Spring showers may bring May flowers, but they can also bring big headaches for homeowners. That’s because the rainy season can cause unwanted water to enter your home, creating the perfect storm for structural damage, mold and mildew infestations, and potentially, toxic contamination.
Read on to learn what to do when your basement floods, and steps you can take to prevent flooding. Remember, a flooded basement is not inevitable during storms—with the proper steps and care, you can keep your basement clean and dry no matter what the weather brings.
What to Do When Your Basement Floods
Basement flooded? Here’s what to do (and what not to do):
- If the floodwater is completely covering your basement floor, then do not enter your basement—even if the water level is low. The floodwater will need to be pumped out. You don’t want to risk getting shocked (or electrocuted!) if water has flowed through your home’s electrical units. In the case of severe flooding, your electricity system and many of your appliances could be damaged.
- If you can do so safely, determine what caused the flooding. This information will be necessary for plumbing professionals who will pump out the water and take care of any repairs. Don’t attempt to pump water out of your basement on your own. The key is to avoid exposing yourself to contaminants and potential toxins.
- In the case of a flooded basement, do not use heat to dry out your basement— this can be a fire hazard.
- The professional you hire can check your electricity, outlets, and appliances. You should also have your HVAC systems (venting, heating, and air conditioning systems) professionally checked and cleaned after a flood to eliminate the possibility of mold or mildew spreading through your house.
What Causes a Flooded Basement?
Are you at home right now asking yourself: how is it possible that my basement flooded? Unfortunately, the answer is, there are many reasons why you have a flooded basement. Let’s look at some of the main causes:
Plumbing leaks can occur as when performing basic pipe maintenance, or because of issues with sewage mains. If you experience flooding in the absence of rain or recent plumbing work, contact your municipal sewage authority to see if there are any problems with your street’s sewage main.
When pipes become clogged with paper towels, disposable diapers, wipes, and sanitary products, for example, it can contribute to flooding by restricting water flow.
Basement Window Leaks
Basement window wells can overflow during storms. This usually happens when your yard is flooded or when your gutters overflow because they are obstructed by leaves and debris. When this occurs, water can flow through basement windows and cause flooding.
Weak Basement Foundation
Sewer backups, excessive rain, and poor yard drainage can weaken your home’s structural foundation. If you have experienced flooding in the past, a professional contractor specializing in structural foundations can provide corrective guidance.
Faulty Gutters and Downspouts
Dirty, blocked gutters inhibit proper water flow, instead of causing water to spill over and collect close to your home’s perimeter, where it can find its way into your basement via weak points in your foundation or cracks in mortar joints. This can lead to structural damage, plumbing issues, and even a flooded basement. Even if your gutters are clean, rainwater can still enter your basement if your downspouts are not correctly diverting it away from your foundation.
How Do I Prevent Basement Flooding?
Fortunately, there are several things you can do to keep your basement dry:
Keep Your Pipes Clear
Tackle plumbing clogs or slow drains before they become big problems. If a plunger doesn’t do the trick, snaking your piping may be necessary. This essentially means inserting a drain or toilet snake down into your drains (or toilet) and breaking up the hair and other debris that can clog your pipes. You can do it yourself or hire a plumber to do it for you. It’s messy work, but helpful for keeping your pipes clear and maintaining good water flow.
Inspect Your Gutters and Downspouts
Clean your gutters regularly and properly route the water away from your home’s perimeter. Better yet, install gutter guards or mesh protectors over your gutters to help prevent clogged debris and leaves. You’ll also want to check that your downspouts point away from your house to redirect water away from your foundation. This an important step in protecting your home’s foundation and keeping water out of your basement. You can buy inexpensive downspout extensions that attach easily to your existing downspouts and divert water away from your house.
Check Basement Walls for Cracks and Weak Spots
If you discover cracks and weak areas in your basement walls and foundation, consult with a water damage specialist and make repairs. Once any cracks and problem areas have been corrected, consider waterproofing options. One method is applying a coat or two of basement sealer to your walls to add an extra layer of protection against moisture. Adding insulation to your basement is another wise move. Besides keeping you warmer and reducing your heating costs, insulation inhibits moisture intrusion through the walls. Insulation also helps prevent water pipes from freezing in severe weather.
Grade Your Landscape Away from Your Home
Does your yard slope so that water flows towards or pools around your home’s foundation? If so you should regrade the ground so that it slopes away from your home.
Inspect Your Sewer Lines for Blockages or Roots
Roots from trees can invade sewer lines over time. If you suspect that roots are causing a blockage, a simple sewer camera inspection by a qualified plumber can confirm. Here, a special video camera connected to a flexible cable is inserted into your sewer lines to examine pipes and check for obstructions and other problems, with footage viewable in real-time via a monitor. This is a great way to help you pinpoint potential issues and make changes and repairs proactively.
Knowing how to fix basement flooding means taking quick action and, in most cases, consulting a professional. But it’s just as important to take a good look at your home and make necessary improvements to prevent the possibility of a flooded basement in the first place. Investing in an automatic sump pump is an important fail-safe measure as well to prevent basement floods during storms. After all, money and effort spent in preventative maintenance will help you save in the long term, and preserve your home’s value.
The contents of this article are provided for general guidance only. First American Home Warranty does not assume any responsibility for losses or damages as a result of using this information.