When it rains a lot, sewage backflow becomes a major issue in huge plumbing systems. Floods are caused when overburdened municipal sewage systems return tainted water to clean residential systems.
This problem can be stopped by installing a backwater valve. It’s a one-way fixture, so water from the public system can’t get into your property. Most homes that have been built recently already have a valve, but older homes don’t.
How does a backwater valve work?
A backwater valve also called a backflow valve or sewer backup valve is a valve that you can put on your sewer line. It is designed to keep water or sewage from flowing back into your house.
When it rains hard all of a sudden, the city sewer lines can get full and water or sewage can flow back toward your home. If your sewer system backs up, your backwater valve will stop any sewage from getting into your house.
Some cities and towns require backwater valves, and others suggest that you get one. They can be put in when a home is first built, or they can be added later to an existing home. Installing during the first building phase is much cheaper, and it can be done for $150 to $250.
Some concrete will have to be removed during the retrofitting process to reach the main sewer line. It might cost anywhere between $1,000 and $2,000 to install a backwater valve. Some cities and towns offer subsidies to help pay for the installation of backwater valves. Check out the links at the bottom of this page.
Your home has an increased danger of water backup if it’s under a foot above the street level or in a basement. The National Plumbing Code says that a backwater valve must be put in if a new home has any fixtures that are lower than the street level.
Do you know how to use a backwater valve?
The sewer system in your home lets water and waste flow out of the house. Backwater valves prevent water and sewage from entering your home if the main sewer system becomes overwhelmed. Backwater valve access boxes usually have clear covers that allow you to see if the valve is operating correctly.
A small flap inside the valve is usually open, letting water leave your home. It also gives sewer gases a way to get out. Each side of the flap has a small thing that helps it float. This mechanism prevents water or sewage from leaking back into your home by lifting and closing the flap as necessary.
Water and sewage can flow out of the home again as soon as they are no longer being redirected back into the house by the water’s gravity.
If you are putting this backwater valve into a home that was already built, you will need a plumbing permit from your city or town. A skilled plumber will need to cut a hole in the concrete floor to install a floor drain. Once the main sewage line is excavated, the replacement valve will be installed in its place. Most of these valves have a clear top so you can see if they are working right. There is a lid that can be taken off so that it can be cleaned.
Sewerage can leak into the basement if a backwater valve is not correctly fitted and situated.
- Check with your local government to see if you need any permits and to find out what kind of tools they recommend.
- Make sure that your drains and downspouts are not linked to the weeping tiles or sanitary sewer. If you remove the foundation drain, you’ll almost always have to add a sump pit and pump. For instructions on how to correctly disconnect downspouts and foundation drains, consult a plumber and your local government authority.
- Hire a plumber who has a license. They can put in the backwater valve and get any building permits that are needed. Some cities and towns have lists of plumbers who have already been approved.
- After you disconnect your eavestroughs from the sewer system, make sure they drain away from your home and not directly onto your neighbor’s property.
When a backwater valve is needed?
Backwater valves are useful tools. But only sometimes do we need them. Do you need a backwater valve for anything? To answer the question, you’ll need to look at where your home is and where its sewer line is.
Find the sewer maintenance hole cover. It shouldn’t be more than a few feet away from your home in either direction, and it’s likely to be very close to the street on both sides. If you can, stand on the repair hole cover.
Look around your house. Is your property situated on a hill or incline that raises the foundation of your home over the maintenance hole cover? If your home’s foundation is on a higher level, you don’t need a backwater valve, and it won’t do anything either.
A backwater valve is a great idea if your home is on the same slope or is lower than the maintenance hole cover. This will help keep waste from flooding your home. Now you should focus on putting it in place!
Installing a backwater valve is a fairly difficult do-it-yourself job. Put on the right safety gear, like eye protection, and take your time to do each step well and right. Don’t try to get around things. First, you need to find the main valve that shuts off water to your home.
It could be near the water meter. The water supply to your home should be shut off, and you and your family members should be warned not to flush the toilets or empty the sinks.
1. Pick a Spot
Find the best place for your backwater valve. Most of the time, this will be a flood-prone area where water pools. You can’t just pick a place. This is a place along the sewer line that already goes into your home.
After a certain point, the sewer line belongs to the city and no longer to you. If you have a basement, this spot might be there. If so, you will need to break up the floor to get where you want to go. If the floor is made of concrete, you will need a jackhammer to do this.
2. Dig out the line
A hole needs to be dug around the sewer line. The hole must be large enough to accommodate the backwater value. When you buy the valve, the exact measurements will be written on the box. The hole must be as wide as the valve and as deep as the valve.
3. Dig Even More
Dig a hole around the sewer line where the backwater valve will be put in. You will need enough room to work and to put in new pipes and the valve itself.
4. Cut and position
Cut a hole in the sewer pipe where the backwater valve will fit. After inserting the backwater valve into the pipe, you will replace the sewage line around the valve. You may also need to add more pipes to give the backwater valve enough room. When you need to join two pieces of pipe together, add couplings.
5. Fill in the hole
Fill the holes you dug with gravel and dirt to make the plumbing stable.
Add grass seed. It’s best to do this in the spring, but it can also help people who have just dug up some of their lawn. If you dug in your basement, you might need to fill a hole with concrete.
When something goes wrong, what should you do?
As long as you’ve been taking care of your backwater valve, it shouldn’t give you too many problems if it’s in the right place and set up correctly. Things can get stuck in the valve, making it impossible for it to close, or sharp things can damage the valve.
If you do regular maintenance, you can catch these problems before they get worse. Most backwater valves are easy to get to, and if the top is clear, you should be able to see if the water is flowing freely or if something is blocking it.
Do-it-yourself tutorials are available, or you may call a professional if you don’t like the idea of shoving your hand down a garbage disposal pipe. If you try to clear a block on your own, make sure you follow all of the directions properly, including the advice about wearing gloves.
Your backwater valve will close if the city’s sewer system backs up after a severe downpour, which is precisely what you want. But when that valve is shut, water can’t also leave your house.
However, you may not want to shower and run the dishwasher or washing machine all at the same time during a significant rain storm or an excessive period of melting snow because of the amount of storage capacity your plumbing system has available. If you close the backwater valve, none of this water will be able to get out, so you could end up flooding your own house.