Have you checked your backwater valve lately? If you don't know what a backwater preventer valve is chances are your home is in danger of flooding. Backwater valves are commonly referred to as backflow prevention valves or back-flow valves. These valves are installed in new and old construction with the sole purpose of preventing raw sewage from coming into a home.
Despite the best efforts of your water municipality storm run off can inadvertently cause raw sewage to back-up into the bathtub, sink and toilet in homes with faulty or non-existent valves. Luckily, home owners can check the integrity of existing backflow preventer valves or purchase a backwater adapter valve to install themselves.
Homeowners who live in areas with high amounts of storm drainage are especially susceptible to basement floods. The risk of flood damage is increased if the lowest plumbing drain in your home is lower than the nearest upstream manhole. If you don't know where the nearest upstream manhole is but, homeowners in your area experience frequent flooding investing in a backflow prevention valve is a great idea.
How Does the Backflow Prevention Valve Work?
Storm water run-off will raise the water level in sewer lines. When the water level rises enough to make it back to your home a float inside the backwater valve will rise activating a waterproof gate. During torrential rain, or heavy snow melts this process may not take very long. As the danger passes and the water level recedes the pressure on the gate is released. The gate will open and allow the sewage from your home to flow normally. Faulty or damaged valves do not provide this protection and basement flooding is likely.
Checking the Backwater Valve
Find your backflow preventer or backwater valve. These valves are traditionally found near the lowest plumbing drain in the home, or outside attached to the lateral line. The lateral line is the sewage line that runs from your home to your septic tank or the city sewage line. If the valve is installed in the lateral line a rubber boot or box is likely covering it. Backwater valves may have a clear top to see debris or may look like normal PVC valves with a clean-out cap on top.
Put on gloves and remove the cap on your backwater valve. Caps on backwater valves are normally hand tight; if you find it difficult to remove use a plumber's wrench to loosen it. With the cap off take a look inside. Remove leaves, or other organic matter that could be clogging the valve. Valves that were not sealed properly may have become contaminated with mud. Mud in a backflow prevention valve will prevent the float from working properly. Flush the valve with a high pressure water hose to restore it to normal working order.
Does My Home Need a Backwater Valve?
Backwater valves are the most important type of flood insurance you could invest in. The damage that can be caused by an inch of water in your basement alone can equal thousands of dollars. Sump pumps will help in an emergency flooding situation however, these devices do not work during a power outage. Backwater valves work, by design, when installed and properly maintained. A plumber can evaluate your home and install a quality backflow preveter valve.