Clearing the Air On Sewer Backup

November 9, 2021

prevent sewer backupAsk anyone who’s had their sewer back up into the basement. They’ll tell you in no uncertain terms: it’s an unpleasant experience. You can probably figure out what they mean.

What are the chances of this happening to you? The Civil Engineering Research Foundation found that incidents of sewer backups are increasing about 3 percent a year. Not good news for homeowners.

So what causes this unfortunate event? And how can you avoid it? There are things you can do to prevent backups. Knowledge is power, so let’s dive in (from the Insurance Information Institute).

Causes of Sewer Backups

First off, many think that once the waste leaves their home, it’s the municipality’s responsibility. But that’s not the case. Homeowners are responsible for their sewer lateral. That’s the pipeline between the house and the city, town, or village sewer main.

So a problem in the lateral that causes backup is the homeowner’s responsibility. You may be able to go after the municipality if the backup is caused by its main.

Aging sewer systems are a major cause of that three percent rise in backups each year. The American Society of Civil Engineers says that the nation’s sewer lines are on average 30 years old. As homes connect to these aging lines, backups increase.

Combined sewer systems (CSSs) send both sanitary sewage and storm water through the same pipeline. The problem arises during severe rainstorms that exceed the capacity of the pipe. The result is sewage seeping into the home.

Tree roots can clog the pipes. Trees seeking moisture get their roots into cracks and breaks in the pipe. Over time they grow large enough to block the sewage from passing to the municipal line.

Municipal main blockage: we have emphasized the homeowner’s responsibility for the sewer lateral, but the main could be the problem.

Things You Can Do To Prevent Sewer Backup

  • Don’t pour cooking grease down the drain. Place it in an empty soup can (or equivalent). Store that in the freezer. When it’s full, throw it in the garbage. If you pour grease down the drain, it will solidify in the pipes and cause a backup.
  • Paper towels, disposable diapers, hygienic wipes, and feminine products are big trouble for drains and pipes. Find other ways to dispose of them.
  • If you’ve got root problems, have them cut out by a drain pro. Continuing root problems can be solved by replacing your line with plastic pipes.
  • Don’t connect French drains, sump pumps, or other flood control systems to the sanitary sewer. It’s illegal and the debris and silt will clog the line.
  • Get a backwater prevention valve so water and sewage only travel one way…out of your house.

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Sewer Backup?

There is generally no coverage on a homeowners insurance policy for sewer backup. But most insurance companies can cover it with a special endorsement. It’s usually inexpensive and offers different amounts of coverage. We suggest you call us to see if you have it and/or to add it to your policy.

And call us if we don’t have your homeowners insurance. Or your car insurance. We offer package policies that can save you money. And we’ll be sure that you get the right coverages for the best price.

We hope we’ve “cleared the air” for you on the problem of sewer backup.

Until next time,
Your SZW Team

SZW Insurance is your Utica area Trusted Choice™ independent insurance agent. Call us for a quote on insurance for your home, car, business, or life at 315.792.0000. Or request a quote here. In Westchester County call Zak Scalzo at 914.246.0315 or email at