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Steps to Help Prevent Sewer Backup

Understanding the risks

In the event of flooding or a higher-than-normal water table due to heavy rains, sewage could back up through floor drains or plumbing fixtures located in a basement or lower level. When rising storm waters are expected, it is vitally important to establish a watch system to monitor your property drainage system to quickly identify and address any issues such as back-up, flooding, etc. Being prepared and responding quickly often minimizes the damage potential. The following are some methods to help minimize sewer backup into a building.

Floor drains

If sewage starts to back up into a home or business from the floor drains, it is possible to plug these drains. Floor drains are often at the lowest point in your facility and, as a result, may be the first entry point for sewage backup. Rubber or wooden plugs, purchased at many hardware stores, may be used to close off drains during heavy rains. If plugs are used, mark them prominently if they protrude beyond the floor level so they don’t become a tripping hazard.

Toilets, shower/bath drains and other fixtures

After plugging floor drains, if the sewer water level becomes high enough, it may fill and overflow other plumbing fixtures located in the basement or lower level. Plug these drain openings with stoppers or plugs. A string mop can be used to help plug toilet openings. Be aware that ceramic plumbing fixtures such as toilets may be fragile.

Important note:

Plugging of drains or fixtures should only be done where the condition of the sewer piping below the floor is considered to be strong and tight. Otherwise, heavy rainstorms or flooding may cause a build-up of water pressure within the house or business’ sewer system great enough to rupture pipe joints or damage basement floors.

Backwater prevention valves

Some properties may have backwater valves installed on sewer lines. Some are manually closed gate valves, while others are automatic check valves.

  • Manual valves – You can isolate your system from the sewer system by closing manual valves at the first sign of backup during heavy rains and flooding, or if you plan to leave the building
  • Automatic valves – Automatic check valves require periodic maintenance to ensure that they will operate properly when needed. If there hasn’t been a recent inspection and maintenance, this valve should be inspected and maintained as soon as possible if heavy rains or flooding are a possibility in the area

Remember that while the valve is closed and protecting your home or business from sewage backup, normal sewage flow from the building to the sanitary sewer is also cut off. This means that plumbing fixtures cannot be used unless a pump bypass is provided.

Local advice

Many towns also have a comprehensive website with information and advice regarding prevention techniques. You should also refer to your local municipality for assistance.

Leak detection

Leak detection devices are a great way to prevent a sewer backup from doing more significant damage. Click here for further reading.