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The Importance of Installing a Backwater Valve

Updated on August 18, 2017
Backwater diagram
Backwater diagram

How backwater valves can prevent basement flooding

Backwater valves are essential aspects of one’s plumbing needs. The backwater valve allows the water to flow only in one direction; if the water attempts to “back up”, the valve is designed to stop it in its tracks. Many homes suffer flood damage yearly which could probably have been prevented by a properly installed water valve.

A backwater valve is needed in areas like the basement where there is a potential for waste water from the sewer system to backup into your home. Basement flooding can cause serious problems for the homeowner. When dirty water or rain water backs up into your basement or lower level, is not a pretty sight and many of us may have had the horrific experience of watching waste back up into our tidy homes, causing excessive damage in the thousands of dollars. In addition to the potential for the back up of sewer waste, this can also be combined with storm water as a result of heavy rains or snowfall. Whatever the source, it is a messy situation all around.

In addition to the emotional and financial toll basement flooding can cause us, there is the critical aspect of our hygiene being compromised which can result in serious health problems. You think that you have already disposed of the waste produced in your home in a safe and sanitary manner through your home’s plumbing network, but unfortunately, it comes back to haunt you. The need for a shut off valve is a critical to the functioning of the basement drain.

The backup of waste water from the sewers is essentially the result of an overloaded sewer system or a blockage in the sewer system. You may have experienced backups that are caused by expanding tree roots and other such blockage. If you have had a heavy snow storm, torrential rains or flooding the excess water should flow into the sewer system. However, when the water is coming fast and furious, there is not enough time for the system to absorb the water slowly and the result is an overloaded sewer system.

For all the reasons listed here, the importance of installing a backwater valve cannot be overemphasized. A backwater valve in addition to your sump pump constitutes an essential preventative measure against sewer or water backup. This device works to prevent sewer back up under conditions where the sewer system is overloaded. A well installed backwater valve will block the backup of sewer water and prevent it access through alternative pants like toilets and sinks.

Before you install a backwater valve check your local municipality’s requirements and get the required permit if applicable. It is critical that the installation of the backwater valve is properly done for maximum effectiveness. Even tough you may feel competent to do it yourself, the job is best left to the experienced and qualified contractor.

You will have a few choices in the selection a backwater valves. A gate valve provides you with a very secure seal but the downside is its complexity and you are required to operate it manually when a sewer backup is imminent. However, you do not need to choose between a secure valve and convenience. The higher end check valves offer a secure seal and operates automatically so you don’t need to be home when disaster strikes.


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    • Joan King profile image

      Joan King 6 years ago

      You are not alone. There are many things like this in our home that we take for granted until something goes wrong.

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 6 years ago from San Francisco

      Wow, this is really interesting- I had never heard of backwater valves before. What a cool invention!


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