What Is the Worst Type of Home Water Damage?

home water damage

 If it’s your home that’s affected, there’s no such thing as good water damage. Even damage from a common source like a broken supply pipe is an emergency requiring professional intervention with proven, specialized techniques and equipment. But, of all potential water damage incidents, what’s the worst-case scenario? If you exclude events like catastrophic outdoor flooding from a hurricane storm surge, many homeowners might agree that a severe sewage backup is about as bad as it gets.  

What’s So Bad About It?

A significant volume of raw sewage—appropriately called “black water”—flowing backward into a home is an indoor toxic waste spill contaminating everything it touches. In addition to issues common with  Category 1 “clean water” damage, sewer backups also impose health hazards associated with bacterial and viral pathogens in sewage, noxious unsafe air, nasty odors, and the fact that saturated porous items—including structural materials like drywall—usually cannot be disinfected and must be disposed of. Often, the home will need to be evacuated until professional remediation is concluded.

Why Does It Happen?

Sewage backups typically result from two causes:

  • A blockage in the sewer line between the house and the street, causing wastewater to reflux back into the home.
  • A widespread event in the municipal sewer system such as inundation by heavy rain, causing city sewage to flow backwards into houses.  

How to Reduce the Risk

To avoid enduring the damage and disgust of a sewage backup, here are two strategies:

Get a sewer line inspection by a licensed plumber. An internal pipe inspection utilizing a video camera may reveal hidden issues that trigger sewage blockages and backups, including:

  • Tree root intrusion, the most common cause of sewage backups.  
  • An ongoing blockage caused by flushing inappropriate items, like paper that is not approved for sewage systems.
  • A collapsing sewer pipe.  

Install a sewer backflow valve. Typically placed in the sewer line just outside the house, this safety device permits sewage flow in only one direction—away from the home. Should the flow reverse for any reason, the backflow valve automatically closes to prevent raw sewage reflux into the house.

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