A home plumbing system is a complicated weave of pipes, valves, drains and vents. Most of the time, we don’t think to inspect our plumbing (or wouldn’t know what to look for), that is until it results in damage to our home. We’re more or less forced to trust that our pipes will hold up and continue to work forever.
Slow dripping leaks from faucets or drains under a sink are one thing (and easily repaired), but what happens when raw sewage starts to bubble up through the floor drains in your basement? If you flush a toilet upstairs and it comes out of the toilet in the basement, you have a serious problem – one whose solution lies in installing a Backwater Valve.
First understand that all of the plumbing in your house will come together at a single point (main sewer pipe) and exit through your foundation, across your yard and into the municipal sewer system. Everything leaving your house is gravity-powered, or in other words, all of the pipes in your house are slightly angled to ensure that the water runs down and out.
In some cases of flooding, a blockage in the municipal sewer line or a surge that pushes back against the flow of water can be forced back from the street, up your sewer line and into your house.
A Backwater Valve prevents this sewage water from making it into your house by means of a large flap that blocks water from travelling into your home. As the water levels in your main sewer pipe rise, the flap will close off the pipe and prevent water from flowing back through your sewage system, preventing the sewage from filling up your basement or bathroom.
Installing a Backwater Valve can protect your plumbing system from overflowing during a flood.
A Backwater Valve will provide some measure of protection against the city sewers from backing up into your home, but if floodwaters are encroaching toward your home, the water can and will find and infiltrate holes and cracks in your foundation.
As excess amounts of water are pouring through the city’s sewer system, the valve will block the sewage from flowing into your home. At least the water in your basement will be rain or groundwater and not raw sewage.
For those living in the City of Ottawa, installing a backwater valve is a legal necessity in the building and plumbing code. According to the City of Ottawa, every new single, semi-detached, row house and townhome requires the installation of backwater valves. Some insurance companies may require proof of a backwater valve to supply coverage.
Some Ontario municipalities offer subsidies to help cover the costs, including Ottawa. The City of Ottawa’s Residential Protective Plumbing Program provides financial assistance for the installation of protective plumbing devices like sump pumps, storm prevention tools, weeping tiles and backwater valves. As long as your home was built before January 1, 2012, your home qualifies for backwater valves under this rebate program.
The two basic parts of the backwater valve are a protective flap and a cleanout. The purpose of the protective flaps is to only allow water to flow in one direction – out of your house, preventing the city sewage from passing back through your pipes into your home.
The cleanout gives you access to the line, allowing for visual inspection of the valve and to be able to perform a clean and maintenance on the flap and pipes.
During normal circumstances, the water and sewage will pass through the backwater valve, with the protective flap down. But when the city sewer drain begins to backup, the water will push back through your pipes and attempt to pass through your backwater valve.
Once the water reaches a specific level within the backwater valve, the protect flap will flip up and close the pipe’s entrance. As a result, you are preventing the backflow from the city sewer from entering back into your home.
Keep in mind that once the flap closes it will stop any water coming in – but also any water going out. You will need to refrain from using any of your drains or fixtures because water from your own house could back up out of floor drains or basement toilets.
The backwater valve should be installed under the floor of your basement, attached to the main sanitary sewer close to where it leaves your house. It can sometimes be located in your front or back yard depending upon where the city sewer lines are located.
The installation will often require an access hole be cut into your basement floor to access the main sewer drain. Soil and dirt will need to be excavated out of the access hole to leave enough room to install the valve. Once installed, the hole can be filled in and repaired – making sure to leave access to the cleanout on the valve itself.
Open up the cleanout cap and inspect the inside of the backwater valve. Check the protective flap to ensure it’s secure, intact and moves freely. Sharp debris can pass through and damage or get lodged in the protection flap if it’s being utilized extensively.
Performing regular maintenance is the best way to ensure your backwater valve is functioning correctly and efficiently. Your maintenance should be conducted once every three months. A simple visual check for dirt and debris as well as flushing out any leftover junk in the cleanout is enough. With the proper maintenance, your backwater valve will last at least 5-10 years.
For easy access, we encourage you to install an access box for your backwater valve. An access box prevents you from having to dig up your basement flooring to access your pipes and backwater valve.
If you live in an older Ottawa home, your home is more than likely to be without a backwater valve. But, it would help if you still got your plumbing system inspected regardless of the age because sometimes, steps are missed or skipped in the home building process. It’s crucial a professional plumber inspects your home to ensure a backwater valve is installed and set up correctly. To know for sure, we will usually pass an inspection camera down into your sewer lines to look for a backwater valve.
Are you ready to be proactive and get your plumbing system inspected? By calling Out Of This World at 613-241-3139, you can expect a plumbing service that goes above and beyond. Our team is background checked, licensed and arrives when promised – and that’s a guarantee. One thing home insurance can’t save is your memories, get your backwater valve installed or maintenance today!