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How To Prevent Sewer Backups

While the sound of a river flowing by is quite comforting and soothing, the sound of water flooding into your basement is one of the most stressful things a homeowner can experience. The seemingly endless flow of water and the knowledge that your home and your belongings are now swimming in a pool, can lead to a state of panic and overwhelm.

If you’ve ever experienced a flood in your home, you know exactly what we are talking about. Water damage is the leading cause of home insurance claims in Canada, and unfortunately, a majority of them could be prevented with some basic water damage prevention strategies.

That’s what we’ll be talking about today; prevention measures that you can implement to save yourself from the stress and heartache of sewer backups.

So, What Causes Sewer Backups?


When the flow of water in a sewage system is blocked, it prevents waste water from properly draining away from your home. There are many things that can lead to a sewer back up, including:

  • Melted snow or rainwater that overwhelms the sewer system

  • Improperly installed gutters

  • Cracked or broken sewer lateral (the pipeline that connects your home to the city’s sanitary main)

  • Tree roots breaking through pipelines

  • Blockages in the city sanitary mains

  • Sump pump failure

  • Aging sewer systems

  • Clogs within your pluming system caused by debris or grease

What Can You Do To Prevent Sewer Backups?


The following tips can help to prevent sewer backups:

  • Don’t pour fats and oils down the drain (here’s what you can do instead!)

  • If you have a garburator, make sure you run water before and after using it

  • Your toilet is not a garbage can! The only things that should be flushed down the toilet is human waste and toilet paper; do not flush paper towels, diapers, or feminine hygiene products (even if they say flushable!)

  • Make sure downspouts are installed properly and drain them into the grass or garden, so water doesn’t pool around the foundation of your house

  • Install a backwater valve

  • Install a sump pump

What Is A Backwater Valve?

A backwater valve, also called backflow valve, is a one-way valve that allows water to flow out of your home and into the municipal sewer system, but prevents the water from backing up into your house. Some valves are connected to toilets, sinks and bathtubs, while others are connected to drains that are shared by an entire bathroom or laundry room.

Backwater valves are extremely effective in preventing sewer backups, and some municipalities have even made it mandatory for every home to have them installed. If a homeowner fails to install a backwater valve in these municipalities, they have no recourse against their municipality in the event of a back up.

While not every home is able to have a backwater valve installed, it might be worth it to have a plumber inspect your plumbing system to see if a backwater valve is a suitable option for your home.

What Is A Sump Pump?

Sump pumps are a device that moves water from your basement to the outside of your home. They are equipped with valves that sense water and automatically pump water out of the basement and away from your property. They are very effective in preventing water accumulation in your basement.

Did You Know?

Having a backwater valve and a sump pump installed in your home not only give you peace of mind when it comes to the risk of a basement flood, they can also help lower the cost of your home insurance!

Pro-Tip: instead of dumping grease down the drain, try pouring rolled outs into the pan! The rolled oats will absorb the grease, so you can throw it in the garbage and wash your pan without the risk of clogging your drain!

What Are Some Signs Of A Sewer Backup?

Before a sewer system fails completely, there are typically some signs to look out for. If you notice any of these, we recommend having a plumber come to inspect your plumbing system and fix any problems before it gets worse.

  • Consistently clogged drains

  • Foul odours coming from your drains

  • Toilets not flushing properly, or they are easily clogged

  • Water backs up in the bathtub after flushing the toilet

  • Washing machine not draining properly

  • Seepage at basement floor drains

What To Do In The Event Of A Sewer Backup?

  • Stay out of the water! If there are any electrical outlets that have gotten wet, it can lead to serious electric shock

  • Turn off the electricity if you are able to safely reach the electrical panel without walking in water, if not, then call your utility provider and have them turn it off

  • Do not use any plumbing until the problem has been identified and fixed

  • Do not attempt to clean up the water; it is best to wait until professional restoration experts can come and remove the water and assess the damage

  • Contact your insurance provider to notify them of the damage

Will My Insurance Cover The Cost Of Water Damage?

Most home insurance policies do not automatically include sewer backup or water damage coverage. This usually needs to be purchased separately by adding a sewer back up and water damage endorsement onto your policy. Compared to the price of renovating your basement, the annual premiums of $100-$200 is definitely worth it!

If you’re not sure whether you have sewer back up and water damage protection, we recommend asking your insurance broker to review your policy. If you have any questions or would like to add these coverages onto your policy, please feel free to contact one of our offices:


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