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When a Sewer Backup Strikes - How it happens and what to do

Whether you’re at home or going away on a trip for a couple days, the last thing anyone wants to deal with is a sewer backup. A sewer backup is when water begins to flow back into your home through the floor drain or other plumbing fixtures that are found in your basement, usually due to blocked pipes or an overloaded sewer main.  

Not only is a sewer backup a stressful situation that can pose a threat to you and your families health, but the damage to property can be a big chore, and damage to personal belongings can sadly be irreplaceable. The best way to prepare yourself for a future sewer backup, hopefully preventing it in the processes, is to identify how one is caused in the first place and to understand how to avoid it all together.  

How one is caused

There are many ways in which a sewer backup can happen, such as:

  • Too much rain or melted snow: when a large amount of rain or melted snow enters the sewer system at once, it can overwhelm the cities sewer lines. This causes water to flow back into the connected sewer lines, putting homes at risk.
  • Old and aging sewer systems: older pipes and sewage systems weren’t made to last forever so they can break down, crack, or collapse overtime, causing issues if they are not replaced or maintained.  
  • Tree roots: the roots of trees can grow extremely long. Even if there are trees in your yard, they may not be the issue because of how long tree roots can grow over time. These roots can create holes in the sewer lines or crush it entirely by growing around it.  
  • Clogs and Blockage: this is a common source of most sewer backups and can either occur in the pipes in your home, or in the main sewer lines. Clogs can consist of a build-up of grease, hair, or other solid materials.  
  • Sump pump failure: during a bad storm it’s common for power outages to occur, so if there is no power your homes sump pump won’t run. Lack of maintenance and having an older mechanism can also result in sump pump failure.  

How to prevent one from happening

The best way to handle a sewer backup is to prevent one for occurring in the first place! Some of the causes that were previously listed are easily preventable, so a sewer backup can possible be avoided altogether.  

  • Don’t put grease down the drain: a big reason clogs and blockages happen in the first place is because of the things people put down the drain! Grease and other used cooking oil can quickly harden within the pipes when you poor it down the kitchen sink. Instead of putting it down the drain, dispose of grease and fats in the garbage by allowing it to first cool off in a heat safe container.  
  • Dispose of food properly: unless you have a garbage disposal installed in your kitchen sink that can breakdown foods and food product, you should not be putting any food related item down the drain. Large items can get stuck almost immediately, causing blocks in the pipes, and smaller food waste can build up over time.  
  • Properly dispose paper products: paper towel, tissues, diapers, wet wipes and feminine can easily cause issues with sewer lines if they are flushed down the toilet. Instead, properly dispose of them in the garbage.  
  • Sewer line, pipes, and sump pump maintenance: getting professionals to inspect the sewer lines, pipes and sump pump can prevent future disasters from happening. They’ll look for signs of any damage such as cracks and clogs that may be potential issues. It’s also important to get you sewer line cleaned out every few years to remove any blockage from the lines, preventing future clogging from occurring. Sump pump maintenance is also crucial as it ensures that it’ll work properly to protect your home from potential floods and sewer backups.  
  • Don’t shovel snow onto the streets: during the winter months, snow can pile up high and be a pain to deal with. When shoveling make sure to keep the snow away from your home, so that when it starts melting it doesn’t seep in. It’s also important to not shovel snow onto the street, as when it gets warmer, and the snow melts, it may overload the main line, causing a sewer backup.  

What to do if a sewer backup occurs

Sometimes no matter what preventative measures you take, a sewer backup can unfortunately still occur. Whether it be too much rain or snow that got into the system, or an unexpected clog in the drainpipes, once a sewer backup happens here are some things you can do to protect yourself and lessen any damage before a professional restoration team is able to assist you.  

  • Evacuate: if you are home while the sewer backup is happening, it’s important to get out of there as quick as you can as contaminated water is harmful to people and pets.  
  • Turn off the power: If you are able to, turn off all electrical power in the flooded area, as cords and wires may come in contact with any rising water. If you are unable to safely turn off the power, or if the main circuit breaker is in the basement where the sewer backup/flooding is occurring, don’t go near any electrical devices.  
  • Safety gear: while it is best to avoid the flooded area, if you absolutely need to go into the affected area, you must wear protective gear. This can include heavy-duty rubber boots and gloves, protective eye wear such as goggles or glasses, and a facemask. It’s very important to protect yourself from contaminated water.  
  • Don’t use your water supply: before someone can come and fix the issue, don’t use any sinks, tubs/showers, or other water appliances in your home. If necessary, turn of the valve to your homes main water line.  
  • Call for help: Contacting the right people is crucial if a sewer backup happens. Call a plumber to help remedy the issues. If the sewer backup was caused because of the public sewer, notify the municipal sewer department.  

Tips to follow in case of sewer backup damage

The aftermath of a sewer backup can be hard to deal with, however there are steps to help ease the process.  

  1. File a damage claim with your insurance: Whether or not you may be covered under your insurance policy for your home or commercial property, it is always best to alert your insurance provider in the case of flood damage caused by a sewer backup. An insurance inspector will be sent to inspect the damage and provide you with valuable answers to begin the restoration process.
  1. Save your receipts: Filing receipts related to repairing flood damage will be needed when processing insurance claims.
  1. Document the flood damage: Taking pictures before and after flood damage will eliminate any disputes between you and your insurance company. got mold?™ offers Mold Inspection services to help homeowners with the documentation process.
  1. Contact got mold?™ for a professional restoration: After contacting your insurance company, it is important to immediately call a professional flood restoration team to stop the flooding and mold damage from taking over your home. Any wet material will need to be removed and the area will need to be properly dried to prevent any future mold growth. Call got mold?™ at 1-888-909-6653 or book an appointment to receive a rapid response from our team of experts.  

The Bottom Line

Sewer backups can happen unexpectedly and fast, even after taking all the precautions to prevent one from happening. There are ways in which you can prepare for one, and hopefully these steps will prevent it from happening, but unexpected weather conditions, old sewage systems and poor maintenance can thwart your best efforts. If a sewer backup does happen, these vital steps can help lessen any damage and protect your health.  

At got mold?™ we deal with the aftermaths of flooding and sewer backups regularly, so our team is fully equipped and experienced to aid you with any issues and water damage that you may have. Contact got mold?™ at 1-888-909-MOLD (6653) to receive a rapid response from our team of experts.  

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