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How To Handle Sewage Backup in a Basement (+ 4 Causes To Avoid)

Person mops after basement flooding.

If a sewage backup occurs, call your septic tank company’s emergency number or an emergency plumber if you have a public sewage connection. Then, call Rainbow Restoration® for professional water damage mitigation and remediation.

Think about the things that are flushed or disposed of via the kitchen sink, dishwasher, or washing machine daily. Now think about a  stagnant pool of these materials swirling in a basement. Not a pretty picture, right? Right. Unfortunately, a flooded basement is an all-too-common occurrence.

A sewage backup in a basement is one of the most panic-inducing situations — and it requires immediate professional help. Read on to learn what to do if a sewage backup happens, what causes sewage backups, and how to prevent them in the future.

If your property has suffered from a water damaging event, the clock is ticking. Call (855) 724-6269 to begin your project.

What To Do When You Find Sewage Backup in Your Basement

So, you’ve discovered a sewage backup in the basement. Depending on the severity, you might be tempted to get started on cleanup right away. While it’s tempting to take action, you need to be careful — sewage is hazardous waste. You’ll need to call in professional cleanup and sanitation services to ensure the environment is safe after a sewage backup.

No matter how overwhelmed you may be feeling, try to stay calm and — before you do anything else — follow these instructions:

  1. Call for professional help immediately.
  • If you have a septic tank that is the source of the backup, call your septic tank company’s emergency number.
  • If your home operates on public sewage, call a 24/7 plumber.
  1. After contacting a plumber, call (855) 724-6269 to schedule basement water damage mitigation and remediation from your local Rainbow Restoration.

Here are some things you should do while you wait for professional help to arrive so the situation doesn’t worsen:

  1. Wear protective gear: Gloves, respirators, and waterproof shoes or clothing are all vital for safety. Avoid the contaminated space as much as possible.
  2. Turn off electricity and water lines: If you can safely access shut-off points, you should turn off water and electricity lines immediately. This will keep the backup from worsening and make it safer for remediation teams. If there’s standing water, do not touch or walk through any standing water to avoid the risk of electrocution.
  3. Stop using toilets, sinks, and other drains: Running water or letting any water flow down the drain can worsen the backup. Avoid doing so until professionals have properly handled the sewage backup.

Tips for how to handle sewage backup in a basement.

4 Main Causes of Sewage Backup

A sewage backup can occur for a variety of reasons. Here are the most likely culprits:

  1. Tree roots: Tree roots are a common and nearly invisible cause for sewage backups. As the roots grow, they can damage pipes and sewer lines, causing massive damage.
  2. Clogs: Clogs are a common issue in drains, and they typically don’t lead to sewer backups. However, chronic clogging or clogs deep in pipes or sewer lines can lead to bigger problems.
  3. Old or damaged sewer system: Especially in older buildings, accidents happen and pipes fail. Normal wear and tear over time can lead to a sewer backup even if you’re doing everything right.
  4. Weather conditions: In environments prone to heavy flooding or rainfall, sewage backups are more likely. If public sewers are inundated with more water than they can handle, the excess needs to go somewhere — unfortunately, that “somewhere” may be the basement.

How To Prevent a Sewage Backup

Dealing with a sewage backup in a basement is no fun. However, it’s not always within your control, but there are some preventative measures you can take to reduce the likelihood of it happening again.

1. Avoid Pouring Grease Down the Drain

It’s tempting to pour excess grease down the drain after cooking, but grease solidifies when it cools. Then hair, food, and other solid particles stick to it, building up until it creates a clog that’s difficult to remove, increasing the likelihood of a sewage backup.

2. Install Plastic Pipes

Plastic pipes hold up better over time than traditional pipe materials (made of iron, brass, or copper). If there is sewer line damage, pipe damage, or leaks, replace them with plastic pipes to prevent issues later on.

3. Maintain Clog-Free Drains

Drain clogs are a common reason sewage backups occur in basements. This can be an unlucky one-time incident or the result of chronic clogging. If clogs aren’t properly removed, they can push further into the pipe and cause costly damage to the pipes or property affected by the backup. To prevent a backup, have clogs professionally cleared as soon as they occur.

4. Remove Approaching Tree Roots

There are many benefits to having trees on a property — the risk of their roots damaging pipes isn’t one of them. Contact a professional tree removal service to see if pruning tree roots is an option.

5. Schedule Sewage Pump Check-ins

Schedule a sewage pump check-in about once a year. This way, professionals can spot issues earlier, make repairs, or replace the pump before it causes further damage.

6. Install a Backwater Prevention Valve

Backwater prevention valves installed on a building’s sewer line direct the flow of waste away from the building. In the event of an overwhelmed public sewer system, such as after heavy rainfall, this can prevent a sewage backup.

FAQ About Sewage Backups

What Are Signs of a Sewage Backup?

Here are a few warning signs of a sewage backup to watch out for:

  • Slow drains
  • Repeated toilet clogs
  • Unexplained puddles in the yard
  • Strong unexplained odors
  • Sudden noises from drains

What Are the Health Risks of Sewage Backup?

Sewage consists of wastewater, which is made up of human waste and other debris. Exposure to raw sewage, not just by touch but also by breathing in the surrounding air, leaves people vulnerable to diseases like hepatitis and E. coli. Property owners should always assume that potential pathogens, bacteria, fungi, and viruses are present in sewage contamination.

No matter the length of exposure, porous materials, such as wood or unsealed stone, affected by sewage should be disposed of because it’s difficult to ensure total sanitation and prevent mold growth. The longer raw sewage remains on the basement floor, the more likely it is to threaten the health of the building's occupants.

Remediation should begin as soon as possible. Occupants should stay out of the contaminated area, and anyone who is immunocompromised should leave the premises until the remediation is complete.

Can I Fix a Sewage Backup Myself?

Don't try to fix a sewage backup yourself.

Depending on what is causing the problem, tampering with the pipes or sewage lines could make it worse or affect the sewer lines of properties nearby. Immediately call a professional plumber that offers emergency services. Then shut off your water supply and any circuit breakers controlling anything near or in the standing water. Do not attempt to move or clean anything yourself; leave all items for the professionals to handle and remove.

How Should I Clean After a Sewage Backup?

Once the sewage backup is repaired, it’s time for cleaning and restoration. Again, do not engage in any DIY cleaning as it poses a health risk. Cleaning is part of the restoration process and should be completed by a trained restoration professional.

A professional restoration company will be able to tell you what is salvageable and what will need to be thrown out. The water and moisture will need to be removed and dried from any surfaces first because dangerous bacteria can begin growing immediately in a sewage-filled environment. 

Other factors to keep in mind:

  • All carpet that has come into contact with sewage will need to be removed and disposed of properly.
  • Any remaining sewage must be extracted or pumped out of the contaminated area for restoration work to begin.
  • Household vacuums and carpet cleaners are just not strong enough to deal with a sewage backup, so do not attempt to clean it yourself.

The sooner cleaning and restoration begins, the sooner you can recover. Don’t waste valuable time — choose Rainbow Restoration.

Is It Safe To Stay In My Home or Business After a Sewer Backup?

Unfortunately, sewage water also contains airborne contaminants. If you experience a sewage backup, you should leave the premises and bring any pets with you until the building has been professionally cleaned and sanitized.

How Do I Unclog My Main Sewer Line?

You can use a snake or hire a professional plumber to unclog a main sewer line, depending on the severity of the clog. Although the use of chemicals is popular for removing clogs, they aren’t the best option because they often just push the clog further into the drain instead of removing it entirely.

Why Does Sewage Back Up in the Basement After Heavy Rain?

After heavy rain, there is a higher volume of water than normal in public sewers. If the water volume exceeds the capacity of the sewers, then water flows through the path of least resistance — sometimes into a basement.

Choose Rainbow Restoration for Sewage Cleanup

If you’ve discovered a sewage backup at your property, you need Rainbow Restoration. Our IICRC-certified professionals will mitigate the water damage, remediate flooded basements, and can even assist with content processing and cleaning to save and reclaim your damaged furniture, keepsakes, and possessions.

Don’t wait. Call Rainbow Restoration at (855) 724-6269 for 24/7 emergency service or request an appointment online today.

This article is intended for general informational purposes only and may not be applicable to every situation. You are responsible for determining the proper course of action for your property. Services should be performed by licensed and experienced professionals. Rainbow Restoration is not responsible for any damages that occur as a result of this blog content or your actions. For the most accurate guidance, contact a Rainbow Restoration professional for a custom, on-site assessment.

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