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Preventing Basement Flooding with Backwater Valve

Do I Need A Backwater Valve In Calgary & How It Can Prevent Basement Flooding

All those news stories about basement floods and backed-up sewage in Calgary are awfully disturbing. They leave you with a creeping worry that your home might be vulnerable to flooding, too.

You’ve probably heard of backwater valves as a possible preventive measure, but you’re not sure how (or even if) they work. In addition, you may not be sure whether your home already has one.

Well, now you can stop worrying. The answers to all your backwater valve-related questions are right here.

Why Do I Need A Backwater Valve?

To answer, let’s start with a look at your home’s plumbing— it’s a complex system of piping, drains, vents, and valves, which serve your faucets, shower, toilet, and water-using appliances. These components ultimately lead down to your home’s main sewer pipe, which channels household wastewater into the Calgary municipal sewer system. All the pipes in your house are installed at a slight downward angle to help with proper drainage — under normal circumstances.

However, heavy rainfall, snowmelt, or some type of blockage in the city sewer line may reverse the flow, forcing wastewater (AKA raw sewage) back up the pipes and into your home. The result is a flooded basement and potentially thousands of dollars worth of messy, stinky damage. A backwater valve is designed to prevent this type of disaster.

backwater valve diagram

How Does A Backwater Valve Work?

A backwater valve is essentially a large flap installed by a plumber at the bottom of your home’s main sewer pipe. It responds to abnormally high water levels in the municipal sewer system by floating up to close off your pipe, thus preventing the backflow from entering your home sewage system.

IMPORTANT TO KNOW: In extreme cases, the backwater valve may not be able to prevent basement flooding. However, it will block sewage, allowing only water to pass through.

How To Deal With A Sewage Backup In Calgary?

If you do not yet have a backwater valve or you have an older, poorly maintained backwater valve, you might find yourself dealing with a Calgary sewage backup problem someday. Here’s what to do:

  1. Call 311 (the Calgary city services line) to report the incident. The agent will determine whether the backup is the city’s responsibility or whether you need to hire a Calgary plumber privately.
  2. Avoid going into the flooded area. It is contaminated by blackwater (water which contains human waste) and is hazardous to your health.
  3. Get in touch with your home insurance provider ASAP.
  4. Use your household water supply as little as possible until the problem is resolved. Just as the backwater valve keeps municipal sewage water from flowing into your home, it will also prevent water from showers, etc., from flowing out.

Does My Home Already Have A Backwater Valve?

If your home was built after 1988, a backwater valve should have been installed, as per the revised Canadian plumbing code. For an older home, check your basement floor. The backwater valve may be located in a transparent compartment or covered with a straightforward rectangular panel.

What If Your Backwater Valve Breaks?

Your backwater valve works hard, but there’s always a risk that it will be blocked or damaged by a sharp item accidentally dropped down a drain. Unfortunately, a broken backwater valve will no longer protect your home from sewer backup.

For this reason, you’re best off regularly checking the valve to make sure it is in good functional order. (That’s why the transparent covering comes in so handy!)

Protect your backwater valve from future blockage or damage in the following 4 ways:

  1. Avoid pouring grease, fat, or cooking oil down the drain.
  2. Don’t flush anything down the toilet besides feces and urine. If you have small children, a toilet safety lock will protect them and the toilet itself.
  3. Use “drain strainers” — simple, inexpensive filters that will keep hair, dental floss, and other debris out of the bathroom sink, tub, and shower drain.
  4. Have a professional plumber inspect and clean your backwater valve once every year. This can be scheduled as part of your fall home maintenance routine or your spring plumbing tuneup.

Knight Plumbing Are Calgary Backwater Valve Experts

Would you like a backwater valve inspection or installation? Contact Knight’s team of qualified plumbers. We’re your local experts on everything backwater valves!