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A flooded basement can be an unpleasant, destructive, and expensive surprise for any homeowner. You can easily prevent basement flooding, however, and protect your home and belongings from unexpected water damage.
Causes of Basement Flooding
There are many ways excessive water might get into your basement. Old or frozen pipes can leak or burst, or the water tank, hot water heater, or other basement water fixtures could fail. Clogged gutters or misaligned downspouts could bring excess rain into the basement, or misplaced irrigation could direct water into your home instead of onto your landscaping. Seepage from rain or fast snow melt can invade a basement, or a sewer or septic system could back up and bring its water with it. Poor landscaping grade can even direct water runoff into the basement instead of away from your home as intended. Regardless of the reason, the result is the same – a flooded basement. Fortunately, you can easily take steps to prevent flooding.
Preventing a Basement Flood
If your basement already shows signs of water intrusion, it is important to determine the cause of the flooding and take immediate steps to correct the problem. Even if you haven’t seen moisture, however, any basement is at risk of flooding and you can take action to prevent future floods with a variety of easy and effective steps.
- Grade Your Lawn
Your lawn should always slope gently away from your home’s foundation. This will direct water runoff away from the basement and prevent water from pooling next to the structure, where it will eventually seep into your home.
- Extend Downspouts
All downspouts from your home’s gutters should extend at least 3-5 feet away from the foundation, directing the rain from your roof out into the yard. Be sure the downspouts are directed onto a properly sloped portion of your yard so the water does not flow back toward the structure.
- Plant a Rain Garden
Adding thirsty plants that can uptake water quickly near your home’s foundation is a great way to minimize the risk of basement flooding and improve your landscaping at the same time. Hosta, switchgrass, bee balm, day lily, and cardinal flower are just a few plants that are ideal for protective rain gardens.
- Clean and Inspect Gutters Regularly
Gutters should be cleaned at least every spring and fall, and more frequently if they clog easily. When cleaning the gutters, check that they are properly secured to the roof and that there are no puddles or improper sloping along the gutters’ length that could lead to overflow. Consider installing leaf covers to keep gutters clear and flowing freely.
- Inspect and Repair Foundation Cracks
Check your home’s foundation for any cracks, chips, spalling, or other damage, and make repairs as necessary. Water can seep into even the smallest crevices, and as it does, it will widen the hole and make room for even more flooding.
- Install Window Well Covers
If you have basement windows set into below ground level wells, install covers over the wells to keep rain from puddling next to the foundation and windows. Clear covers will still permit light through the window but will minimize water intrusion.
- Seal Around Basement Windows and Doors
Install good seals and caulking around basement windows, vents, doors, and other possible water entry points. Check these seals at least every spring and fall to be sure they are still secure.
- Install Drains in Basement Entries
If you have an entrance directly into your basement, be sure the entry area has a proper drain in case of excess rain or snow melt, especially in stairways or low areas that might be prone to flooding. If possible, that drain should direct excess water further away from the foundation.
- Keep Your Septic Healthy
If your home uses a septic system, take good care of it by not disposing of anything other than body waste, water, and degradable toilet tissue down the sinks, toilets, or other drains. Have the septic pumped and inspected every few years to keep it functioning well, and avoid heavy landscaping in the drain field, which could lead to clogs and backups.
- Cap Unused Sewer Connections
Unused shower, toilet, or sink connections can be routes for a basement flood if the sewer or septic gets overwhelmed. All unused connections should be firmly capped with screw caps to keep unwanted moisture out.
- Inspect All Water Appliances Regularly
Check the hoses, connections, and tanks of any water appliances regularly, including toilets, dishwashers, water softeners, hot water heaters, bathtubs, showers, sinks, and laundry washers. Repair any leaks or drips immediately.
- Protect All Pipes from Freezing
Take steps to keep all pipes from freezing during the winter. Even if a pipe doesn’t burst, the stress of repeated freezing can cause cracks and leaks that will eventually contribute to basement flooding.
- Inspect and Repair Sprinklers Regularly
If you have an irrigation system in your yard, check its orientation regularly to be sure sprinklers are not directing water directly at your home. Similarly, be sure any drip system is functioning properly and is not positioned directly against your home’s foundation.
- Adjust Your Irrigation Schedule
Be aware of the natural rainfall cycle in your area, and adjust your supplemental irrigation to avoid overwatering. If the ground near your home is too saturated with excess water, seepage and basement flooding is more likely.
- Clean and Maintain Your Sump Pump
If you have a sump pump to keep your basement dry, check the pump regularly for proper operation and be sure all filters are clean so it can work most efficiently. If your basement is prone to flooding, consider installing a backup pump as well.
- Keep Curb Gutters Clear
If you have curb gutters in front of your home, keep any drainage grates free of litter and debris that can cause backups and flooding. This will help keep water flowing properly and avoid saturating your yard with blocked water, which could lead to a flooded basement.
Ideally, you should take as many steps as possible to lower the risk of basement flooding. By working proactively to manage water around your home and protect your basement from excess moisture, you can prevent basement flooding and protect the integrity of your home and everything inside it.