What Is A Backwater Valve?

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October 27, 2016
What Is A Backwater Valve?

What is a Backwater Valve?

As houses get smaller, homeowners try to take advantage of all the space they have by finishing their basements. We use our basements for recreation rooms, home offices, and for storage of things that are important to us.

But this creates a vulnerability. City sewers occasionally back up, and this can cost thousands of dollars in damage, not to mention the loss of treasured possessions.

Backwater valves were designed to prevent sewage from backing up into our homes. Originally invented in 1915, they were perfected in 1995 when a couple of plumbers in Edmonton wanted to ensure that if the city sewers flooded, their customer’s homes would be protected.

Most people haven’t heard of backwater valves, but they’ve definitely heard of sewer backups! Here’s a little bit more information about backwater valves so you can decide if they’re right for you.

Why Do Sewers Back Up?

Most homes built after the 1960’s have separate storm water and sewage water lines, and these backup for different reasons.

Sewage lines can back up for a number of reasons, including blockage and collapse of aging pipes. But what happens is that residents in the area don’t realize the sewer is blocked, they keep running water and flushing toilets, and the water has nowhere else to go but into people’s homes.

Storm drains can decay, but generally, they don’t back up until you get a really long period of heavy rainfall. Floods in the area can also overwhelm sewer systems.

How Do Backwater Valves Stop Sewer Backups?

The recommended type of backwater valve is a box that it fitted onto your main sewer line where it enters your home. Under normal conditions, the water flows through the box without issue. If sewage starts to flow the wrong way, a gate in the box automatically closes and seals the sewer line. Your home stays safe and odor free!

Do Backwater Valves Have Any Limitations?

The only problem with backwater valves is that when they’re sealed, the waste water in your home has nowhere to go. So if you notice your drains are slow, it’s important to go to your basement and check the valve to see if it’s active.

While this is inconvenient, it’s way better than having to pay to clean and renovate your entire basement.

Do I Need a Backwater Valve if My Home is On Higher Ground?

Probably. While you might not need one on your storm line, a sewer backup can happen to any home in which the lowest drain in the house is lower that the local manhole covers. This is almost always the case because the lowest drains in the home are generally in a basement.

Cities Across Canada Recommend Backwater Valves

Backwater valves have saved so many homeowners that they are being adopted into building codes across the nation, especially for new building construction.

City of Toronto Subsidy Program

To help residents protect their homes, the City of Toronto is offering homeowners a subsidy of up to $3,400 to help with the installation of backwater valves, sump pumps and other flood prevention devices.

Ask your Plumber.ca representative for details!

This post was provided by our friends at KnightPlumbing.ca in Calgary.


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