Backed up sewers can cause a lot of damage to a home. They can result in damage worth thousands of dollars to the walls, floors, electrical systems and furniture. Most of the insurers provide sewer backup coverage for a reasonable cost that is normally an additional annual premium.
For the homes that have suffered severe damage and are not inhabitable, Loss of Use coverage might be provided by the homeowners’ policies. Such coverage gives reimbursement for food, lodging and other necessary living expenses that the homeowner might incur because of residing outside their home. The loss of Use coverage also provides reimbursement for lost rental income in case the homeowner rents out a part of their house.
Main Causes of Sewer Backups
There are numerous situations that can lead to a sewer backup. Here are some of the most common causes:
Aging Sewer Systems: It is reported by the Civil Engineering Research Foundation that there is an alarming annual increase of 3% in the number of sewer backups. In addition, it was mentioned in a recent report of American Society of Civil Engineers that more than 500,000 miles of sewer lines in the US are older than 30 years on average. There has also been a huge increase in the number of homes that are connected to the sewer systems and this has contributed to the rapid increases in sewer backups, overflows and flooded basements.
Combined Pipelines: There can also be problems in the systems that combine raw sewage and storm water in to same pipelines. During rain storms, it is often that the systems are exposed to much more volume than they are capable of handling and this results in sewage backup situations that causes the sewage to spill out in to basements and low lying drains.
Blockages Due to Tree Roots: Trees and shrubs seeking moisture can make their way in to the cracks of sewer lines. Extensive damage can be caused by these roots. They might start out small and get in to small cracks in pipes, but as the shrub or tree continues to grow bigger, so do the roots. The tree roots are capable of entering the service pipes at the joints and they can cause blockages. The roots of trees can travel long distances. The behavior and the distance covered by the roots depends on the type of tree.
If you have a suspicion that the blockage is being caused by the tree roots from city trees, your plumber can contact city management and the samples of roots will be used in order to identify the trees that are responsible for the cleanup. Sometimes a combination of private and city trees are the reason for the blockage. In such a scenario, the costs are usually split between the property owner and the city.
Sanitary Main: There can be a blockage in the sanitary main of the city. In case the blockage isn’t detected in time, the sewage from the main may back up in to businesses and homes through the floor drains. Normally, this happens slowly, allowing the owners’ time to call in a licensed plumber in order to assess damage. In case the water is entering in to the basement quickly, you should call the public works office of your city and report immediately.
Water in Basement: The majority of basement flooding has no relation to the sanitary sewer system. It is often that the soil settles next to the building and if it is not corrected, it can lead to the rainwater flowing towards the building and down the outside of the foundation walls. This is particularly the case with older buildings. In the older buildings the cracks might have developed in floor slab or foundation that allows water to enter basement. The basement walls or cement floor of the structures might have deteriorated to the point that they are no longer waterproof. In such cases, the water can enter the basements that never had any water problems. Usually, this happens after several rain storms, when the soil is saturated. We can improve the drainage by ensuring that water drains away from buildings. The owners might also be able to prevent the flooding by water sealing the basements.
Many homeowners don’t realize that it is their responsibility to maintain and repair the sewer lateral– the pipeline connecting the city sanitary sewer main and the house. The property owner is the owner of the sewer lateral and he has to maintain it including the parts that extend in to the street. A lateral that is deteriorated or cracked or one that is filled with the tree roots can allow the ground water to seep in to the system. This can lead to further problems.
How You Can File a Claim
You should take the before & after photos of the water damage for insurance purposes. Also itemize the property losses. Make sure to save all the receipts that are related to water damage, repair or cleaning. A water damage restoration service can help you file the claim correctly. Then contact the insurance company ASAP.
How to Prevent the Backups in the City Main and in Your Lateral
Dispose of Grease Properly: Make sure to pour the cooking oil in to a heat resistant container. Allow it to cool off and then dispose Of it properly, instead of just pouring it in to the drain. It is unsatisfactory to wash the grease down the drain with hot water. As grease cools off, it’ll solidify either in drain, the homeowner’s line or in main sewer resulting in the line to constrict and eventually resulting in clogging.
Dispose of Paper Products Properly: Diapers (disposable and cloth), feminine products and paper towels can cause a lot of trouble in the lateral of a property owner and also in city main. Unlike the bathroom tissues, these products don’t deteriorate quickly, so avoid putting them down the toilet or drain.
Replace the Line with New PVC Pipe: A great way of preventing the tree roots from entering the line is replacing your line and taping with the new pvc pipes. In case of continuing tree root problem in your line, you might need to cut the roots every few months.
Correct the Illegal Plumbing Connections: Don’t connect the sump pumps, French drains and other systems of flood control to the sanitary sewer. It’s illegal and the silt and debris can clog the line. Consult your plumber to correct the illegal connections. The French drains are very common drainage systems that are mainly used for preventing the surface and ground water from penetrating the foundations of a building.
Install Backwater Prevention Valves: Backwater valves are fixtures that are installed in to sewer lines and sometimes in to drain lines. These lines are in the basements of houses and businesses and are there to prevent sewer backflows. Properly installed & maintained backwater valves allow the sewage to go out and prevents it from coming back in. It is the responsibility of property owners to install & maintain the backwater valves. The cost of installing a backwater valve depends on the plumbing in building and difficulty of installation.
What Should Be Done in Case of a Sewer Backup
Sewer backups can lead to various diseases. They can cause destruction of the valuables, water damage to your business or house and they can even cause electrical malfunctions. Timely cleanup of the affected property can minimize the water damage and prevent mold. In the case of a sewer backup situation, you should immediately arrange for cleanup of the property. The cleanup should include:
- Removal of spillage or wet-vacuuming
- Wiping walls and mopping floors with disinfectant and soap
- Disinfecting the plumbing fixtures
- Removing wet drapes or carpets.
- Removing or repairing damaged wall coverings or wallboard
- Cleanup of ductwork
Sewage backups cause Category 3 water damage, often the most damaging and certainly the most unsafe and unsanitary. Call a certified water damage restoration service to remove the water and restore your home back to normal.