The very last thing you want to see when you walk down the stairs to your basement is water lapping at the walls. Basement flooding is a highly common occurrence. According to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), floods are the number 1 disaster in America, averaging over $3 billion in claims every year. Basement waterproofing is of prime importance for homes in areas with high instances of water-logging or flooding.
The foundation of your house is like a big concrete boat. When the ground is dry the foundation sits comfortable, but when saturated with water the foundation is actually being forced out of the ground. If it wasn't made of concrete and weighed tons it would pop right out. This is effectively called hydrostatic pressure, one of the primary reasons for flooded basements.
Basement flooding can happen in a flash and leave behind weeks of cleaning and a number of damaged items. It can also result in a weakened foundation that could prove to be incredibly expensive. Needless to say prevention is a far better option than repair when it comes to basement flooding.
Here are a few basic maintenance tips to avoid basement flooding:
Maintain Your Gutter and Downspouts Regularly
Keeping your gutters free of debris and ensuring the downspouts are positioned away from the foundation will help the water flow freely rather than pool up against your home. Make sure your downspouts are directing the water at least three feet away from your foundation; you can use downspout extensions or troughs to achieve this.
Landscape the Yard Correctly
As silly as it may sound, the gradient of your yard will decide where the water is going to flow. If you find water pooling up around your property know that the slope is in the wrong direction and water will eventually find a way inside your house. You may need to regrade your lawn or get a French drain installed.
Repair Foundation Cracks
Cracks in the foundation are an invitation for water to make an entry into your basement. Keep checking the foundation of your house on a regular basis. If you come across any cracks fill them with epoxy. You may need a professional if leakage still persists.
Maintain Your Sump Pumps Regularly
One of the most common causes of basement flooding is sump pump failure. A sump pump is one of the most effective ways to combat flooding. However owning one is not enough. Give your sump pump a thorough go-over when you know a storm is headed your way, over and above regular maintenance. It would be a wise idea to invest in backup batteries for your sump pumps in case of power outages. If your home floods as a result of a broken sump pump your homeowner's insurance may not cover the damage.
Inspect and Clean Your Sewers and Septic System Regularly
Skipping, or scrimping, on sewer inspections or septic tank cleanings is an invitation to problems. Lack of maintenance will result in clogs, sewer backups and overflows. If there are problems with the connection between your house and the main sewer pipe it could cause a backup resulting in flooding your basement. Hire a contractor and get it cleared as soon as possible.
Use Window Well Covers
If you have a basement window protect it with a window well cover. Fastened securely over your basement windows and latched on to the foundation of your home, they work wonders in waterproofing your basement.
Here are a few measures short-term and long-term to stop your basement from flooding.
Floor Drain Plug - (Short-Term Fix)
This is a plug that fits inside the floor opening causing seepage. It is usually made of a neoprene rubber gasket closed within two plastic or metal plates. These are connected by a threaded screw and topped off with a wing nut. When you tighten the wing nut the two plates squeeze the rubber gasket out, sealing the opening.
This is a very cheap measure but is wrought with disadvantages. In rare cases, with enough pressure a tightly lodged plug could dislodge itself violently causing injuries to people standing nearby. This plug may also build up extreme water pressure under your floor. Take the advice of a plumbing expert if you want to go with the option of a floor drain plug.
Install a Stand Pipe - (Short-Term Fix)
Once again a cheap option, it involves installing a pipe inside your floor to allow the water to go somewhere in case of a back-up. It has similar disadvantages as a floor drain plug and can often be preventive in you finding out the real issue with sewage blockage until too late.
Long-term measures are often the best way to go in case of preventing basement flooding. Here are a few solutions you can go for.
Back Water Valve - (Long-Term Fix)
These are basically heavy-duty check valves. Installed usually on the main sewer right into the foundation wall, they come in a check valve style or a manual style. A homeowner choosing a manual style back water valve will have to crank the valve shut during heavy rains and remember to open it up again when the rain abates.
The problem with manual style valve is that if someone uses the facilities when the valve is closed you will have some serious backups. With a check valve, when the water starts backing up the valve immediately shuts off. These valves work and quite well at that, but they are not cheap to purchase or install.
Disconnect Your Floor Drain from the House Sewer - (Long-Term Fix)
The idea here is simple, you disconnect the sewer from the floor drain of the house tying the house sewer back in after the floor drain. This essentially makes the sanitary system of your home a stand pipe. It can prove to be slightly costly but is highly effective.
Convert Gravity Sewer into Overhead Sewer - (Long-Term Fix)
Usually the waste from the house drains under the basement floor and out into the street. In this case you abandon the old sewer, take all the plumbing fixtures in the house and connect them overhead in the basement ceiling. You will have to excavate outside to connect it back to the city main at its original connection. The basement floor drain will be then tied to an ejector pit with a pump to take care of basement fixtures or floor drains. Here once again, the whole fixture acts as a stand pipe, but in this case you also add a clean-out on the sewer as it exits the foundation.
Owning a home is a massive responsibility, being proactive about securing your house against flood damage will help reduce huge repair bills later. So, have you flood-proofed your basement yet?