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Preventing Sewer Problems

Modify Internal Plumbing

Making some changes in the plumbing inside your house can significantly reduce the chance of basement floods caused by wastewater backups. The following chart shows the most common fixes, with their advantages and disadvantages. Before implementing any of them, talk to a plumber about the most appropriate approach for your situation.

Fix Advantage Disadvantage
Floor drain plug Cheap and easy Water pressure can force plug out. Screw-in plug can cause pipe break due to pressure buildup, allowing sewage seepage through foundation cracks.
Floor drain standpipe Inexpensive, easy to install, can be left in if floor drain isn't needed Flooding can still occur, as water will seek next higher opening. If not correctly installed, could leak at connection. Drain can't be used until standpipe is removed.
Backup flow valve Blocks drain pipes temporarily, prevents flow into house More expensive, effectiveness depends on type of valve.
Overhead sewer protection Most reliable Expensive, needs alternate power source to run during power outage.

Floor Drain Plug

Floor drain plugs, which are placed into the floor drain below the grate, stop sewer backups where they first occur. One type of plug operates by tightening bolts on the metal end pieces. This causes a rubber gasket to expand and seal the plug in the drain,but it also stops water from flowing in either direction. If something overflows in your basement, the water will stay there unless you remove the plug.

Other plugs have floats that allow water to drain out of the basement. When the sewer backs up, the float rises and plugs the drain.


Standpipes are common alternatives to floor drain plugs. They consist of an open-ended pipe that fits into a metal and rubber gasket placed into the floor drain. When the sewer backs up, the water stays in the pipe instead of flooding your basement.

One advantage that standpipes have over floor drain plugs is that the overflow pipe acts as a safety valve. As such, it equalizes water pressure, which reduces the chances of pipe breaks. However, having a pipe sticking up from a drain presents a safety hazard, and water pressure can build up enough to blow a standpipe out of a floor drain. Backups can also be deep enough to overflow the standpipe.

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Common Household Disasters © 2005 by Paul Hayman and Sonia Weiss. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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