Sewage: The Importance of Having a Backup Plan

If you’ve experienced a sewer backup, you’re not alone. The Civil Engineering Research Foundation tells us this major inconvenience is increasing at a rate of 3 percent annually. What’s happening? There are several factors that typically contribute to this issue.

  • For one thing, aging systems don’t work like they used to. The American Society of Civil Engineers reports that the average age of U.S. sewer lines is over 30 years.
  • Combined pipelines fail to prevent backups. Some systems drain both storm water and raw sewage. When a big storm hits, they can’t always handle the volume.
  • Systems get uprooted. Tree roots often grow around or through pipes, causing damage.
  • Sanitary main blockages occur. When the city’s sanitary main backs up, many homes can be affected.

Fortunately, insurance coverage is available to assist homeowners with this less-than-pleasant event. Typically you can add sewer backup coverage to your insurance for $40 to $50 annually. Of course, you’d like to avoid the disaster altogether. Here are some actions you can take to prevent sewer backups before they happen:

  • Don’t pour grease down the drain. Even if it passes through your system, it will solidify in the main sewer line, eventually causing a clog.
  • Trim your trees. It’s not the branches you need to worry about; tree roots can require occasional trimming to prevent pipe damage.
  • Use plastic piping. This will provide further protection against tree roots.
  • Avoid illegal connections. It is illegal to connect French drains (weeping tile), sump pumps, and other flood-control systems to your sanitary sewer.
  • Use a backwater prevention valve. This valve prevents backflow, allowing sewage to flow out but not in.

Unfortunately, these precautions don’t guarantee a backup-free zone. If a backup does occur, you should photograph the affected areas, make a list of losses, and track all your expenses for repairs, cleaning, and other costs. But most important: contact your insurance company ASAP!