What causes a clogged sewer line?

In older construction, there were three basic causes for clogged sewers: excessive mortar left at soil pipe joints, roots from trees and plants, and broken pipes. In both new and old construction, broken pipes allow foreign matter to enter the drainage system which often causes clogging. Clogged sewers in newer construction are often limited to broken pipes and poor design or construction. Using the wrong fittings during construction or allowing too little slope in the drain run can cause the drain to become clogged as well. Many times it is discovered that the clog is the result of human error; small toys flushed down the toilet (the "rubber ducky" clog), foods that have high starch content and turn to something akin to cement (such as rice, potatoes, oatmeal, etc.), and even coffee grounds - which are quite acidic - should not go down the drain as they can speed up corrosion with certain metals.

What is a sewer snake?

A sewer snake (not to be confused with a toilet or urinal snake, a jet drain cleaner, or camera inspection system) is a long cable that you can send down a drain to clear away clogs. Several different attachments can be used - depending on the nature of the clog - and they can range from a simple auger to a grease cutting blade, a side cutting blade or even a spear-type blade which is used for going through the middle of the clog. If you intend to buy a motorized snake, you'll have a choice between a hand held model or a "drum auger." The drum auger is actually meant for use by a professional plumber; it's a heavy-duty piece of equipment and is generally more than what is needed by most homeowners. For home use, you can also buy a closet auger which is specifically-designed to clear clogs and obstructions from your toilet's plumbing, and is manually operated.

Most common sewer back up problems.