Sewer backup is a messy business and can cost you thousands of dollars in repairs. You would have to fix your sewer line and any damage the backup may have caused to your multi-family property. When it comes to sewer backup, it's worthwhile to be proactive instead of reactive.
What Causes Sewers to Back up?
Sewer backup is caused partly by our behaviour and natural forces we can't control. Sewer backup is commonly caused by clogs in the lines that run through your building. Clogs are the result of forcing foreign objects—feminine products, grease, diapers—down the sewer pipes. These products get trapped inside the line, not allowing waste paste them. A backup can grow, potentially causing plumbing issues for multiple units. If the backup gets large enough, lower units may experience flooding. A red flag you shouldn't ignore is when you receive a higher than normal water bill. Areas with unusual smells or unexplained water are also an indicator of plumbing problems.
Natural causes of sewer backup include pesky tree roots. This problem pertains more so to older multi-family properties than newer ones. Though you may not have a single tree on your property, tree roots from the neighbour's property can make their way over and wreak havoc on your sewer lines. If the sewer line happens to be older, roots can grow into the pipe causing holes and blockages. Other situations can see roots wrapping around the pipe entirely, crushing it.
Another cause of sewer backup is dirty water and worn pipes. Years ago, sewer lines were made using clay and cast iron. These types of pipes can crack, break, collapse, and deteriorate, causing problems with your sewer. Now, sewer lines in new properties are plastic. Old lines can also suffer from water corrosion as a result of dirty water. This problem is common in older buildings. Water quality in multi-family properties should be monitored closely for any signs of an issue.
How Can You Prevent Sewer Backup?
The good news is there are a variety of devices you can install in your sewer to prevent a sewer backup from occurring. The first option you may want to consider is a sealing system. Sealing systems, like Aqua-Protec, can sense an impending backup within seconds and automatically seals off your sewer lines. Sensors in the system detect the backup and immediately start the inflation process of the balloon. The balloon will stay inflated for the duration of the backup. Once it's sensed the end, the balloon will deflate again.
A cost-effective option is to install drain screens in every drain in every unit. Drain screens won’t keep every piece of debris out of the plumbing lines, but they will stop a large amount from entering. This option is a simple one that doesn’t require the help of a professional.
Preventing sewer backups requires you to be proactive. It’s also better to be safe than sorry. With that mantra in mind, schedule regular plumbing inspections for your multi-family property. The cost for these inspections will be much lower than the cost to replace, fix, or unclog lines. These inspections will be able to identify line wear and areas to watch closely.
The last protection method is to think smart and not treat the toilet as a garbage. Foreign objects don't belong in the toilet. Toilet paper is the only item that should go down your pipes. Garbage disposals can contribute to the problem too, as many people believe it’s fine to dump large amounts of food down there. Larger quantities have a better risk of getting lodged in your pipes. To eliminate this possibility, remove garbage disposals from your units. A clog in one unit can affect multiple others, creating a lot of unhappy tenants. Consider educating your tenants about appropriate waste methods if this seems to be an issue for your building.
Damages and headaches are the results of sewer backups. No one wants to deal with a situation like that. Instead of running to the basement in fear, install preventive devices that won't make your heart race. Sealing systems, drain screens, and proactive maintenance can all effectively keep sewage and water out of your multi-family property.