Every modern home has a relatively complex system of plumbing that takes wastewater from a drain and delivers it to the municipal sewer system. If you've heard terms such as "sewer lateral" or "main soil stack," these components are all part of this system. Unfortunately, every aspect of your waste line can become clogged, and the causes and solutions can vary depending on the obstruction's location.

If one of your drains is backing up, the obstruction may be in one of these three typical locations for residential waste line clogs.

1. Plumbing Traps

Each drain in your house uses a trap to separate the clean air in your home from sewer gases that can travel through your plumbing. Traps are not complicated plumbing components, and most of your sinks will have a p-trap directly below the drain. These traps have a single bend that holds a water plug, preventing gases from traveling back up through your drains.

Small items or food waste can become stuck in the trap, however. Fortunately, these clogs are some of the easiest to clean. In most cases, you can fix a p-trap clog using a plunger or a handheld auger. You can disassemble the p-trap beneath the sink to manually clear any obstruction if necessary. Of all the drain clogs you're likely to face, p-traps are the easiest to solve as a do-it-yourselfer.

2. Main Soil Stacks

Most of the waste in your home travels along drain lines to the main soil stack, a vertical pipe connecting the drains on each floor to the house's main drain. Multiple fixtures may link to a single drain pipe, and each drainpipe then connects to the soil stack. Plumbing stacks have the advantage of gravity forcing waste downward, but a sufficiently large can still prevent water from flowing.

If you have multiple drains clogging on a single floor, there's a good chance you have a problem somewhere in your main stack. You may also notice a sewer gas smell since the clog can siphon water away from the p-traps. Solving a main stack clog requires more experience and tools, so it's a job you usually won't want to tackle yourself.

3. Sewer Lines

The worst-case scenario for any blockage is in your home's sewer lateral. This pipe is the portion of the sewer line that you're responsible for as a homeowner. A clogged sewer line can cause multiple drains to back up in your home, or it may cause flooding from whichever drain is lowest and closest to the drain line.

If you suspect a sewer line problem, always contact a professional. Plumbers will often need to utilize heavy-duty tools such as hydro-jetting machines to clear out blockages, and inspection cameras are often necessary to check for additional damage. It's also wise to address these problems as soon as possible since sewage backing up into your home can pose a significant health risk.

For more information on drain cleaning, contact a professional near you.