What Is a Backwater Valve?
Basement flooding in a home is never pretty, but its downright nasty if it involves a sewer backup. Sewer backups generally happen when your municipal sewage system’s capacity is exceeded during a heavy rainfall. This can result in wastewater reversing its way back through the system and back into your home.
Sewer backup insurance is an optional add-on to a standard home insurance policy.
A flooded basement can cause thousands of dollars in damages. In 2018, estimates to repair a flooded basement came in at an average of $43,000. Three years later, no one is placing bets on that price being any lower.
While sewer backup coverage is something DPM Insurance Group strongly recommends homeowners add to their policies, one of the things a homeowner can do to protect themselves further is to install a backwater valve.
What is a backwater valve? How does a backwater valve work?
A backwater valve is installed in sewer line beneath your basement floor. It is essentially a gate that stays open to allow your wastewater to flow out of your home, but automatically closes when it senses a reverse in the flow, preventing sewage from backing up into your home. It minimizes the chance that wastewater will come up through your basement’s floor drains, sinks, toilets, or showers.
Once the municipal sewer system returns to normal and the back-up recedes, the gate will return to its flat, open position.
If you have a backwater valve installed, it’s important that you don’t use the plumbing services in your home if the gate is shut. Were you to take a shower, flush the toilet, or do a load of laundry, the waste water has nowhere to go. You need to wait for the crisis to subside before using any water.
Installing a backwater valve is not a DIY project
A qualified plumber must install a backwater valve. It is attached to the home’s sewer line beneath your basement floor. As a result, many cities and municipalities require a permit for installation to ensure the work is done properly and to code.
Minimize the risk of sewer backup
While a backwater valve will help stop a backup, it’s best to prevent a backup from starting in the first place. While there’s little you can do about the sewer system beyond your property, there are preventative measures you can take at home.
Never flush or pour down a sink or drain:
- Fats, oils, or grease
- Food scraps or coffee grinds
- Baby or hygiene wipes, even if they say they’re flushable or biodegradable
- Paper towel or rags
- Personal care items like dental floss, Q-tips, diapers, cotton balls, band-aids, menstrual products, or condoms
If it’s not water, toilet paper, or human waste, it should not be going down your home’s pipes.
Sewer backup and your home insurance
When it comes to damages caused by a sewer backup, your home insurance will only kick in if you have sewer backup coverage. However, not all homeowners have this coverage as it is an optional add-on to the standard home insurance policy. Adding sewer backup insurance to your policy will likely cost you a couple of hundred dollars a year. Compared to forking over $43,000 to repair a basement, it’s certainly worth considering getting, though, especially if your neighbourhood is prone to flooding.