Backup Tips for Sewer Backup Problems

Waking up to a sewage backflow after Christmas morning is an absolute nightmare. On 12/26/19, hundreds of Southern Californians battled the winter storm and heavy rains that caused the sewer lines to back flow waste  into homes. During the storm, our Emeryville office suffered the devastation and damage of properties created by this sewage flooding.

Let’s face it, sewage backups are disgusting. Imagine soiled toilet paper and urine absorbed into your hardwood floors or carpet. The mere thought of it can give you a major headache as you imagine the stench and germs associated with this unpleasant scene. It’s a serious problem that shouldn’t be neglected in order to avoid a condition that could become costly and time-consuming to fix. Worse, it can even contaminate your drinking water. Our Emeryville office once suffered the devastation and damage of properties created by this sewage flooding. See photos below.

You have probably asked yourself, what are the common causes of sewer backup? 

According to reports, sewer line backups are rising at 3 percent each year. This number is often linked to the age of the local plumbing system, and of course, the increasing number of homes as the human population also goes up.

Floods are best known for causing extensive water damage to homes and businesses. Ironically, homeowners and business insurance  do not cover flood damage. If you want coverage, you must purchase it directly from an insurance agent or you may ask your property manager about it. You can also check if your community participates in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)  Note: only about  100 insurance companies write and service NFIP policies.

Aside from rain water, what are the factors of sewer backup? The other causes are grease blockages at the drain lines, tree roots, old sewer lines, and poorly designed drainage systems. Furthermore, those that are out of our hands include soil settlement and clogs in municipal drainage lines.

So, what should you do to avoid a sewer backup problem?

  1. Be mindful of proper waste disposal. As the cliché goes, “prevention is better than cure.” In terms of good housekeeping, the quote simply means that you should stop careless sanitary practices. Stop flushing paper products down the toilet because these can clog lines. Pouring of cooking oil or grease down the drain can also clog the sewer. So, avoid disposing of these  things that can eventually damage your sewers.
  2. Install backwater valves on your main lines to the sewer lines. A backwater valve will close and cut off the flow so that wastewater and raw sewage cannot get into your home and properties. It can be installed in the basement at the exit point from the home or property, or in the sewer lateral outside of the building. If the backflow preventer valve is installed in the sewer lateral, it should be placed in an access box to make maintenance easy.
  3. Use ‘smart’ devices. Insurance research sources say that sewer backups and basement water damage are among the most frequent reasons for home insurance claims. Good thing there are low-maintenance solutions that are now available in the market to help households and property owners in preventing sewage backups. There are fully automatic sewer backflow systems that notifies an incident or a successful valve closing through text message or e-mail. It closes automatically in the event of power failure. 


Aqua-Protec — recommended for single family homes, the Aqua-Protec is an intelligent automated system that is quick and easy to install. The only sealing system for sanitary and storm sewers that automatically activates itself. It  instantly detects high water levels in your drainage system and stops potential backups in their tracks.
How is stops sewer backups:
The control panel immediately inflates the balloon inside your sewer drain. In seconds the balloon creates a seal that eliminates any possibility of backup. Check their website to learn more about this device.

Nowa 360 best for condominiums, it detects and controls leaks instantly.  

Here’s how it works:
A licensed plumber should install the electric valve. Download the mobile app and install the control panel. Assign locations and set sensors (e.g bathroom)  where there’s a risk of leak or freezing. This nifty device will send a signal the instant two out of four sensors make contact with water. The system’s electric valve wired directly to the control panel will shut off  immediately at any time, even during power outage.

  1. Replace old pipelines with new plastic pipes. As mentioned earlier, tree roots can cause sewer backup issues. To prevent tree roots from entering your line, replace the traditionally used lines with plastic pipe. Don’t forget to cut the roots periodically.
  2. Correct any illegal connections. Illegal connections cause debris and silt to clog your line. Coordinate with your local authorities to help correct flood control systems or pumps that are illegally connected to your sewer.

Prevention & protection is everything

San Francisco follows  a cross-connection control program that protects the city’s drinking water distribution system from being contaminated  by flooding or sewage backflow. If your property is potentially in these cross-connections, you will have to comply with the Backflow Prevention Ordinance for which you are required to install an “Approved Backflow Prevention Assemblies” listed by the University of Southern California Foundation for Cross-Connection Control and Hydraulic Research and have it tested annually. Your property managers can hire a backflow tester for you.

Aside from being a health hazard to your family, sewer backup problems can consume your precious time that’s supposed to be allocated for something more worthwhile. Learn to minimize future risks and determine if you’re properly covered for sewer backup by consulting with your property manager.     

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