Sewer Backup in Homes: Prevention and Cleanup | NNINS

By Nancy B
May 22, 2024
basement with sewer backup flooding

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Sewer backups in your home can be a nightmare, leading to costly repairs, health hazards, and significant inconvenience. Understanding the root causes of these backups is crucial for prevention and mitigation. Various factors can contribute to a sewer backup, from sewer line blockage to tree root infiltration and heavy rainfall.

Why should you be concerned about sewer backups?

Sewer backups are a serious concern for homeowners. They can cause property damage and structural issues and disrupt your daily life. Not only do sewer backups cause foul odors, but they are also a huge health hazard to you and your family. Standard homeowners insurance typically does not cover home sewer lines, but insurance carriers offer Service Line Coverage to provide protection against costly repair and replacement of damaged sewer lines.

What causes sewer backup?

Awareness of the specific factors that cause sewer backups is crucial for preemptive action.
Here are a few key culprits behind sewer backups:

Blockages in the sewer line: One of the most common causes of sewer backups is
blockages within the sewer line. Flushing non-biodegradable items like diapers,
wipes, or feminine hygiene products can clog the line.
Grease buildup: Pouring cooking oils and greases down the drain may seem
harmless, but oils solidify in the pipes over time and cause blockages.
Tree roots: Tree roots seeking moisture and nutrients can penetrate sewer pipes
through cracks or joints. As they grow, they can cause significant blockages or even
damage the pipes..
Heavy rainfall and flooding: During heavy rainfall or flooding, the sewer system may
become overwhelmed with water and may even leak into your basement.
Structural damage: Any structural damage to the sewer system, like shifting soil or
settling foundation, can cause misalignment or damage to pipes, leading to backups.
Normal wear and tear: Overtime debris accumulates until a single piece clogs the

Preventative measures you can take to avoid a sewer backup

Many of the causes of sewer backup can be avoided. Here are a few ways you can avoid a

Plan your garden: When planning your garden, make sure to plant trees and shrubs
away from the sewer line. If you already have large trees near sewage lines, checking the roots regularly is important, ensuring they are far from sewer lines.
Keep an empty jar near your stove: When cooking with a lot of oil or grease, having
an empty jar near your stove can be an easy reminder to pour any excess oil into the
jar instead of pouring it down the drain.
Keep a small trash can in your bathroom: Only flush toilet paper. Even “flushable”
wipes can clog drains.
Install drain guards: Place drain guards or screens over drains to prevent debris, hair,
and other small particles from entering and clogging pipes. Remember to clean guards regularly to maintain their effectiveness.
Install a backwater valve: A backwater valve helps to prevent sewage from flowing
back into your home during periods of heavy rain or sewer system overload.
Be mindful during heavy rain: Reduce water usage where possible to alleviate stress on the sewer system during heavy rainfall or storms.
Educate your household: Educate everyone in your home about what can and cannot
be flushed or poured down drains, and encourage responsible disposal habits to
prevent unnecessary strain on your sewer system.
Have a plan: If a sewer backup does occur, it’s important to have an emergency plan
in place.

By implementing these small steps, you can reduce the risk of sewer backups.

What are the signs of a sewer backup?

Identifying the signs of a sewer backup allows homeowners to take measures to address the issue before it becomes serious. Common signs of a sewer backup are multiple clogged drains throughout the home and slow drainage in sinks, showers, and tubs. Homeowners will also notice foul smells from drains, toilets, and basements. Outside, lush grass patches can indicate a leak within the pipe, leading to backups if not immediately attended to. Finding puddles or sewage backups in your yard or driveway could indicate a serious issue in the main sewer line.

Recognizing these signs immediately allows homeowners to address the underlying cause of the sewer backup and prevent further damage to their property. If you notice any of these signs, contact a licensed plumber or sewage professional for inspection.

What happens when there’s a sewage backup in the basement

A basement flood is serious and urgent and requires immediate attention. Homeowners will need to call a licensed specialist to clean up and assess the damage caused by the backup. A sewage backup in the basement can cause extensive property damage. Contaminated water can seep into carpets, drywall, and furniture and damage any items left in the basement. Understanding the steps to prevent basement flooding can save money and protect your family's health.

Cleaning up after a sewer backup

Thoroughly cleaning up after a sewer backup is necessary for restoring a safe and healthy
environment in your home.

  1. Before entering the affected space, wear protective gear, such as rubber gloves, boots, and a mask. Turn off the electricity.
  2. Open the windows and doors to allow fresh air to circulate and help dry the area. You
    can also use fans and dehumidifiers to speed up the drying process.
  3. Use a mop to clean up all water, and be sure to dispose of any contaminated water. Be
    sure to disinfect all surfaces and dispose of any contaminated materials.
  4. When cleanup is finished, inspect the plumbing system for any damage or blockages
    that may have caused the backup.
  5. Consider hiring a professional to inspect and assess the damage thoroughly.

Cleaning up after a sewer backup can be challenging, and cleaning as thoroughly as possible is important. If the mess is too large to handle alone, hire a local professional.

Protect yourself against a sewer backup

If you have a Northern Neck homeowners or renters policy, adding Service Line Coverage protects your home and belongings and helps safeguard your family's well-being and the integrity of your home. Don't wait for a sewage backup to happen—take steps today to secure the protection you need for a worry-free tomorrow.

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THE NORTHERN NECK INSURANCE INTEGRITY PROMISE — We pledge to provide straight talk and good counsel from our NNINS Virginia insurance experts through our blog. While we hope you find this helpful source of information, it does not replace the guidance of a licensed insurance professional, nor does it modify the terms of your Northern Neck Insurance policy in any way. All insurance products are governed by the terms in the applicable insurance policy.