Some homeowners associate an overflowing toilet with a problem in their septic system. It is possible that the septic system is responsible for the toilet backing up, but this is not always the case. A stoppage either in the toilet trap or in the drainpipe can cause a backup.

If you get a call from a customer who has a toilet flooding their bathroom, there is a quick, simple test you can have the homeowner perform to tell you more about the problem. You know the toilet drain is stopped up, but will the kitchen sink drain properly? Will other toilets in the house drain? If other fix­tures drain just fine, the problem is not with the septic tank.

There are some special instructions that you should give your customers prior to having them test other fixtures. First, it is best if they use fixtures that are not in the same bathroom with the plugged-up toilet. Lavatories and bathing units often share the same main drain that a toilet uses. Testing a lava­tory that is near a stopped-up toilet can tell you if the toilet is the only fixture affected. It can, in fact, narrow the likelihood of the problem down to the toi­let’s trap. But, if the stoppage is some way down the drainpipe, it’s conceiv­able that the entire bathroom group will be affected. It is also likely that if the septic tank is the problem, water will back up in a bathtub.

When an entire plumbing system is unable to drain, water will rise to the lowest fixture, which is usually a bathtub or shower. so, if there is no backup in a bathing unit, there probably isn’t a problem with a septic tank. But, back­ups in bathing units can happen even when the major part of a plumbing sys­tem is working fine. A stoppage in a main drain could cause the liquids to back up into a bathing unit.

To determine if a total backup is being caused, have homeowners fill their kitchen sinks and then release all of the water at once. Get them to do this several times. A volume of water may be needed to expose a problem. Simply running the faucet for a short while might not show a problem with the kitchen drain. If the kitchen sink drains successfully after several attempts, it’s highly unlikely that there is a problem with the septic tank. This would mean that you should call your plumber, not your septic installer.

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