Chicago experts share advice on how to avoid basement flooding from city sewers.
"Recently, my area had seven inches of rainfall, which overwhelmed the sewers and caused them to back up. Although my home has new sewer pipes and check valves, the water backed up and flooded my basement. What can be done to prevent this in the future?" — Susan Berthel, Brookfield, Ill.
The best solution is to eliminate the direct connection between the sewer and your basement, says David Ariano, vice president of highly rated Ravinia Plumbing & Heating in Highland Park [Ill.]. "You can have the sump pump pipe come out above the ground and drop into an open drain tied to the city storm sewer," Ariano says.
Depending on how your pipes are currently laid out, Ariano estimates such a job would cost between a few hundred and a thousand dollars.
Ruben Borjas, owner of RB Plumbing & Sewer Inc. in Skokie [Ill.], says a check valve prevents water from backing up, so sewage wouldn't be coming back through the valve after it's passed through it.
However, if sewer water from the city sewer is backed up and blocks the check valve, the wastewater still within your own house could overflow into the basement from those pipes. He suggests a flood control system, overhead sewer or lift station as potential solutions.
He says an overhead sewer works by gravity; it runs the pipe above ground level and through the wall. Flood control and lift stations are also effective, he says, but require electricity to work, which would cause problems if power goes out during a heavy rainfall.
Borjas also recommends having sewer lines cleaned regularly: "Even if the sewer's not backing up, a lot of the older houses have clay pipe, and they're getting filled with tree roots."
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Editor's note: This is an updated version of an article that was originally posted on Oct. 11, 2010.