Nicolette Forbes

By: Nicolette Forbes on May 27th, 2022

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Why is My Toilet Backing Up/Overflowing?

Plumbing | Drains

Is your toilet backing up or overflowing but don’t know why? Have you been experiencing this same problem but are unsure how to fix it? It’s a ’crappy’ situation to be in, but you’ve come to the right place for help. 

Understanding your plumbing system is key to fixing any issue that arises and a toilet backing up or overflowing is no different.

We here at Monkey Wrench Plumbing have helped thousands of customers since 2007 with more than just their plumbing problems. We’re passionate about teaching people about their home’s plumbing and helping them understand the cause of their plumbing issues. 

In this article, we’ll discuss:

  • Why your toilet is backing up
  • Why your toilet is overflowing
  • How to fix your toilet when it is overflowing or backing up 
  • How to prevent future backups


Backed Up Toilet: Why’s That? 

Having your toilet back up is frustrating to deal with. While it does happen to everyone, having a backed-up toilet is not a good sign. But how did you get to this point? When did things get so bad for your porcelain throne?

A plumber trying to clear a clogged toilet with a plunger

There are a few reasons why your toilet could be backed up. They include:

  • Paper Products
    • Throwing unnecessary paper products into the toilet is one of the key reasons a toilet is backed-up. This includes sanitary products, paper towels, and too much toilet paper..

  • Low-flushing toilet
    • The type of toilet you have can affect backups. A low-flushing toilet may not have enough water pressure to push the waste and toilet paper through the pipes. To fix this, try to reduce the amount of toilet paper you use, or you might have to flush your toilet twice.

  • Objects
    • If you have children in your home, be sure to do a headcount on their toys because it could be another reason your toilet is backed-up. Kids are fast, and some love flushing things down the toilet like toys. Other common things that are accidentally flushed down the toilet include keys, phones, clothing, and flowers.

  • Food
    • Throwing food in the toilet is a no, no. Similar to paper products, tossing food in your toilet will cause a backup because the pipes are too small and will clog your toilet.

If your toilet is backed-up, it typically can be fixed with a plunger, but if you're having issues clearing that backup, give your plumber a call to help clear the blockage.


Oh No! Overflow!

An image of a toilet overflowing

We know what you are thinking, “isn't a backup the same as an overflow?” The answer is both yes and no. 

While a backup is a blockage in a toilet, an overflow is when there is a blockage in the main line of your plumbing system. For example, if you flush your toilet and it overflows, that means there is a blockage in your plumbing system, which leaves the water with nowhere to go. 

Some causes of an overflowing toilet include: 

  • Roots 
  • Paper Products
  • Objects
  • Food 
  • Animals 
  • Collapsed pipe 
  • Broken pipe
  • Old/corroded pipe 

Cast iron pipes will corrode due to their metal type along with natural factors like water or roots. Roots can also shift the pipes out of place, which could cause them to collapse. Check out this article to learn more about how roots can affect your plumbing system. But how can you tell if your toilet is backed up or if it is overflowing? 


Backing Up or Overflow? Here Is How You Know

While they seem the same, having a backed-up toilet is different from an overflowing toilet.

  1. Plunge Away

If your toilet is backed-up, it could be a simple clog caused by something like too much toilet paper. Those issues can be solved with a plunger which can be found anywhere from a grocery store to home improvement or home goods stores.

  1. Main Line Issues

An overflowing toilet can sometimes be a simple fix, but in most cases, it is a sign of a main line blockage or something is wrong with your pipes. It could be that your pipes have corroded, collapsed, shifted due to roots, or there's a blockage in there. Check out this post here to know if you are experiencing a main line blockage.

  1. Pricing

While fixing a backed-up toilet can be as cost-effective as buying a plunger, fixing an overflowing toilet might not be. Fixing a normal toilet backup can cost anywhere from $125 to $195. The price depends on several things, including: 

  • The severity of the problem in your main line
  • Location of the affected pipes
  • Labor
  • Materials such as new pipes for your plumbing system

While a backed-up toilet and an overflowing toilet have several differences, they also share a few similarities. The main similarity is what causes them. As we shared earlier, both an overflowing and a backed-up toilet can be caused by things like paper products, toys, and food. 

Some of the ways to clear both a backed-up toilet and an overflowing toilet are:

Read these articles to learn about what a clean-out is and how hydro-jetting affects your pipes.

With all these plumbing problems, you must be wondering, "is there any way to avoid this?"


Tips To Prevent Back-Ups and Overflowing Toilets 

While there isn't maintenance, it really is about being proactive and preventative. If you have new pipes or pipes that are in good condition, we recommend that you get your pipes checked out with a camera once a year. This is not an ordinary camera either, so do not strike a pose.

This is a special camera that is used specifically to search for blockages in the pipes of your plumbing system. We recommend that you call a plumber to work the camera to avoid damaging your pipes. In short: take care of your pipes, and your plumbing system will take care of you.


Closing Out Backed Up and Overflowing Toilets

To recap, we spoke about what causes a backed-up toilet and what causes a toilet to overflow. We also touched on the differences and similarities between the two and shared some tips on how to prevent them. Understanding your plumbing system can be a complicated process, but we here at Monkey Wrench Plumbing are dedicated to not only fixing your plumbing problems but also helping you better understand the plumbing in your household.

Read this article here to learn more about how your toilet works. 

If you continue to experience blockages, that could be a sign that there is a bigger problem with your drains. If you are experiencing frequent stoppages, calling a plumber to clear the line and perform a camera inspection can help you identify any issues and what solutions are available. 

We here at Monkey Wrench Plumbing want to make sure that you are prepared for anything. If you are experiencing any other issues with your plumbing, call us at (310) 853-8690 or click the 'Book' button below.