbors. if any of your neighbours experience the same issue, then it is almost certain that the main source of the problem is related to the municipal sewer system. If your neighbour does not experience the same problem, then you should immediately call a professional plumber (such as one of ours) for advice and recommendations.

In the event that city plumbing infrastructure is suspected as the main source of the problem, the next step would be to speak to Toronto Sewer. You can reach Toronto Sewer by calling 311. After communicating your issue to them, they will send a licensed plumber to your residence to evaluate the relevant plumbing infrastructure. Fortunately, you do not have to worry about costs associated with this service, as it is offered completely free by all Ontario municipalities.

The degree of difficulty associated with the city resolving this problem can depend on the type of municipal plumbing infrastructure that is connected to your residence.  In many cases, the municipal infrastructure will be what is called ‘clean-out.’ ‘Clean-out’ refers to a vertical pipe that is connected through a y-fitting to a sewer pipe, which extends to the surface with a removable drain access lid just in-front of the property. The drain access lid is an important piece of Inspecting the Draininfrastructure that allows city plumbers to use cameras or snaking machines to determine the best way to resolve the problem. Sometimes, Toronto Sewer technicians cannot perform the required work if there is no clean-out available. In these cases, their advice to home owners will be to hire a private contractor to install clean-out pipes outside as a first step. This can present a bit of an obstacle, however, since there is no easy way to install a clean-out for pipes that are full of sewage.

An alternative option to hiring a private contractor is to call an experienced plumber who is equipped to conduct a thorough evaluation of the plumbing infrastructure and provide an appropriate solution.

Fortunately, the City of Toronto makes this option much more preferable than hiring a private contractor. It provides up to a $3,400 rebate to residents to help protect against potential flooding. Mister Plumber is proud to accept all plumbing services that are funded by this initiative, so do not hesitate to call us for additional information about this option.

Defense Against Basement floodingAfter resolving the sewage backup, the next step would be to call your insurance company and arrange to have all affected areas of your house fully cleaned and restored. Alternatively, you can also call us, as we partner with insurance restoration companies throughout all of Toronto. Doing this can actually help speed up things in many cases. Above all, it is strongly advisable that you do not touch any waste water at any point whatsoever, as doing so could lead to harmful effects, including even electrocution.

To help reduce the chances of sewage backup, Mister Plumber recommends checking your underground main drain and sewer at least once a year to make sure it is in full working condition. Our professional plumbers are adept at carrying out a wide range of plumbing services, including sewer pipe repair, pipe replacement, infrastructure upgrades, and the installation of backwater valves, sump pumps, drain clean-outs.

Backwater Valves to the RescueBelow are some step-by-step instructions you can follow if you ever experience sewage backup in your home.

  1. Immediately discontinue using all plumbing fixtures in your house.
  2. If you have running taps or toilets, turn off the supply valves, or shut the main water valve off.
  3. Call your neighbor to verify whether they have a similar problem.
  4. If sewage levels continue to increase, and you have confirmed that other residents in your area are experiencing a similar problem, then call 311.
  5. If other residents are not experiencing a similar problem, then call a professional and experienced plumber, such as Mister Plumber, who has, and is adept at using, both drain cameras and a snaking machine.
  6. Remember not to touch waste water, as it contains harmful bacteria and can lead to electrocution.
  7. After your drain is unblocked, flush all basement fixtures with clean running water. Also, make sure to pour a couple of buckets of water with diluted bleach down the floor drain. This will help kill bacteria and other harmful organisms.
  8. Talk to Mister Plumber about installing a backwater valve, as well as about other possible options to prevent flooding in the future.
  9. Call your insurance company to arrange for cleanup and, if necessary, renovations.
If you are experiencing sewage backup, or want to make sure that your sewage infrastructure is both reliable and functional, we invite you to contact us directly either by phone 416-939-1530 or by email info[at]


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