As we have seen in the news, floods are known for causing extensive water damage to homes and businesses. Floods may cause sewage from sanitary sewer lines to back up into houses and business premises through drain pipes. These backups not only cause damage that is expensive to repair, but may also pose a health hazard to the occupants. Most homeowner and business insurance policies do not cover sewer backup unless specific sewer backup coverage is added to the policy via an endorsement.
Most homeowners and business owners may not realize that they are responsible for the maintenance and repair of their house or sewer lateral; this is the pipeline between the municipal sanitary sewer main, which is usually located under the street, and the building. The sewer lateral is owned and maintained by the property owner and may include a portion that extends under the street or public right of way. A cracked or deteriorated lateral or one filled with tree roots can allow groundwater to seep into the system, contributing to and increasing the possibility of sewer backup problems.
Some causes of Sewer Backup:
- Blockages due to Tree Roots: Shrubs and trees seeking moisture can make their way into sewer line cracks causing damage. They may start out small, with a slight crack in the pipe, but as the tree or shrub grows, the roots also continue to grow. Tree roots can enter the service pipe at joints and cause blockages.
- Sanitary Main: A blockage can occur in a city or municipal sanitary main. If the blockage is not detected in time, sewage from the main may back up into homes and businesses through floor drains. Usually this happens over time, giving the owner time to call a licensed plumber to assess the damage. If water is entering your basement at a rapid rate, call the city public works office and report the problem immediately.
- Water in Basement: Most basement flooding is not related to the sanitary sewer system. In some cases, soil settles adjacent to the building and, if corrections are not made, this leads to rainwater flowing towards the building and down the outside of the foundation wall. This occurs most frequently with older buildings where cracks may have developed in the foundation or floor slab which allow water to enter the basement. The cement floor and basement walls of these structures may have deteriorated to the point that they are no longer waterproof. Water can show up in a basement which has never had a water problem; this frequently happens when the ground is saturated after repeated heavy rains. Drainage can be improved by making sure that the water is draining away from the building. Homeowners can also prevent flooding by having their basement water-sealed.
Remember – homeowners and business insurance do not cover flood damage. Only flood insurance will cover your losses in the event of a flood. Federal flood insurance policies can be purchased directly from an insurance agent or a company representative, and are available to communities that participate in the National Flood Insurance Program.