Common Causes of Sewage Backups

Sewage Backups

Because there’s no good news about sewage backups, here’s the bad news: According to the Insurance Information Institute, they’re becoming more frequent all the time. Our sewer lines are aging and deteriorating.

In the U.S., about a half-million miles of sewer lines are connected to residences. These underground pipes are increasingly likely to develop blockages that trigger backup of toxic sewage into the house.

The only good sewer backup is the one that never happens. Here are some common potential causes and what you can do to prevent them:

  • Flushing non-approved products. Only toilet paper and other paper products specifically identified as “flushable” should enter the sewage pipes. Standard paper products—as well as items like disposable diapers and cotton balls—will not deteriorate in the pipe and will cause blockage sooner or later.
  • Neglecting maintenance. Sewer pipe clean-outs by a qualified plumber are a good idea every few years to flush out the pipe and prevent blockage.
  • A professional sewer line inspection utilizes a video camera threaded through the pipe. It can reveal a variety of incipient problems that may eventually trigger costly sewage backups.
    Typical conditions include:
    • Build-up of grease or other obstructions
    • Collapsing pipe segments
    • Tree root intrusion
  • Pouring grease down the drain. It may be liquid in your sink, but in the cold sewer pipe grease solidifies and gradually obstructs proper flow, eventually leading to a total blockage. Instead, collect cooking grease in a metal container and dispose of it per your local ordinances.   

Also, check your property insurance coverage. Many homeowners are unaware that, unlike standard water damage, typical homeowners insurance policies do not cover damage caused by raw sewage reflux into the house.

If the toxic contamination spreads beyond a single room into multiple areas of the house, professional clean-up is required and financial losses will be high. Most insurers offer a sewage backup rider that can be added to the standard homeowners policy for a relatively small annual cost. It’s a good buy. 

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