If a sewer backup occurs, it is a long, tedious and expensive process to clean up. If you find a sewer backup in your home, call the city’s waste management or public works office to help determine the cause of the back up. Maintenance crew should be sent to your home right away.
If the cause of the backup is the main sewer line of the city, you won’t be responsible for the clean up. However, if it is deemed to be isolated in your home only or in cases of flooding, then you have to foot the bill and take care of the problem right away.
- Contain the situation immediately. Plug all sinks and drains and shut off fixtures and appliances that use water such as faucets, showers, dishwasher and washing machine.
- Turn off the circuit breaker in the area that was flooded with the sewer backup (usually the basement). You need to minimize the risk of electrocution.
- Clear the area of things that are still salvageable or undamaged. However, in most cases of flooding, especially a sewer backup, it is better to just dispose of everything and take the loss. Even if you clean your furniture, the risk to your health is high due to mold exposure.
- For insurance purposes, take a picture of the extent of damage. Your insurance company will make their own assessment but it’s good to have your own pictures for your records.
- Drain the water in the affected area. Use a submersible pump and place it in the lowest part of the flooded area. It will take a while before all the water is drained out. Don’t rush the process to ensure the integrity of your house’s foundation. Check the voltage requirement of your pump before using.
- Use a wet vac to vacuum the remaining water in the area. Plug your wet vac only in a ground fault equipped outlet for your safety.
- Remove the carpet from the flooded area. Do not bother to try to restore it. Your carpet will never look or smell the same way again. Plus the risk of mold and mildew exposure will be lessened if you just throw all the damaged rugs, curtains, carpets and all other fabric out.
- Sanitize the entire area with a solution of one tablespoon bleach for every liter of water. You may choose t increase the concentration of the bleach up to equal parts bleach and water. Mop the entire area. Wipe the walls and all surfaces damaged by the flood or backup. You may need to repeat this process several times over a week before the smell goes away. Also, keep in mind, using a bleach solution may discolor your surfaces.
- Repaint the walls and start remodeling.
- For damaged electrical work, have a professional licensed electrician do your rewiring for you.
Keep all family members and pets away from the problem area until it has been drained and properly cleaned and sanitized. Call your insurance company immediately and check the extent of your liability.
If after cleaning the area yourself, there is still a lingering smell or stagnant water, you may decide to call in the professionals.