How To Stop Basement Flooding Before it Starts With Backwater Valves

Sir Fix-A-Lot, plumbing, heating and air conditioning Knight
‘Tis I, Sir Fix-A-Lot, knight of plumbing, heating and air conditioning.

Hi everyone!

Sir Fix-A-Lot here. As a plumber, sometimes I imagine myself cast as the hero in an action movie.

One of my favourite movies is The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of The Ring. You know that part where Gandalf yells “you shall not pass!” at that big fire demon thing? Well, that’s me. Not the fire demon–the wizard. (Knights can be wizards too, you know!) That’s what I say whenever I install a new backwater valve. “The evil water will not flood this basement! You! Shall! Not! Pass!” I think it’s funny, but no one seems to get it…

Because backwater valves are kind of like Gandalf. They both hold back evil at all costs, they both are something you want to have around, and they both are magic. Okay, that last one is just my opinion.

What Are Backwater Valves?

To further explain, let’s talk about one of my favourite topics: backwater valves. It’s really all in the name–backwater valves keep back the water! More specifically, they stop water from coming into your house through the sewer line, something that happens in Calgary due to those chinooks we get around late winter and early spring.

backwater valve diagramIt’s probably no surprise to those that live around here that the backwater valve was actually invented nearby, in Edmonton. Actually, it’s probably more accurate to say the backwater valve was perfected in Edmonton.

You see, back in the old days of the nineties, there was no such thing as a main line backwater valve. Instead, every single drain needed its own valve. So, the backwater valve existed, but it wasn’t being used to stop water washing back from public sewers. The original valve was invented by Bert T Vernon in Minneapolis way back in 1915.

It wasn’t until 1995 that Edmonton plumber Gabe Conscarella took Vernon’s basic concept and created the design that would help keep basements dry the world over. After witnessing the damage caused by basement flooding, Conscarella realized that a backwater valve placed on the main drain for the household would be an extremely effective flood prevention. And the rest, as they say, is pretty recent history.

Is Your Home Protected?

Since Conscarella’s invention is still a pretty recent happening, not all homes have caught up with trend. If your home was built before 1995, there’s a pretty decent chance there is no central backwater valve installed. While law requires that backwater valves be installed in every new home in Alberta, old homes may still be without protection.

Check with your plumber to make sure you have a backwater valve installed. Because, frankly, it’s just a darn good idea. It’s fairly inexpensive, and you’ll know that your basement and valuables are better protected.

Getting a Backwater Valve Installed

A backwater valve is a simple installation. Which is why it surprises me that more people don’t do it. It is, according to some estimates, one of the most common causes of plumbing disasters.

So, get yourself a Gandalf. If he can stop a Balrog, he can stop a little water. Can you imagine what would have happened if Gandalf wasn’t there in that cave? It would have been the end of the movie. And that movie went on for a good thirty minutes afterward. Don’t you want that for your house?