Why Do Sewer Lines Always Back Up on the Week End?

Drain_FS Since we moved into our home, we have been plagued by our sewer line. It backs up once a year – usually in the fall but it occasionally surprises is over the winter. It’s tree roots every time. Mature trees are nice for shade, but the roots are evil.

Mature trees are wonderful for shade...but their roots find their way into our sewer line.

Mature trees are wonderful for shade...but their roots find their way into our sewer line.

After the first time or two we figured out that the plumber needs an extension to really get to where the problem lies – it’s well out into our yard and the only clean-out is in our basement.

My question for all of you: Why does the sewer always back up on the weekend?

Every time we have called a plumber, we have had to pay for a “weekend call.” A recent weekend was no exception.

My husband and son had gone camping for Cub Scouts Friday night and I had to get the girls up early the next morning for soccer. All was still well when we all got home around noon on Saturday, but everyone needed showers and the camping clothes needed washing.

My in-laws were coming the next day to watch my son play midget football and his white football pants were soaking and needed to be washed. (White football pants are another blog post entirely. Who chooses white pants?!)

Hubby and I were going to Hastings College that evening to see “Almost, Maine.” Lots to do, lots to do.

The dishwasher needed running so I got that going. My husband and son took their showers and I got the laundry started.

While walking down the hall to put away a stray Barbie doll, I heard a beeping sound. I thought maybe it was the oven, but it wasn’t a nice even beep. It was Morse Code for SOS – three short beeps, three long beeps then three short beeps. Over and over.

I asked my husband if he heard it. We looked at each other and, at the same time, said, “The water sensor!” That exclamation point was not one of joy, but of sheer panic.

Sensor We had learned our lesson a few back-ups ago and purchased an inexpensive (yet priceless and invaluable!) water sensor at Menard’s. They cost about $10 and can save you 10 times that in basement clean-up.

Just imagine not knowing the sewer has backed up until seven, eight or a dozen flushes later. You get the idea.

I went downstairs and discovered a puddle around our floor drain. It was growing slowly because the washer was draining. Time to turn off all the appliances and put a lock down on the toilets!

Yet three people still needed to shower, football pants weren’t washed and it wasn’t even 5 o’clock yet, which meant people would need to use the bathroom! I packed shower supplies and herded the girls to a locker room at my husband’s office. My husband began to make phone calls to plumbers.

If you can imagine my tone of voice as I type this, you will undoubtedly hear dread. Not only because we had company coming, but because of the “weekend call” rate. CJ’s Plumbing, Svoboda Plumbing and Witt Plumbing all got messages late on a Saturday afternoon. Another plumber didn’t have an answering service, and Don Rutt apologized because he was out of town and his crew wasn’t available – but he answered anyway, which was nice.

I took the football pants to my next door neighbor’s house and she graciously let me use her washing machine. I don’t know what I would do without you, Marguerite!

We needed to leave for the play a little before 8 p.m. We still hadn’t heard back from anyone at 7:30 p.m. We put the girls put to bed, gave our son stern orders to be in bed by 9 and to not under any circumstances flush. We hoped for the best.

When we returned home just before 10 p.m. there was a message from Svoboda Plumbing. We called him back right away (late, I know – sorry!) to see if someone could come in the morning. We left another message.

Overnight all the water drained away so we felt comfortable flushing once—maybe twice – Sunday morning. We washed a bit, spritzed some hair and called it good for church. I was singing that morning and I hope the tension couldn’t be heard in my voice! When we got home, we had to get my son ready for football and eat lunch before the in-laws arrived.

Before heading to the football game we decided to leave the front door unlocked in case a plumber was passing by and took pity on us. It was then the phone rang!

I ran over and had to calm myself down. Finally, someone was calling back! Witt Plumbing. The on-call guy could be to our house within the hour. I told him I would leave the door open and we would be home by 2:30. Since we had played phone tag with Svoboda Plumbing I figured I should call him so he didn’t put us on the schedule. I felt kind of bad about that because we’d had them out a couple of times before. Next time.

After all of that, our drain got cleaned out, my son won his football game and we had a terrific barbecue supper at the Knights of Columbus. The weather was beautiful and the kids played outside a bit before bed.

But I’m still nervous about flushing the toilet.

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About the author: Denise Howie

Denise Howie is a wife, mother and preschool teacher. She spent her formative years in Minnesota and Iowa, graduating from Iowa State University. After working in the publishing industry for 6 years she became a stay-at-home mom who rarely stayed home! Denise moved to Hastings in 2006 with her husband and three children and dove head first into life in Nebraska.

4 Responses to “Why Do Sewer Lines Always Back Up on the Week End?”

  1. I can so relate to this! But when it happened to us on a weekend – we could only get a hold of ONE Hastings plumber and they were busy. The rest of the Hastings plumbers never even gave us a call back! Didn’t make us too happy about the plumbers in Hastings! We luckily got a hold of roto-rooter in Grand Island and they came down and cleaned out our tree root! We had all taken baths/showers before we realized it so all the dirty laundry on the basement floor was soaked!! Not a very fun day at all! One of those water sensors sounds like a pretty good idea!

  2. Oh, Denise, it didn’t happen b/c it was the weekend…it was b/c company was coming! The sewer backup gremlins know when there will be extra flushers in the house, and they lurk till just b/4 the company arrives. At least that’s been our experience. We finally learned our lesson and have started having pr-emptive sewer cleaning/root extraction done from time to time. Which reminds me…it’s time to do that again. Thanks for the reminder!

  3. Thanks for the replies! I still get nervous walking down into the basement. Although now I am more nervous about the millipede I saw crawling over a wooden chest. That’s for another blog post, too!

  4. We used to have that happen regularly. I lived on the 800 block on N. Minnesota at the time. Then I began to notice the plumber’s truck appearing at other houses around us. He was making a fortune and there had to be a link to the problem! In the end it was a plug in the CITY sewer line that was backing up into all our houses. Have them come out and check your area when this happens! Good luck!

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