Sewage Back-up

We recently experienced 1st hand what a blockage in the city sewer will do a house. We had a blockage occur in the city line just below our connection. It came spouting out two showers and two toilets and our corner bathtub filled up. After freely flowing for about 40 minutes (we tried bucketing to stem the rising tide...) we had between 2 and 4 inches covering 80% of the house and our storage basement and finished basement apartment got drenched from above. My questions revolve around the adjuster and cleaning company. After taking out the laminate flooring from above and the ceiling from below it was pretty evident that the subfloor soaked that crap up. Same for most of the joists (engineered i-beam type). I also have radiant floor system attached to this section of my house.
My cleaning company is saying they can clean and seal the sub-floor (3/4 inch plywood) and the joists. But, I'm concerned about the radiant floor heating system and I'd rather have them replace the sub-floor and affected joists.
Is it worth hiring an independent adjuster over this? Or am I over reacting?
Thanks,
Martin Oregon
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

If you got engineered i-beam type joists, they are most likely ruined, and/or will smell like sewerage forever. Removing them pretty much means demolishing the entire house. I hate to tell you this, but I'd say your house is totalled and needs to be torn down and rebuilt entirely. Not only that, but raw sewerage contains all kinds of bacteria and other contaminants which will likely seriously affect your health. I highly suggest getting yourself and your family out of there ASAP. You will most likely have to destroy all the furnishings too, except things that were up on tables and counters. Your insurance should pay the full value of your home, minus the land itself and any buildings not flooded, such as maybe a garage.
The reason you lose everything is because of those engineered i-beam joists. If you had standard timbers, they would not be damaged, and could be chemically cleaned. But engineered i-beams become extremely dangerous once wettened, and your floors could actually collapse. Yet another reason to stay out of there. Plus engineered i-beams absorb the sewerage.
All of these problems could have been prevented if you had spent around $100 to get a backflow preventer in your house sewer pipe.
Your situation is pretty much the same as the aftermath of Katrina. You might contact your local Red Cross and see if they will help with temporary housing, and also see if you can get anything from FEMA.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
i think if it is allowed to dry and then kilzed, it will be fine. not sure what bearing the radiant floor has on this--what kind of system is it? why would moisture affect it? yeah, sure you want everything new, but unless you are an attorney with lots of time on your hands, good luck getting the insurance company to agree to that. replacing the joists just ain't practical.
as for the i joist somehow being prone to sucking up moisture and then being prone to collapse, that is just ridiculous. anyone who says that has not been around them much. what would you do if you were building a house and it rained? they are rated to be exposed to weather during the construction process. sure, soak em in a lake for a month and they might show some damage, but don't over react. your i joists are fine. I do agree a backflow preventer is a good investment.
snipped-for-privacy@67890.com wrote:

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Thanks for the reply. My only concerns with the radiant floor system is that it is normally attached to the subfloor and the tubes routed through the joists. My unscientific mind tells me that when I turn up the heat in the winter that some odor will come through.
marson wrote:

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

It may not be practical, but it's a MUST. Besides the bacteria contamination, there will always be a risk of collapse. Maybe the structure can be saved as long as the entire interior is removed and stripped to the frame, then replace every joist one at a time. This will likely require removal of the siding as well, in order to attach the new joists.
All insulation is saturated and must be replaced, all wiring is likely corroded, and the plumbing and heating all needs to be inspected and possibly replaced, or at least de-contaminated. Gutting the house is the only way to do this.

Not rediculous at all. They are nothing but glued particles of sawdust and become very weak when saturated. Ask any fire department about the much greater risks they face when fighting fires in homes built with both engineered I beams and roof trusses. More firemen are injured in these type of homes than in the older homes. Thats a fact.

Wrong again. Yes, they can get rained on, because when they are exposed in the air they dry quickly. Bur when sandwiched between soggy flooring sealed tightly from fresh air by vinyl flooring or other flooring materials on one side, then soggy sheetrock on the other side, and filled with saturated insulation, they decay very fast. On top of that, they are contaminated with raw sewerage and nothing will remove that. Sure, Kilz will cover the odor, but the health threat will exist forever.

Soak em in a lake for ONE DAY and you will be able to break them apart with your bare hands
What you can do, is to gut the entire house entirely. Remove all wall coverings, all flooring (right to the joists), all insulation, all electrical, and possibly the plumbing and heating. Then the entire place will have to be power washed with a very strong bleach solution. By this time, there is a good chance the siding and will have to come off along with any house wrap, and plywood or foam board. After this is accomplished, all engineered joists must be replaced. Then any existing wall studs sprayed with kilz at least on the bottoms where they were exposed.
What will remain is most likely just the foundation, house frame and the roof. From there you will have to replace the entire interior finishing, all exterior siding, all insulation and electrical. Any vents or forced air pipes will be contaminated, and need to be power cleaned or replaced.
The question arises, will it cost more to go thru all the removal and rebuilding, possibly having to jack up the roof and walls to replace the joists, and all the cleaning and spraying kilz, etc. Then rebuilding the whole place, or will it cost less to completely demolish the house with a dozer and start over. I have a feeling demolishing and rebuilding will cost less.
I should note that I lived and worked in a city that had a major sewer backup on several occasions. In fact I tried to save a commercial building while it's finished basement was flooding with sewerage, using several sump pumps. I could not pump fast enough. In this case, all the flooding occurred in the basement so the rest of the building was ok. However, the finished basement had to be stripped completely to the block walls, and completely rebuilt. The inspectors did not allow anything to remain except concrete. Every piece of wood or any other materials had to be removed and disposed. Even the ceiling tiles which were not affected. Then the whole basement was decontaminated, coated with a special paint, and finally rebuilt. During the demolition, I brought home many of the studs from the basement walls, and after leaving them out in the rain for a few weeks, I soaked them with bleach, then hosed them well. I built a garden shed out of them. Legally, I was not supposed to take them, since they were considered contaminated, and even required a special company to come and haul the stuff to a toxic disposal site. But what they did not know, never hurt anyone, and since I used these boards for a non-living space, it was no big deal, once I cleaned them. Of course they were solid boards and could be cleaned, unlike particle boards.

Definately. The buildings in the city where I lived which were prone to backups were required to install them after the 3rd backup. The city paid for a portion of the cost. I always thought they should have paid for ALL of the cost since it was their sewers that were backing up.

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
During the demolition, I brought home many of the studs from the basement walls, and after leaving them out in the rain for a few weeks, I soaked them with bleach, then hosed them well. I built a garden shed out of them. Legally, I was not supposed to take them, since they were considered contaminated, and even required a special company to come and haul the stuff to a toxic disposal site. But what they did not know, never hurt anyone, and since I used these boards for a non-living space, it was no big deal, once I cleaned them. Of course they were solid boards and could be cleaned, unlike particle boards.
Sewage contaminated wood and items are not a toxic waste and do not require disposal in anything other than a regular Class I landfill.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
snipped-for-privacy@67890.com wrote:

Get money from FEMA for a sewer backup? For FEMA to get involved it has to be declared a federal disaster area. Unless you can get President Bush to do that for your house, you can forget about FEMA.
I think much of the above is an over reaction, or there would be a lot of houses demolished after a sewer backup. I'd contact the local health dept and building dept and see what their advice is in terms of what has to be done to correct this properly. I'd also get either my own adjuster and/or home inspector to give advice. And take lots of pics and videos of everything.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

No, you're not over reacting. The insurance company, and the cleaning company as their hired contractor, are looking out for dollars spent. You, on the other hand, are looking out for your long term health. Stick with your gut feelings.
There are companies that specialize in hazardous material cleanups. Any house sustaining major damage from sewerage overflow falls into that category. I would demand to see the cleanup companies credentials for handling hazmat cleanups. An "idea" about what needs to be done is not the same as an approved procedure.
Bob
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Get a Public Adjuster--It'll be worth every penny and your settlement will more than cover his fee. MLD
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
mcd wrote:

[...]
You've got the city between your butt and the sewer line.
Screw the adjustor. You should hire the meanest lawyer you can find. The type with blood shooting from his eyeballs, fire from his throat, and venom from his fangs! The kind that make grown men tremble, women faint, and cause nightmares in children.
None of this insurance adjustor, city inspector crap. We're talking sufficient money such that a piddly 10% differerence can have a big (say, $10,000) impact on the result. Further, the consequences may not be manifest for YEARS!
But here's something that even a spawn-of-Satan lawyer cannot (by law) tell you: your pain-and-suffering damages are usually twice your actual damages. It is in your interest to get all the medical tests reasonably consistent with the hazards to which you've been exposed. Not to be an alarmist or anything, but you could DIE. Painfully. Hideously. With giant, festering, odiforous, fulminating, sealed-casket-type, sores.
Again, this may not be an act of God, such as a hurricane or flood, that is routinely handled by insurance adjustors. This is possibly the result of gross negligence or incompetence, or both, on the part of public servants, entrusted with your welfare which they flagrantly ignored. You don't, and can't, know until you get expert advice.
Go for the lawyer.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Hiring an independant adjuster is always a good idea. A professional cleaning company that specializes in homes damaged from fire or flood will probably be able to give you good advice. Sewage is absolutely one of the nastiest things you can think of (totally the ick! factor) but don't let it freak you out too much. Your carpets and exposed fabric surfaces along with any exposed sheet rock (as with any flood) will have to be replaced. The rest can be cleaned, dried out, and chemically sterilized. I am not a construction expert so can make no claims to possible damage by the wastewater. I am sufficiently experienced with sewage and flooding issues. The house is not a total loss(barring structural damage), it can be fixed without long term problems being caused by the sewage. The biggest problem is not getting it cleaned and dried out in a timely manner which can exacerbate the problem and cause irreperable harm (read mold and fungus fed by a rich fertilizer). Obviously, you cannot remain in the home until it is cleaned. Do not reenter the home if you have any cuts or abrasions. Use gloves and solid shoes when entering the home. Wash hands, footwear, and non-fabric objects that have been exposed to the sewage in a bleach solution (1 part bleach, 10 parts water) to sterilize them. All homes should be equipped with a backflow preventer, failing that, if this should threaten to occur again...go outside and pull off your clean out plugs and let the sewage flow to the ground outside where you can treat it with HTH, then let it dry and rake up any remaining waste.

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Thanks for all the responses. We are thankful that our insurance agent some time ago insisted on this rider for our insurance. Thus far the insurance has taken pretty good care of us from temp housing to immediate clothing replacements and food. We seem to be well covered for structural repair and personal belonging loss. They have said that they won't cover time I was out from work or for my preliminary medical assessment and supplements presribed to boost immune system efficiency. I guess that is something I can ask a lawyer to go after the City on. Again, I appreciate all the advice, we will be pursuing at the very least an indepedent adjuster and possibly a lawyer.
Oh, and we will be putting in a backflow device!
mcd wrote:

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Related Threads

HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.