Preventing Sewer Backup with Sewer Backwater Valves

Pierre PronovostOne of the last things a homeowner wants to experience is a sewer backup. Not only is this unpleasant, but it can cause significant property damage and create health hazards. Fortunately, you can help prevent sewer backups by installing a backwater valve.

Backwater valves, also known as back flow valves, are an easy-to-install and economical solution to help protect yourself and your family from contaminated sewer water backing-up into your home. The backwater valve is used to prevent outbound sewer water from a home’s drain pipes from re-entering — “back flowing“— into the home. The valve contains a flap that allows water to exit the home, but closes to prevent the back flow into the home.

Backwater valves commonly activate when a city’s sewer lines are unable to handle a large amount of falling precipitation; this puts homes that are tied into the storm lines at risk of having water back flow into them.

Regular maintenance of the valve, including clearing debris around the area of the flap, is important so that ongoing sewage issues can be avoided. Many models of backwater valves are clear or transparent on top so that they may be easily checked for clogs or debris.

Important tips to consider regarding backwater or back flow valves:

  • Know where your valve is located.
  • Make sure that access to the valve is not covered by concrete. Easy access to the backflow valve is important.
  • A yearly inspection of the valve by a qualified plumbing professional is recommended to ensure the valve is working properly.
  • Avoid using large amounts of water during heavy rainfall or snow melts if your home has a backwater valve.
  • If the valve is closed due to heavy rain or snow melt, which can cause a rise in the level of the sewer lateral, a homeowner should be careful not to exceed their home’s internal plumbing’s limited storage capacity. If they do, the discharge and water coming from the home will start to flow from the home’s lowest drainage point, which is normally a floor drain in the basement.
  • Installation or replacement of a backwater valve should only be completed by a professional plumber.

Pierre Pronovost is a Senior Risk Consultant with Chubb Personal Risk Services.

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