Having a sewage backup can really stink!  Let’s face it, this type of water damage is just plain miserable to deal with.  While it can be icky, it’s important to realize that it can also be hazardous to your health.  Knowing what to do in this situation and taking swift action is critical so that you can stay safe and avoid further damage to your home.

What is a Sewage Backup?

  • The sewer line connects your home to the local main sewer system. It channels waste from all drains and toilets out of your home and into the main sewer located under the street in front of your home.
  • Any lines under your home are considered part of your plumbing system which means you are responsible for any maintenance and repairs.
  • Clogs and buildup can develop over time leading to a blockage. When there is a backup, water and waste will back up into the home.  The water that returns to the home can be contaminated and water that pools and spills can cause mold growth and other types of water damage if not taken care of quickly.

What are Common Causes of Sewage Backup?

  • Tree Roots- As trees and shrubs grow, their roots can make their way into cracks and joints of the sewer system causing breaks and blockages.
  • Aged Sewer Lines- Over time soil can collapse or even corrode aged lines.
  • Fats, Oils, & Grease- There are things that should not be put down the drain. Fats, oils, and grease put down the drain will most likely cool and solidify inside pipes.  Over time this can cause clogs and rancid smells.
  • Flushable Wipes- The name is deceiving. Utilities are asking the public to stop the use of these wipes.  They are often the main culprit of clogged sewer drains.
  • Combined Pipelines- Municipal systems that combine storm water and sewage systems will typically see more problems. When they are inundated with heavy water volume that can’t be handled, backups are likely to occur.

What Do I Do if the Sewer Backs Up?

  • Anytime you are dealing with raw sewage, this type of contamination is classified as a Category 3. This is the highest level and means that harmful biohazards including viruses, bacteria, and germs are present.  The EPA recommends that a professional water restoration service should be used for everything but the most minor occurrences.
  • Certified water restoration professionals will have the proper training, experience, and equipment necessary to safely clean and restore the damaged area.
  • While waiting for professionals to arrive there are things you can do.
    • Shut off the power. You should never go into a wet area unless the power is turned off and you know it is safe.  If you are unsure.  Wait for professionals to arrive.
    • Be sure all children and pets are cleared away from the affected area.
    • Do not approach the affected area unless you are wearing protective gear including safety glasses, rubber boots, and a face mask.
    • Open windows and run fans for ventilation.
    • Stop all use of the household plumbing system to avoid cross contamination. This includes flushing toilets, turning on water in sinks, showers, or bathtubs, and running dishwashers or washing machines.
    • Avoid using DIY methods for removing the clog including chemical cleaners. These attempts will most likely not get deep enough to clear the system and chemical cleaners can damage pipes and sewer lines.
    • You may want to document the damages. If you need to file an insurance claim, you may need evidence of the impact and damages.

When you are experiencing a sewer backup, time is crucial.  The quicker you act, the better your chances of avoiding heavy losses from water damage.  Safety is also important, and professionals should be called in for cleanup and removal of hazardous materials.


Related Blog Posts:

The Dangers of DIY Sewage Damage Cleanup

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Water Damage Prevention with Smart Home Innovations

Be on the Lookout for These Leaks

What Should I do if My Home Floods?

What Do I Do When a Pipe Bursts?

Five Things to Never Put Down Your Drain

Water Main vs. Sewer Line


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