Frequently Asked Questions About Sewer Backups
Q: What exactly is a sewer backup and what causes them?
A: When wastewater flowing away from your home toward the sewer main (by gravity or pressure) encounters a blockage in the sewer line, this can cause a back-up through your floor drains, toilets and other plumbing fixtures at low points in your home. These can get pretty nasty when they start to overflow, potentially causing severe water damage and threatening the health of the home’s occupants as well. Sewer backups are a stubborn breed of plumbing problem and will likely persist until the blockage is forcibly removed or until sewage is no longer entering the line.
Q: What are the top 3 causes of sewer backups and how can they be prevented?
A: 1. Clogged lines: These occur when waste, inorganic debris, paper products, tree roots, grease or saturated ground build-up in your sewer lines until they are creating a traffic-jamming blockage. Prevent such clog causing build-up by performing regular maintenance or hiring a professional to do it for you. Here’s a clog-killing tip: flush tree root killer down your toilet annually and stop them from ever taking hold of your vulnerable pipes.
2. Heavy rain: When heavy rain strikes, a sewer back up usually manifests in the homeowner’s basement rather than outside the house in the yard. Obviously, there’s not much you can do to prevent the rain, but you can try and stay ahead of the flooding by hiring a professional to maintain your main lines. That way when the heavy rains do hit, your plumbing will be adequately prepared.
3. Human interference: Unfortunately, in some cases, sewer backups are caused by humans. They can result from illegal activity such as placing unauthorized items in manholes or common vandalism. Similar to the unpredictability of rain, you can’t exactly forecast human stupidity. But what you can do is install gates and locks to prevent unauthorized persons from accessing the lines.
Q: If my sewer does backup into my home, am I at risk of anything?
A: Yes, sewer backups are highly unsanitary situations. They can sometimes lead to disease, property destruction, loss of valuable items, and can even result in dangerous electrical malfunctions. Prompt cleanup of the affected area is a must as it can help minimize the inconvenience, damage and help prevent the mold and mildew that often results from sewage soaks walls and flooring.
Q: What else should I know in terms of sewer back up prevention?
A: Here are a few simple tips and tricks that can stop a backing up sewer in its tracks:
- Backwater prevention valve: This fixture is installed into a sewer or drain line in the basement of a home. It is specifically designed to prevent sewer backups. A properly installed and maintained backwater valve allows sewage to go out, but not to come back in.
- Floor drain plug: Most sewer back ups start in the floor drain. This handy plug seals off the drain and prevents liquids from passing through in either direction.
- Standpipe: A cheaper alternative to the floor drain plug. The standpipe allows water to enter through the drain, while still keeping it in the pipe. This is more than a half-measure than anything else, however. If you encounter a more severe back up, pull one of these other options from your bag of tricks.
- Overhead sewer: An overhead sewer works by intercepting the back, just as it is occurring. It has an ejector pump that moves sewage out through an appropriate exit, away from vulnerable areas of your property.
More questions about sewer back ups? Call Stewart Plumbing today to learn how our sewer services can help you backup issues!