Let’s face it. No one wants to deal with a sewage backup, but it happens. The best thing a property owner can do is ensure the sewage system is maintained. Often, these are simple measures you can take to prevent one of the most costly types of damage to your property.

A sewage backup not only causes potential flooding, but it introduces biohazards and chemicals into the home as well. As if the idea itself isn’t enough to warrant diligent prevention measures, a sewage backup is not usually covered by insurance. Even with homeowner’s and flood insurance policies, you may be left to cover all expenses. This can include repairs, cleanup, camera snaking, the cost of damaged items such as appliances, carpets, and drapes; and potentially food and lodging during the repair/cleanup process. Fear not though, as we have outlined the causes and prevention tips below.

Proper maintenance of the sewer line is key. This is also referred to as the lateral. It’s a pipeline between your home and the city’s main sewer line, and the responsibility of maintaining it falls to you, the property owner. Maintenance involves simple everyday things such as:

  • Use 1-ply toilet paper. It dissolves more quickly than 2-ply or plush tissue. When it doubt, select one that says “Septic and Sewer Safe” on the label.
  • Limit food particles down the drain. Scrape as much as you can from your plates into the garbage can before washing or putting into the dishwasher. Even with a garbage disposal system, food going down the drain increases the chances for buildup.
  • Don’t put these foods into the garbage disposal. Each of these groups offers a different form of damage to your disposal system and/or your sewer line, which can lead to a sewage backup:
    • Eggshells (nope. They do not sharpen the blades)
    • Coffee grounds
    • Fibrous foods like celery or corn husks
    • Starchy foods like potatoes, pasta, rice, beans, and legumes (they expand/swell when wet)
  • Don’t pour fats, oils, or grease (FOG) down the drain. For FOGs that are solid when cooled, such as butter, lard, fat, and grease, allow them to cool and throw the solids into the garbage can. Then wipe any remnants with a paper towel and throw away before washing. For oils, wipe the pans with a paper towel and toss them before washing.
  • Proper disposal of napkins, paper towels, wipes, hygiene products, etc. These take much longer to break down, and Captain Obvious here – they absorb water and expand.