If you’ve found yourself in the unfortunate position of having a sewer backup in your basement, don’t panic. While frustrating, there are things you can do to start the cleanup process on your own. By following the steps below, you can begin to resolve the issue quickly and safely:
What to Do Immediately After Finding a Sewage Backup in Your Basement
There are some essential safety precautions to take when dealing with a sewage backup in your basement.
- If there’s basement flooding, (standing water, or overflow) turn off the electricity in the flooded area.
- Shut off the water line
- Wear protective gear like a facemask and boots if you have to walk through sewage water.
- Avoid using your toilets and sinks for the time being to prevent toilet overflowing and further sewer backup.
- Call for help
Sewage backups are more than just unpleasant smelly messes. They can also be dangerous. Your family (including pets) should leave your home until the sewage removal is complete.
Under most circumstances, you should let a professional clean up a sewer backup in your basement. However, if the damage is fairly minimal and the flooding/backup isn’t severe, try following our steps to clean up your flooded basement.
What Does it Mean When Your Sewer Backs Up in the basement?
When you have a sewage backup in your basement, it could have several different causes. The most common problem is that there is a problem with the main sewage drain line. When this happens, the sewage backs up into the basement because it’s the lowest point in the house, and those sewer drains are the easiest means of escape for the excess water.
It could also be caused by an individual clogged drain in the basement, which is likely the case if you are only getting back up in one drain.
What Causes a Sewage Backup?
Clogs, buildups in pipes from grease, or improperly flushed items, such as paper towels or single-use wipes, are common causes of sewage backup. Damage to the sewer lines can also cause a sewage backup because it prevents water from flowing correctly. A strong storm with heavy rain can also overwhelm the city sewer system with water and result in backups into people’s homes.
Aging Sewage Systems
You may not know this, but pipes are aging fast. This is because in the past they were made of cast iron and clay piping which doesn’t last very long. Aging sewage systems can break down and crack, causing a host of problems including backups that result in flooded basements. The increase in the number of homes connected to already aging sewer lines has also contributed greatly towards these rapid increases we’re seeing today.
Can Tree Roots in Sewer Lines Cause Sewage Backup?
Shrubs and trees seeking moisture can make their way into sewer line cracks, eventually damaging the pipe and causing sewage backup. One way to prevent tree roots from entering your waterworks is by installing new plastic pipes for any leaks or other problems.
Is Your Basement Drain Backing Up?
When you have a basement drain backup, it’s important to get it cleaned up as soon as possible.
Fix Sewage Backup in Basement Floor Drains
If you’re looking to fix your basement floor drain backing up right away, we’ve got you covered. Some home remedies will work better than others. With a clogged basement drain, pouring Drano or similar products down your sewer drain can actually damage your pipes or the glue holding them together, causing more sewer system problems in the future. Another option like Coca-Cola may clear a sewage backup, but then leave residue itself.
In most situations, a drain snake is a great tool to unclog plumbing fixtures. However if you don’t have one, you could use a hose or plunger to clear a clogged drain.
Basement Floor Drain Backing up: Water
If your basement floor drain is backing up with water, try using some baking soda mixed with warm water. If that doesn’t work, pour some dish soap down the drain and let it sit overnight. The cause of water backing up in your basement drain could be due to the backing up of a washtub basin or a washing machine, tree roots in the drain line, pipe deterioration, or the flushing of improper objects.
Basement Floor Drain Backing up: When Kitchen Sink Drains
If you notice your basement drain backing up when a sink-full of water in the kitchen sink above the basement is drained, you likely have a partial clog. This could be due to piping issues and it would be best to get a professional to come look at it.
Basement Floor Drain Backing up: After Shower
Your drain backing up after a shower is another likely case of a partial clog in the main drain line. To fix this issue, You need a long, heavy-duty plumber’s snake, unless it is a root problem with a segmented drain line, then you will need the help of a professional.
Basement Floor Drain Backing up: With Poop
A floor drain backing up with feces is usually caused by a blockage in the drain line. The first thing to do is to remove any debris from the bottom of the tank. Next, check for a clog in the trapway. If there is no clog, then you should call a plumber. A basement drain backed up with feces can lead to other serious issues in your home if not taken care of.
Basement Floor Drain Backing up: When it Rains
When there are heavy rains or rapid snowmelt, an abundance of water and debris end up in municipal sanitary sewers. If it’s more than the system can handle, excess flows backwards into your home’s sewer line before overflowing down to your basement drains. To prevent this, installing a sump pump is a great way to prevent flooding in your basement caused by heavy rains.
Basement Floor Drain Backing up: Septic
If you’re having septic backing up in your basement, there may be multiple reasons for it. Most commonly, the problem is that there is an issue with the main sewage drain line. If you are only getting backup in one drain, then your problem could be just an individual clogged basement drain.
Basement Floor Drain Backs up: When Toilet is Flushed
The most common cause of sewer backups after flushing your toilet is due to something being flushed that shouldn’t have been. Another cause can sometimes be tree roots getting into the sewer line. To prevent further blockages, the water line should be shut off. You will need to find the shut-off valve. This usually is on the street side by your home, or in your home. Next, you will need to call in the professionals, because when there’s a sewer line backup, it can damage the cities sewage line, costing you even more money.
If you exhaust these options and still aren’t able to fix the sewage backup in your basement yourself, the necessary next step is to call a professional. A drainage problem is not likely to resolve itself and may even get worse, so make sure you call as quickly as possible to fix any sewage clog in your drain.
So how much does it cost to unclog a main sewer line? These services will generally cost between $200 and $400, but if damaged pipes need to be replaced, the price may increase into the thousands.
Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Sewer Backup Costs?
Your homeowners insurance does not generally cover sewage backup. Extra insurance coverage for sewage damage is available for an additional cost. Check your policy for more information or check out the Insurance Information Institute.
How to Clean and Disinfect the Basement Floor After a Sewer Backup
Once you have the backup fixed and your sewer drain is unclogged, you’ll need to clean the affected area. Wearing protective equipment, remove residual water using a wet dry vacuum. If there isn’t too much standing water, you could also use old towels that you’re willing to throw away afterward or even paper towels. Make sure to remove as much sewage water as possible as this will help prevent mold.
After removing the water, Gather any solids with a broom or shovel and dispose of them, along with any unsalvageable items, in a thick garbage bag. Items like books and soft toys that came into contact with sewage should be thrown away.
Next, you’ll want to disinfect the area. Luckily, you should be able to use the cleaning products you already have in the house. For example, bleach kills the bacteria in sewage and after an initial cleaning with hot water and dish soap, use a bleach solution. Leave it for 20 minutes, then wash it away.
What About Carpet Floors?
These cleaning steps will work on a hard floor surface, but carpet flooring is more complicated. In most cases, a carpet that has been covered in sewage water will need to be completely removed. If you choose to clean it, call a professional, and inform them of the situation so they can handle the carpet safely.
Health Risks of Sewage Backup in Your Basement
Deep cleaning the affected area of a clogged sewage drain is essential to making your home livable and safe again. There are health risks associated with sewage leaks including exposure to Dysentery, Salmonellosis, and Hepatitis A.
Electrocution is also a major concern when dealing with the flooding associated with sewage backups. Make sure that you have shut off the gas and electricity before entering a flooded basement.
Can Sewage Backup Make You Sick?
Sewage water is nothing to mess around with, and should be taken seriously. If you find a sewage backup in your basement, it’s crucial to deal with it in a timely fashion.
The pungent odor of sewage can actually make you sick. There are toxic gases in sewage that can cause anything from skin irritation to organ damage and death.
But if you take the proper safety precautions by wearing the right gear and work on solving the problem immediately, your risk of illness is much lower.
How to Stop Sewage Backup in the Future
After dealing with a sewage backup in your basement drains, such as toilet backing up into a basement drain, you’ll never want to have that experience again. Here are some steps you can take to prevent a recurrence:
Install new plastic pipes. If the problem that caused the basement drain to clog in your basement was damaged pipes, installing new durable plastic pipes will solve the sewage backup issue and make it much less likely to happen again in the future. This is an expensive option, but a very effective investment to make on behalf of your safety and health.
Keep Drains Clog Free
A much more straightforward (and cheaper) solution to do is adjust your family’s behavior to avoid clogged drains altogether. Avoid flushing wet wipes (even ones that are labeled as flushable), paper towels, and feminine products down the toilet. Pour unused grease and oil, left over from cooking, into the garbage or in a disposable container rather than washing it down the kitchen sink drain.
You can search and check your city or municipality’s website for a safe disposal guide. Here is the guide from New York City as an example.
Backwater valves are another way to help prevent future sewage backups. They are one-way valves that let sewage pass out the drain, and it will not return or back up into your home.
Sump Pump Maintenance
Make sure your sump pump doesn’t sit on debris, such as silt or gravel, which could ruin the motor if sucked up into the pump. Instead, place it on something such as steady flat brick. A filter fabric around the basin is a must to prevent debris from coming in.
Remove Illegal Plumbing Connections
Make sure there are no illegal plumbing connections to your city sewer line. This includes sump pumps, French drains and other flood control systems. This can cause debris to clog your sewer lines.