You know how in the movies the worst thing the lead character can do is head down the stairs into the dark basement, without turning on even so much as their phone torch? (And yet, they do that, time and time again. Why?) Well, that little scene has nothing on the other dreaded darkened basement scenario… the backed up basement drain.

This is, undoubtedly, one of every homeowner’s worst nightmares. Whether you discover the smallest of puddles or a full-blown gusher in your basement, the immediate reaction is the same: disaster! The worst part? You know there is a problem, you just don’t know what it is. That fear of the unknown, the unknown that lurks deep beneath your home in gurgling pipes. Well. Freddy Kruger has nothing on that.

Fortunately, experts like those found at Urban Water Works know how to diagnose the problem, what to do, and how to do it quickly. (Bonus: drainage experts always carry torches!) To further ease your mind, read on for our 9 top tips when it comes to dealing with your basement drain backup nightmares: three warning signs it might be coming, three possible causes, and three potential cures.

3 Warning Signs Your Basement Drain is About to Back Up

Obviously, once your basement is awash (in water and who knows what else), it doesn’t take a drainage expert to tell you you have a problem. If you know what to look for though, you may notice some warning signs that will allow you to catch the problem before it turns into a disaster zone.

Here, our top three warning signs that you are the owner of a clog that may soon result in drain backup into your home. Don’t ignore them.

1. Bad odours

The smell of sewage backing up is unmistakable. We don’t need to spell it out for you here. Suffice to say, if your sewer line is becoming clogged it’s very likely that you will notice a ‘sewer’ odour coming from your drains. And trust us, if you think the smell is bad, the physical manifestation of that smell is going to be worse. Get someone in to find the source and stop it in its tracks.

2. Gurgling sounds

If your toilets or sinks make a gurgling sound when draining, don’t let the sounds of bubbling water soothe you. This is not one of those white noise machines. Those gurgling sounds? Those are the sounds of a potential clog building in your main sewer line.

3. Slow draining water

When water seems to take forever to drain out of your bathtub or sinks, it could be that a clog is starting to form. You know what won’t be slow though? When that clog ends up pushing gushing water out of your basement drain.

3 Possible Causes of Basement Drain Backup

Okay, so you’ve missed the signs. Or, as is sometimes the case unfortunately, there weren’t any. Now you’ve got basement drain backup. (We’re so sorry. We feel your pain.) The question is: what is the problem and how do you fix it?

Let’s start with the possible reasons why your basement drain could be backing up:

1. Drain line clogs

In most homes, the basement drain is the first place waste water can escape when it’s got nowhere else to go. This is because it’s the lowest drain in your home, making it the go-to escape route when water is unable to flow to the main drain and sewer line.

What this means is that clogs in any of your home’s drain lines – whether a relatively small clog in a minor or secondary drain line, or a more serious clog in the main line – can cause backups in your basement floor drain.

Possible causes for clogs?

  • Fat, oil or grease buildup;
  • too many scraps or too-big food items drained through your kitchen sink;
  • hair;
  • pipe scale;
  • foreign objects, such as a ring lost while washing up or bits of bar soap;
  • disintegration.

In short, the culprits are many and varied.

2. Sewer line clogs

Basement drains can also back up when clogs lie deeper in your home’s plumbing system. Like in the dreaded sewer line. This is where things can get really nasty. As with your drain lines, when sewer lines are clogged, with nowhere else to go, wastewater will back up until it finds the point of least resistance – your basement drain aka, the lowest drain in your home.

Possible culprits for sewer line clogs?

It should come as no surprise that things-that-should-not-be-flushed-but-are, are one of the biggest offenders when it comes to sewer line clogs. Feminine hygiene products, children’s toys, paper towels, cat litter, wads and wads of toilet paper, small cloths, face wipes… if it isn’t human waste or a reasonable amount of toilet paper, don’t flush it.

Nature too, plays its role in blocked sewer lines unfortunately: leaves, dirt, rocks, sticks, even small animals. All can sneak through outside drains and get stuck in your sewer lines, causing blockages which will bring what should be heading outside, back inside. The biggest offenders? Tree roots. Trees need water to grow and tree roots are uncommonly good at finding said water. The tiny hair-like roots growing off a main tree root can find their way into your sewer lines through small cracks in the pipe joints, and eventually completely clog the line.

The moral of the story? Flush wisely, and keep a clean yard!

3. Sewer line damage

If you’re unlucky, your floor drain backup could be caused by something less trivial than a clog – as disgusting as those can be. We’re talking actual sewer line damage, which can require more costly, time-consuming work to fix.

Given that your sewer lines run underground where they aren’t protected by the bricks and mortar of your home, they can fall prey to both the elements (those pesky tree roots again), and to time.

Like everything, over time and with age, the sewer line degrades. This can result in it becoming cracked, broken, or pocked with holes. The sewer line may also start to sag (think a full belly in plank position) or fully collapse.

Whatever the case, the sewer line will begin to act like it has a blockage or clog, thus forcing waste water to back up into your basement.

3 Cures for a Backed Up Basement Drain

Now let’s move on to what you can, or should, do about your backed up basement drain. Our top three tips?

1. Shut it down

The minute you see water backing up into your basement, shut your water off. It might seem obvious now, but in the panic of the moment, you’d be surprised at how quickly you forget this step.

Once you’ve shut the water off, you’re going to want to get as much standing water out of your basement as quickly as possible. The sooner you can get everything clean and dry, the less the risk of health-hazardous mold setting in.

Now you can start looking into what the problem is, and how to fix it. Which is where tip #2 comes in.

2. Call in the professionals

Sewer water backing up in your basement is not something you want to mess around with. Not only is it hazardous, to your health and your home, but it could be coming from any number of sources, with any number of causes. It typically takes a professional, with their professional tools, to find the root cause, which is what you really want to fix so that it never happens again. What’s more, tamper with the wrong pipe or piece of plumbing and kaboom! You’ve made the entire situation 100 times worse. Catastrophic even.

A sewer or drain professional will perform a visual inspection followed by a more in-depth inspection achieved by running an electric sewer snake down the clogged drain line. In some cases a HD sewer camera can pinpoint the cause, and exact location, of the problem. In some, more extreme cases, a sewer line repair will need to be performed. But for the most part, your chosen specialist will run a high pressure water jet to clear out stubborn clogs.

Professionals can also look into your house sewer trap and sewer valves to ensure that they are tight and fitted correctly.

If you’re experiencing issues with your basement drain backing up, then call in the professionals at Urban Water Works! 604-790-8993

3. Prevention is better than cure

If you’ve ever had a backup issue in your basement, or seem to do so on a periodic basis, it’s important to schedule ongoing maintenance to keep your basement dry and your drains clog free. Routine maintenance by a drain cleaning professional pre-scheduled annually means that you can sleep easy at night knowing you’re likely to catch most drainage problems before they happen.

This means no more forays into darkened basements, terrified at what you might find. Plus, it is a far more economical practice than those frantic emergency calls for one-off, big ticket basement backup disasters.

Urban Water Works offers all the drainage services you need to avoid backed up basement drains, and any other drainage issues, from draining the life out of you. Services include Video Inspection, Clogging and Blockage Removal, Drain Flushing, as well as actual drainage repairs related to water lines, sewer lines and any perimeter drainage systems.


Serving Burnaby, Vancouver, the North Shore, New Westminster, the Greater Vancouver area, and surrounding areas in British Columbia.


Call Urban Water Works, your local Vancouver, BC, drainage experts, today on 604-790-8993 or contact us via our easy online form and we’ll get back to you ASAP.