How to Deal With A Sewer Backup

Backed up sewerWhen substantial amounts of water channel into the sewer system, it can become inundated and cause serious repercussions for any structure it services. The most common issue to occur as a result is a backup in the basement. Sewage backup can contaminate your drinking water, cause health issues, and be extremely messy to cleanup. To ensure safe and proper cleanup, you need to know what to do immediately if your sewer backs up.

Basic Backup Safety Precautions

In the event of a sewer backup, never flush your toilets; this will only exacerbate the problem. Always keep animals and children away from contaminated areas, and preferably out of your home entirely if at all possible until the damage is completely remedied. If you have standing water near electrical lines or power outlets, be sure to disconnect your power to prevent electrocution.

Report the Problem

If your property is part of the city sewer system, contact your sewer or public works department immediately to report the problem. If your home has its own septic system, you’ll need to determine whether you can dispose of the sewage and remedy the problem yourself or if you should contact a professional cleaning and restoration company. Take pictures of the contaminated area and make a list of any damaged and/or discarded items to report to your insurance provider. They may even be able to recommend a trusted professional restoration company that specializes in this sort of property damage cleanup. In some instances, your insurance provider will cover the cost of the cleanup. (Word of Warning: Don’t assume that sewage backups are covered by your insurance carrier. Review your policy and talk to your agent if you’re concerned about this coverage.)

If you’re unsure about whether or not you can safely tackle the job yourself, consider hiring a professional service to, at a minimum, survey the damage and develop a scope of work for the cleanup. Whether or not you choose to hire the company, that scope of work could assist your DIY cleanup by providing a list of specific problems to tackle.

As previously mentioned, sewage backups can pose serious threats to your health. Coming into contact with raw sewage can cause gastrointestinal illnesses, respiratory inflammation, restricted airways, rashes, skin infection and other issues. For this reason alone, you really might be best off hiring a professional cleaning and restoration company to face the danger for you.

Do-It-Yourself Sewer Backup Cleanup

If you’ve decided to get in there yourself and get your hands dirty (pardon the pun), make sure you have protective eyewear, long gloves, and boots. Avoid direct contact with raw sewage at all costs, and wash your hands often. Make sure any cuts or wounds you may have are securely covered with a bandage, and immediately wash any wound that comes in contact with sewage.

Once properly protected, you need to remove all standing water from your basement or other contaminated space using a wet vacuum, sump pump, or a mop and bucket. Wet vacs can be rented from local home supply stores. Solid waste can be collected and discarded in heavy duty trash bags.

It’s important to promptly and thoroughly dry out the contaminated space, as the potential for developing health issues increases the longer the sewage remains in contact with the interior of your basement or other area of your home. If a backup occurs during especially humid conditions, you need to act even more urgently, as germs are spreading at a rapid rate. Open windows, large fans, and dehumidifiers will aid in the drying process.

What You’ll Need to Toss

Unfortunately most soft goods and porous items that come in contact with raw sewage should be discarded, including:

  • Unfinished Wood
  • Clothing
  • Curtains & Drapery
  • Mattresses, Pillows & Bedding
  • Upholstered Furniture
  • Area Rugs & Carpeting
  • Cardboard

Talk to a professional restoration company about cleaning items that are of special importance to you or that may be difficult to part with – they may be able to save the day!

Damaged Drywall: Replace or Repair?

If you have drywall staining or water lines, you will likely need to cut out the damaged section and replace it, as damage from contamination and water is nearly irreparable.

Finally, The Solution:

A common cleaning solution for your space is good old bleach and water. Don’t ever mix bleach with ammonia—this emits a noxious gas that’s almost as dangerous as your sewage backup problem. In a large bucket, mix 1 part bleach with 9 parts water. After hosing all contaminated areas down with water, apply the solution with a large sponge or mop. For best disinfectant results, just allow this solution to air dry on the contaminated area. Feel free to repeat this process if you feel it’s necessary.

we can’t emphasize enough how toxic and hazardous sewage and sewer water can be to your property and your health. It’s possible to spread the contamination throughout your home quickly if the problem isn’t handled correctly. Know the proper steps for remedying sewer backup quickly to minimize risk to your property and your safety, and keep us in mind for help!


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Cheryl Smith wrote on October 26th, 2015 02:10:06pm
It is good to know that I should not mix ammonia with bleach. I definitely do not want to cause any more problems. I will keep this in mind, if we have a problem in the future.