Q&A OF THE WEEK: “Should I install a backwater valve in my basement?’

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Q: Is it a good idea to install a backwater valve to protect my basement from sewage backup? I live in Ottawa, Canada and I’m considering this upgrade.

A: The short answer is yes. A backwater valve is a great upgrade for most homes connected to a municipal sewage system. It’s installed in the main outgoing sewage line from your house, and it allows sewage to only flow out of your home, not back in. Depending on the design of the municipal system you’re connected to, and your location relative to the height of surrounding land, a failure of the municipal system could allow thousands of gallons of raw sewage from other homes into your basement. Most often this happens in the basement where the main floor drain is located, but sewage can back up and spill out in other places, too. Many homeowner insurance packages include coverage for this sort of damage, but you’re much better off never having to make a claim like this in the first place.

Installing a backwater valve requires access to the main drain pipe as it exits the basement floor. This involves breaking up the concrete in a small area around the pipe as it sits below your basement, then cutting this pipe and installing the backwater valve so all sewage flows through it. If the flow of sewage is reversed, then the backwater valve will prevent it from entering your home. It’s fairly easy to replace the concrete after the backwater valve is installed, too.  Is all this a hassle? Yes, but it’s a small price to pay to prevent the kind of sewage disaster that affects many homes every year.

Want to learn more about how backwater valves are incorporated into basements, and how basement drain systems work? Click below for a video tutorial. It’s part of my homeowner course on finishing basements the right way.