What are backups and backflows, and what damage can they cause?
A backup occurs when waste or debris has obstructed a home's plumbing system or lateral, resulting in clogged or slow-moving drains or toilets. A backup occurs on the homeowner's property and the expense and responsibility for cleanup and repair lies with the homeowner.
Most backups can be cleared with drain cleaners or a plunger. If these methods fail, call a plumber. If the plumber finds out that the problem is not in your sewer line, call your local sewer or sanitation district, located in the phone book under "Government" listings for wastewater utility services.
A backup usually will not cause damage if you stop using the backed-up sink, tub or toilet until the system is cleared. Just turn off the water. While a backup can cause inconvenience, it is unlikely to cost a homeowner more than a plumber's call.
A backflow is much less common than a backup. It happens when water or waste materials come up through a sink or bathtub drain or toilet when the home's plumbing system is not being used. This may mean that the city main is blocked and wastewater is backing up into your lateral line and home. If you experience a backflow, call your local sewer or sanitation district immediately. Even if the cause of the backflow damage lies with the city or sanitation district, the homeowner must act quickly to manage the cleanup.
Unlike a backup, a backflow can inflict serious damage, including flooding a room or an entire home. Sometimes, homeowners must move off the property during restoration. The cost of restoration after flooding and the hassle of dealing with insurance can be a major headache for homeowners.
Video: See how backflows occur, and how a backflow prevention device (BPD) can prevent backflows.