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Debris and Grease in Sewer Lines

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Debris and Grease in Sewer Lines

Structural defects or obstructions (such as sags, root intrusions, or offset joints) in a pipe can cause debris to build up. Debris buildup can also occur when inappropriate items are flushed or poured down your drains. This buildup of debris will cause the flow of your pipes to become obstructed, and if severe enough may cause them to back up altogether.

Alternatively, if your pipes are not constructed at the recommended ¼” drop per foot of pipe the flow of liquid will not be strong enough to wash solids through.

Paper towels, baby wipes, eggshells, coffee grounds, dental floss, scrub pads, feminine hygiene products, and grease are all examples of things you should never flush or let go down a drain (even when advertised as “flushable”).

Even hot grease will cool very quickly once it reaches the underground pipe, and will stick to the walls. This will cause your sewer lines to either slow down or completely back up. Grease is one of the more common causes of slow or backed up side sewers.

Debris buildup may also be a result of offset joints, sags, structural defects, or roots in your sewer lines.

There are three basic levels of debris buildup you may experience:


Minor buildups can be described as reducing a pipe’s capacity by less than 25 percent. Minor debris buildup that isn’t the result of structural defects should not cause any problems in your sewer lines and may be washed away in times of high water usage. If minor grease buildup is evident, you should remove sources of grease from the pipe immediately to reduce the chances of a backup. If the slope of your pipe is inadequate, it is recommended you get them re-inspected. This is especially important if your pipes are starting to show signs of slowing or stopping.


Debris or grease is considered moderate when they reduce the pipe’s capacity by 25 to 50 percent. If moderate debris buildup is caused by an insufficient slope, it is recommended that your pipes are cleaned routinely to avoid causing a severe buildup (which will eventually lead to a backup). If the costs of cleaning are comparable to the cost of a repair, you might choose to go that route instead. If you are experiencing moderate debris buildup due to structural defects, you should begin budgeting for future repairs. For pipes that are experiencing grease buildup without structural defects, the pipes may be cleaned to remove the grease.


Severe debris or grease is classified as having your pipe’s capacity reduced to at least 50 percent or being at least 50 percent full of grease. If the debris buildup is caused by an insufficient slope, the pipe will need to be reconstructed or routinely cleaned. If the debris is caused by structural defects such as roots, holes, or sags the defect will need to be repaired. If you are experiencing a severe grease build up, the pipes should be cleaned to eliminate the grease, and care should be taken to eliminate the source to prevent future backups. Our Tacoma sewer and drain repair team can help you every step of the way with this!

If you are experiencing debris or grease trapped in your sewer lines, give us a call at (253) 331-1206 or click here to request an appointment, and we will have one of our skilled technicians out to you in no time!