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Pipeline Problems – Common causes of Water Damage – Part 1

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Problems in the pipelines usually result from one of the following: Sewer Back-ups, Burst Pipes, Ice Damming & Home Appliances/Human error. Your property insurance policy may respond to losses in some situations; other situations are maintenance related and not an insurance matter. In this article, we will address those problems caused by Sewer- back-up and ice-Damming.

Sewer backups – Pipes and Sewer Blockage:

There are four main causes for pipe and sewer blockages and while some are simple to detect and easy to prevent, some are hidden and can hardly ever be detected before the damage occurs.

1. Solid Flushes

the most common cause of sewage backup is a blockage of the lateral service pipe between the home and the city main. This is usually caused by solid objects accidentally flushed down a household drain,
like hair, dirt, or solid materials such as disposable diapers and other debris that are too large for wastewater pipes to handle. Grease accumulation is another cause.

This problem is usually local and when you experience it, only water from your home will be backing up. If you turn off the water, it will slowly drain, but the problem is likely to return as you turn on the water again – so call in a plumber or qualified contractor.

2. Structural Defects

Structural defects happen due to system deterioration in both pipes and manholes. These defects include problems with sewer service lines such as pipe collapses, cracks, holes, misaligned pipe, and offset joints. Often this is an issue with the local municipality and you may need to involve them for resolution.

3. Root Infiltration

Tree roots are a major cause of backups. Tree roots can enter the service pipe at joints and travel a long way, causing blockages along the way. Tree roots can also create structural defects when they crack and break pipes as they grow.

4. Flooding of Sanitary Sewers

During heavy rains the sewer lines fill up with water much faster than they drain due to insufficient system capacity. This fact may lead to a sewage backup as the water flows back through residential floor drains and causes overflows.
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Ice Damming:

Ice dams form when melting snow on a roof refreezes at the edge of a roof. Why does snow melt on your roof when it’s freezing outside? Fair question. It melts because the underside of the roof in the attic is above 32 degrees Fahrenheit which warms the outside roof surface to the point that snow melts. Ice dams start or get worse after a heavy snow because of its insulating properties. Since snow is such a good insulator, the outside roof surface is able to warm up easier from the warm attic space, thereby melting the snow faster.

When roof snow is melted by a warm attic space, the water runs between the snow and the warm roof surface. The water then freezes and turns to ice when it gets past the exterior wall and hits a cold unheated roof edge or gutter. When the water flow hits the ice it creates a larger and larger ice dam.

As property coverage can vary considerably from type of policy and one insurer to another, if you are unclear about how your own policy would apply to any of these circumstances it is always best to discuss with your broker.

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