You may need a pro to tell you why your shower leaks. No one needs to tell you when you have sewage backup. We each have an olifactory system (sense of smell) that rivals any other animal.
The rank odor permeates the house, and we want to escape it. Though this is wise, there are a few things you’ll need to do before racing out. First of all, don’t panic.
A sewer back up can occur after a storm or because there’s an issue with your pipes. If you saw that your drains were not working right, there might have been trouble brewing.
Whatever the cause, it is repairable. Here’s what you need to do after a sewage backup.
Do This Right Away
You’ll need to contain the backup as much as possible. Keep in mind that anything soaking in the sewage will need disposal.
Don’t move soaking items into another room. This is taking contamination from one place to another. Carpets, clothing, draperies, and furniture may be salvageable if they are dry.
If you are intent on trying to salvage items, the safest place to take them is outside.
Then, go through this checklist to evade any further damage:
As the sewage enters your home, any further running water will make it worse. Make sure the water lines to your hot water heater, dishwasher, sinks, and clothes washer are off.
Don’t forget the little things like the coffee machine and ice maker.
If the area of contamination has outlets or lighting, turn the power off in the area. You can find each room or combination of rooms on your breaker box.
Remove any extension cords and lamps and place them on a garage floor or outside. If backup waters reach any electricity the situation becomes even more dangerous.
Not only does sewage emit a rank odor, but it can kill you. The smell of “sewer gas” is quite a mixture. There is methane, ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, and carbon monoxide.
These can cause real breathing issues including asphyxiation. Dangerous bacteria like salmonella and listeria is in raw sewage. These cause severe illness and death for children or frail adults.
You don’t want any of this circulating throughout your home. Seal off vents in the area, or better yet, shut off the HVAC system altogether.
Doors and Windows
It may seem contrary to thought, but keep doors and windows open. This will not only mitigate some of the smell, but it will begin the long drying process.
If the backup is spreading, closing a door will not keep it from moving. Doing this may only cause the sewage to reach higher in the room. Instead, try to get clean items out of harm’s way.
It is important to avoid touching the backup waters. When you work around it, protect yourself. Use rubber boots, gloves, and a breathing mask or cloth over your nose and mouth.
Once help arrives and takes over, dispose of your clothing and wash up with soap and water.
Who Takes Care of This and Who Doesn’t
You know by now a pro is necessary, and it will take more than a few. If your home connects to a city sewer system, you will need to call 311 and report the problem.
This will be on record in case you need it later. Then, call a restoration expert who can work at getting the sewage out and find the problem.
What many homeowners find out too late is the sewage line on their property does not belong to the city. It is their responsibility to maintain or upgrade.
The city’s sewer property is outside their property line in most cases. This is where their service and responsibility lay. For homeowners with septic systems, the entire system is their responsibility.
Unless you specify it, a sewer back-up is not part of your homeowner’s coverage. If you do have coverage, call your insurance company and start the claim process. Take pictures of the damage, and save receipts for the services you use.
If you don’t have coverage, the average cost is $30-$40 per year. Anyone holding a mop full of sewage would tell you it’s worth every penny.
Besides having coverage, maintaining your system will prevent future big stinky problems. Here are the usual culprits that invite sewage into your home:
The Society of Civil Engineers says the half-million miles of sewer pipes in the US are aging. Most are more than 30 years old.
They suggest homeowners upgrade piping to PVC. At the least, care for older systems should include regular maintenance. Use a professional.
Pipelines Which Carry Both Storm Water and Sewage
Older communities often have water pipelines which can be overcome by rainwater. The sewage has nowhere to go except into basements and low-lying areas.
Some neighborhoods in New York and New Jersey are very familiar with this. In this case, homeowners can have a pro map out options such as a backwater valve to protect their property.
Mature landscaping is lovely to have, but it can wreak havoc underneath your property. Roots can permeate pipes and cause blockages anywhere in your piping.
Never underestimate them, as they can also crack foundations and rupture fixed piping. We tend to keep their branches trim, but the roots should be likewise cut. Know where your pipes are before planting.
City Sewer Blockages
If sewer line blockage is occurring at a city sanitary main, there are signs. You will see seepage coming through floor drains rather than toilets, for example.
If not caught in time, it will flood through all area homes and businesses. It’s vital to call public works to report right away.
Signs of Trouble
Of course, the best plan is to never have a backup. If you have a septic system, it’s easy to see issues. The grass is greener where the tank is, or the ground is soggier than the rest.
You may see sludge oozing around the trenches. For city systems, you’ll find toilets and sinks are slow to drain and bubbles appear. This signals air is trapping between your drain and the clog.
There is a web of pipes under your house, so other drains may work fine.
Sewage Backup Due to a Storm
Climate experts warn us that storms are gaining strength over time. Recent storms like hurricane Harvey seem proof of this. The truth is, the more we build over wetlands, the fewer places water has to go.
And it can erode like nobody’s business. See the Grand Canyon for scale. Excessive water from storms builds up below ground. Then it will pool and move above ground.
Sewer systems become overloaded sending dangerous sewage into the moving water. And, into homes and business. For older areas, this happens fast.
The integrity of the piping may compromise faster. Flood water in your home may force you out to higher ground. The water will recede in time. Cleanup should include both water damage and sewage clean up.
Many homeowners can expect full restoration.
What You’ll Need After a Sewage Backup
A reliable restoration service will get rid of the water. They’ll clean up every square inch of your home with which the sewage had its way.
Water has a pesky way of inviting mold, and this needs cleaning, too. Then, it’s time to make sure it doesn’t happen again. If you have a septic tank, a specialist can pump it out at a very reasonable cost.
If you need more repairs such as a new drain field, the bill can run in the thousands. (Some hardcore DIYer’s go it alone) If you are on a city sewer, the issue may be a clog somewhere in your system.
A professional plumber can send a camera throughout for detection. If clogs are the issue, the cost to clear them is minimal. They may also let you know the issue is not yours, but the city.
In this case, they will work with engineers to clear the problem. Depending on location, the municipality may share the cost of repairs with the homeowner.
Getting Back to Normal
Here’s the thing about water and sewage backup. It can slide through cracks and crevasses. And, its friend gravity lets it worm its way to where it’s invisible.
Many times, we don’t know the extent of the damage until it’s too late.
This is why having a restoration specialist on your side is vital. A pro has seen damage and homes at their worst. And homeowners like you at their most vulnerable.
We’ve been in the business long enough to know “getting back to normal” is all you want. We’re here 24/7 when the worst happens.