What is a Sewer Backup?

What is a "Sewer Backup" and Who is Responsible?

Sewer backups not only cause damage that is problematic and expensive to repair, but also create health hazards.

Floods are what come to mind for causing extensive water damage to homes and businesses. However, perhaps more serious is Sewage from sanitary sewer lines backing up into homes through your drain pipes.

Most homeowner and business insurance policies do not cover sewer backup unless specific sewer backup coverage is added to the policy. Obtaining a rider on a homeowners or business insurance policy will cover such damage if it occurs.

Sewer backup coverage is available from your insurer and it is affordable, perhaps $40-$50 additional on an annual insurance policy.

The pipes that carry your home's sanitary sewage to the city sewer piping โ€“ typically under the road โ€“ are called sewer laterals. The sewer lateral is owned and maintained by the property owner and include any part that may extend into the street or public right of way.

Most home and business owners don't know that they are responsible for the maintenance and repair of their house sewer and the sewer lateral.

A cracked or deteriorated lateral or one filled with tree roots can allow groundwater to seep into the system, contributing to sewer backup problems. There are other issues with cracked pipes like soil supersaturation which can possibly contribute to foundation issues in your home.

This includes the pipeline between the city sanitary sewer main which is usually located under the street, and your building.

Sewer Inspection

BC Preferred Sewer Camera Inspection

Video camera in-line inspection shows problems and your sewer pipe condition. Camera Inspections are an excellent way to detect obstructions including roots, sludge buildup, broken pipe, tile or connections, negative grade slope, pipe sag, offset joints, and cracks.

After a Sewage Backup

Clearing up the Mess... After the Flood or Sewage Backup

If you have a sewage back-up in your own home, you Need To clean up properly to prevent getting ill or injuring your family. Stop your children accessing any contaminated parts of the home before and during cleaning!

Below are suggestions on how best to clean-up flooding or sewage backup.

Safety First:

  • Have your utility companies shut off the gas and electricity.
  • DO NOT touch the fuse box or any plugged in cords or appliances until the electricity is shut off. Touching these could result in electric shock.
  • If an electrical motor or its controls were or are submerged under water, DO NOT restart any appliances without consulting with the dealer or a service company.
  • Do not relight appliances until checked by a gas fitter or the utility. Pilot lights must be on before relighting burners.
  • DO NOT light matches until the gas is turned off. If there is a gas leak, it could cause an explosion.

Cleansing and Sanitizing:

  • Drain all flooding and sewage by draining or pumping.
  • Clean off dirt, soil and debris from surfaces that came in contact with flood waters. Wear proper protection.
  • Wash down all walls, floors, etc. that flood water or sewage touched with clean, warm or hot water and a low suds detergent.
  • Use warm or hot water to rinse again.
  • If there was no sewage contamination - Sanitize by rinsing walls, floors and surfaces using 8 tbsps of bleach per gallon of water.
  • Air dry the area by opening windows and using fans.
  • Make sure to not track flood debris and sewage into clean areas.

Clothing, Carpet and Furniture:

  • Clothing, carpets, furniture, toys and bedding should be discarded unless they are cleaned and disinfected.
  • Movable objects can be moved outdoors for cleaning and then drying in sunlight.
  • Discarded clothing should be placed in a tightly sealed container until disposal.

After clean up, make sure that all clothing and parts of your body that came in contact with  flood waters and sewage are thoroughly washed. Be sure to wash hands immediately afterwards.

Sewer Backups

Sanitary sewage is generated by drains from lavatories, sinks, toilets and house floor drains. Since this sort of sewerage includes a high amount of contaminations and may introduce a significant danger to the surroundings as well as people, it requires treatment at sewage treatment facilities before it is discharged back into the surroundings. Sanitary sewage is accumulated through sanitary sewer system of pipes, which connect homes and buildings to under ground sewer conduits.

Sewage Backup

Storm sewage contains excess surface-water, from rainfall or snowmelt that has been collected from roads, pavement, rooftops and parking lots. Numerous methods are utilized to funnel this water to underground storm sewage pipes, including drains and catch basins. Although storm sewage is mostly much cleaner than sanitary sewage, it can still be contaminated with pet waste, salt, oil, gasoline and additional contaminants found on roads or yards.

Your neighbourhood is serviced by subterranean sewage pipes that are either combined, split or partly separated. These conduits take sanitary sewage, storm sewage, or a combination to sanitary sewage treatment facilities or storm sewage to near-by wetlands, channels and rivers.

Joined sewers are created to mechanically sidestep treatment facilities and re-route extra sewage overflow to local surface-water bodies should the system be inundated. This automated by-pass is called a combined sewer overflow (CSO), and it helps to protect sewage treatment services from damage and also reduce the likelihood of sewer back-up on properties.

Sewage backup can happen when more water is received by city sanitary, combined, or storm sewers than they can handle. Excessive water may trigger the sewers to "surcharge," and shove water backwards through home sewers and induce sewage to backup into your home through basement floor drains, toilets and basins. Surcharge can cause damage around your homes foundation, which may result in structural damage to the home along with basement floors.

For example, extra pressure in drain pipes underneath the home along with super saturated soil may result in heaving of basement surfaces. Sewerage can be pressured right back in the weeping tiles, leading to potential structural harm to the home.

Dealing With Mould in The Basement

There are many sources of moisture found in the basement. Basement flooding, leaks and humidity make this area particularly vulnerable to mould growth.

A musty smelling basement, cellar or crawlspace often means mold and mildew, which happens from water leaks and basement humidity.

Many water problems in the basement do not dry out by themselves. This is either because the cause is unfixed or because the basement gets very little sunlight or ventilation and can be humid.

Mould also grows well on some common building materials like drywall, wood and insulation. You can check for obvious signs of mould growth like:

Stains or discolourations on floors, walls, window panes, fabrics, carpets and other indoor surfaces; and/or a musty, "earthy" odour.

Not all mould is obvious. It can also grow inside walls or above ceiling tiles, so it is important to check for the presence of mould anywhere that's damp or moist, and especially where water damage has occurred.

Causes of Mould in the Basement


High humidity with cooler temperatures in the basement can produce condensation. Water condenses on cold metal pipes, cold concrete basement floors and walls and collects even when there is carpeting.

Flooding and Basement Mould

An obvious cause of mould in the basement is flooding. If a house is flooded, water runs down to the basement and stays there long after the other rooms have dried.

There are different types of mould species and each has a varying impact on human health. Plus we each have different levels of sensitivity to the various types of mould.

Dangerous moulds like toxic black mould can start to grow after a flood. Very wet materials for several days encourages these to begin growing.

Preventing Mould After a Flood

After a flood the best thing you can do is contact a mould remediation company or water damage specialist like BC Preferred Restoration who perform clean ups of homes after floods.

If you have to clean up your home yourself though here are the main points: Clean and dry your house and everything inside it as soon as possible. Remove whatever standing water inside that you can. You can also use fans, air conditioning, heaters or dehumidifiers to help dry out your home faster.

Remove wet materials from your home immediately. Wet insulation and wet padding on carpet take a very long time to dry out and so you should remove them. Any drywall which got wet also needs to be cut away and removed. You should replace these materials only after your home has completely dried out.

Clean items in your home that got wet using a detergent or cleaning product and then let them dry out. You should generally throw away things that got wet from flood water and which can't be cleaned and dried. The same goes for items that become mouldy and cannot be cleaned. Also clean hard, non-porous surfaces in your home and let them dry out.

Basement Mould Removal and Remediation

It's best to hire a professional mould service to remove large amounts of mould growing in the basement. Call BC Preferred Restoration today at (604) 295-8646 and get a free consultation from experts.