Hello everyone and welcome to this week’s episode of “How NOT to Call the Plumber!”. We’re going to continue with March’s underground theme and talk about what is potentially the biggest basement flood preventer you can have installed – a Backwater Valve!
First, while I’m sure many of you have heard of this device, I know through our daily conversations that many more don’t know what it actually does! So, what is a Backwater Valve you ask? Let me tell you 😊.
As I mentioned earlier, a Backwater Valve is the most important thing you can install on your drainage system that will potentially save you big bucks by preventing basement flooding. The type flooding that this device prevents isn’t the small puddle of water around a floor drain in the basement, but rather the major floods you hear of where people wind up with a foot or two of water in the basement. These are the floods that happen during big rainstorms, fast snow melts, or collapsed city sewers and are the floods that lead to (unwanted) full basement renovations!
A Backwater Valve works in a very simple, yet ingenious way. In normal conditions, it has a flap inside that sits on the bottom of the pipe and allows any waste from the house to pass right over it. If the water in the city sewer starts to back up into your house’s drains, that flap has floats that will cause it to lift and eventually close off your pipe to the incoming waste water – in turn, saving you a major insurance claim! While on this topic, I should note that these backwater valves will not necessarily save you from yourself – if you have a blockage that occurs within the drains of the house (“upstream” of the backwater valve), it will not help. The good news is that when you notice your drains backing as a result of a blockage within the house, there will only be as much water in the basement as you send down the drains. Backwater Valves are really meant to prevent those “unstoppable” city floods that you have no control over.
Now – many of you will undoubtedly ask “how do I know if I have a Backwater Valve”? If you have a backwater valve installed, you will know by looking in one of two places. The first place to look is right outside the front of your house on the ground. You will potentially see two white caps (about 4” across), right next to each other. If you do see these, you very likely have one installed way down in the ground under those caps! If you don’t see it outside, the next place to look would be in the basement. If you have one installed there, it would show up as a rectangular, usually gray, cover plate in the basement floor – likely right along the front wall of the house. In my opinion, those of you who have one installed in the basement of the house are in better shape than those with it installed outside (sorry outside folks!). In the event something happens to the backwater valve itself, an installation inside the house is about 10 times easier to service or replace than potentially having to dig up your exterior drains!
Lastly, we also get the question about pricing. Unfortunately, there are quite a few variables with this as we have to take into account the depth and location of pipe, material that you’d have to dig through, material of your existing drains, time of year, etc. Typically speaking, an interior installation will fall somewhere between about $2500-$3500 and an exterior installation closer to $4000-$5000. There are also rebates still available in some situations through the city to help cover some of these costs!
That is all for this week! I hope you all have a great weekend. When you have a second, take a look around to see if you have a backwater valve and report back here 😉. See you next time!