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How to Prevent a Sewer Backup Caused by Heavy Rains

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This past March, numerous residents in the greater Columbus area experienced how heavy rains led to sewer backups, especially in basements. While many of us were fortunate enough to make it through March with dry basements, we might not always be so lucky. That’s why it’s important to understand how sewer backups happen and how to prevent them.


When there are heavy rains or rapid snowmelt, an abundance of water and debris end up in municipal sanitary sewers, which overloads the sewer system. If it's more water than the sewer system can handle, excess water can flow backward into your home's sewer line and subsequently overflow into your basement. If your neighborhood is prone to sewage backups, there are effective options for preventing this problem.


Risks can be mitigated by being aware of the early warning signs. An effective sewer drainage system relies on these signs.

  • Awful Smells - Your drains might smell unpleasant if there is a sewer backup. An odor is caused by a lack of free movement of wastewater in your pipes. Rather, it gets stuck in one location for too long, releasing a foul odor that can be both bothersome and unhealthy to breathe. Just imagine how many bacteria are sitting in your pipes and being released into your home. The smell of sewage is unpleasant, but allowing unknown bacteria into your home can be dangerous.
  • Standing Water Around Floor Drains - Most basements, laundry rooms, and attached garages have floor drains. If you have these drains, sewer lines often back up into these areas before backing up into your toilets. Water accumulating at these drains is a good indication that wastewater isn't freely flowing and is backing up. Despite the clog, the water flow has not been completely stopped yet. It is important to call a plumber right away if you notice this problem because a partial blockage will occur and can flood these areas of your home.
  • Gurgling Noises - The gurgling sound might be a sign of a slow drain, as you may be aware. If you hear a toilet gurgling or bubbling while using an appliance, such as the washing machine, you may have a backup in the main sewer line. Water backs up into the shower when you run the bathroom sink. It is important to know that something is amiss even if you hear a slight gurgling after flushing the toilet. If there's a clog, you might be able to clear it yourself. If there's a backup, however, you might have to call your plumber.
  • Water Drains Slowly - A blocked sewer line can lead to slow draining drains and toilets. Use another drain or toilet in the lowest level of the house to determine if the backup is a single drain line or the main line. It is most likely that the backup occurs in a single drain if that drain works properly. Your drain may be clogged in this case, and you can unclog it yourself. The main line most likely has problems if you see and hear slow draining. Using chemical drain cleaners can be dangerous and corrode your pipes, thereby increasing your chances of experiencing a backup in the future. To clear enough blockage, try plunging or snaking the drain first.


Install Check Valves to Prevent Flooding

Have a plumber install check valves on your floor drains and all of your basement plumbing fixtures. A check valve lets water run out of the drain as designed but prevents water from flowing back into the drain. Having check valves in place should keep gray water and sewage from creeping up through your floor drains or into your plumbing fixtures if the municipal sewers get overwhelmed during a severe storm.

Install a Sump Pump to Remove Flood Water

Installing a sump pump is a smart way to protect your basement if a flood ever occurs. To determine which type and model of sump pump will best suit your needs, always involve a professional. For instance, gray water sump pumps move used household water out when gravity is unable to, whereas groundwater sump pumps help keep excess underground water from seeping up into your home.

Aside from protecting your home from flooding and water damage, sump pumps can also protect your home’s foundation. If the soil around your home gets soggy, it becomes unstable, and if the weather gets cold enough, the wet soil will freeze and expand against your foundation--sometimes forcefully enough to crack it. A sump pump can remove that excess water around your foundation and help keep the soil there drier and more stable.

If you need help with any sewer or drain problems in the Columbus area, contact The Rooter Works Plumbing and Drains today: (614) 412-3324.