Many property owners have recently become aware of the advantages of a sewer check valve (also known as a backwater valve) as a means to end back ups from public sewers. Over development sometimes causes a public sewer to back up. But erratic weather conditions such as flash floods and hurricanes occur with ever more frequency and are more frequently the cause of public sewer back ups that result in damage. People seek a solution for this potential for water damage.
Types Of Public Sewers
There are three types of public sewers. There are combined sewers which take both sanitary and storm water from properties and roadway run-off alike. Sanitary sewers accept sanitary flow (waste water) and do not accept any rainwater. A storm sewer strictly accepts rainwater from both properties and rainwater run-off. In some cases a sanitary public sewer sometimes have roadway catch basins connected to them.
Public Sewer Back Ups
When severe weather conditions occur and even when over development exist a public sewer may not be able to handle the flow of water. As water seeks its own level and will attempt to escape from the lowest point, a properties basement may be that outlet. To have a public sewer overflow attempt to level off in one’s basement is not a pleasant situation to say the least.
Backwater Valve / Sewer Check Valve
There are various types of sewer check valves. The typical sewer check valve aka backwater valve has a one-way flap inside of it that operates automatically to close when water backs up form a public sewer. There are also manually operated sewer valves and hydraulic check valves that this author does not find applicable for most properties, particularly private homes. A typical sewer check valve is a simple and inexpensive device that only needs to be cleaned every six months or so. This cleaning process needs no special tools and takes only a very few minutes. Any established plumbing supply house will have backwater valves available for sale, but these installations should be performed by a licensed Toronto plumber.
When And Where A Backwater Valve For Sewer Should NOT Be Installed
In many instances a sewer check valve is not an appropriate solution for a sewer back up problem or can easily be installed incorrectly. A frequent error in installation is to install the sewer check valve on the ‘house side’ of the sewer trap. This is incorrect and can create serious problems. If a public sewer backs up a sewer trap cover under pressure can blow off or leak creating property damage and defeat the entire purpose of the sewer check valve. A sewer check valve or backwater valve must always be installed in the street side of a sewer trap. Doing do ensures that water from a public sewer back up has no opportunity to seep out into a property prior to encountering the backwater valve.
If a property’s sanitary house sewer also accepts any degree of rainwater it is not a good candidate for a sewer check valve. That means properties that have roof leader lines, area drains, or driveway trench drains that are connected to the same sewer that accepts sanitary water should not consider this installation unless their drain system is altered first. All properties that have sewers that accept both sanitary and storm water will require an outlet for rainwater – once a sewer check valve closes there is no place for rainwater to escape, there no outlet. All properties that have combined house sewers must be carefully examined by a professional before an installation is considered.
Multi-family buildings may also not be good candidates for a backwater valve unless the house drain is re-engineered first. As stated above once a backwater valve closes water no longer may pass to the public sewer until the water level recedes in the public sewer. In a multi-family house that means the potential of many people using water while a check valve is simultaneously closed leaving no outlet for the sanitary water, which will still result in a back up.
Simply put plumbing issues should be left to a licensed professional. There is no simple solution for complex plumbing problems even when a simple and inexpensive device like a backwater valve exists.
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