Basement flooding is a headache for homeowners. If water finds its way into your basement, it can cause significant damage that’s expensive and time consuming to repair.
While basement flooding can happen at any time and to anyone, it’s most often caused by heavy rains, hurricanes, and rapidly melting snow, and some homeowners are at a higher risk than others. In this blog post, we explain how you can assess your basement’s risk of flooding and how to easily futureproof your home from substantial water damage.
Why Do Basements Flood?
Basements are prone to flooding because they’re typically built partly or entirely below ground level and are often located below the groundwater and sewer levels. Thanks to gravity, water from surface water sources (like heavy rain) or from storm sewer backups always flows downward and can seep through the foundation and walls of your basement. With enough water, your basement will flood.
6 Signs Your Basement Is at Risk of Flooding
Not all basements are created equal, and some are more at-risk of flooding than others. If your home has any of these characteristics or you have any of these habits, you have a higher-than-normal risk of basement flooding:
1. Your basement has flooded before.
If your basement has flooded in the past and you haven't been able to find or address where the water got in, you're likely to experience a flood again.
2. Your home’s foundation has cracks.
Over time as your home settles into the ground, cracks can develop in your home’s foundation and in your basement floor, leaving small openings for water to easily enter your home.
3. You frequently pour cooking oils, fats, and grease down the drain.
Pouring cooking oils, grease, and food waste like bacon fat or coffee grinds down the drain frequently can cause clogs and sewer backups, which will end up in your basement.
4. You haven't cleaned your gutters or downspouts this year.
Your gutters and downspouts are designed to protect your roof, walls, and foundation from potential water damage by directing rainwater away from your home. If your gutters are clogged with debris like leaves and sticks, water can collect and will eventually find its way into your home.
5. Your downspouts aren’t directing water far enough away from your home.
As part of your home’s gutter system, downspouts play a critical role in directing excess rainwater away from your home. Your downspouts should direct water a minimum of 6 feet away from your home to protect your basement from flooding.
6. Your home’s sewer grates are blocked.
The storm sewer grate in front of your home can become easily blocked by debris like yard waste, leaves, garbage, and snow. If it’s blocked before a heavy rainstorm or as snow starts to melt, excess water will flow back towards your home.
How to Prevent Your Basement from Flooding
While there’s no foolproof way to completely prevent basement flooding, there are some steps you can take to decrease the odds and minimize potential damage if it happens:
Install a sump pump.
A sump pump is a device designed to move water from inside your basement to the outside of your home. A sump pump sits in a hole or pit — known as a “sump” — just below the surface of your basement floor. The sump pump has valves that can sense water levels and water pressure. When the water level gets too high, the pump automatically starts pumping excess water out of the basement and into a pre-determined drainage area. A sump pump unit averages between $200 and $600 and installing the whole system costs between $1,000 and $3,000.
Install a backwater valve.
Heavy rainfall can overwhelm sewer lines, causing water and sewage to flow backwards. A backwater valve — also known as a backflow valve or sewer backup valve — is a valve installed on your sewer line to prevent sewage from flowing backwards into your home. Backwater valves can be installed during new construction or retrofitted for existing homes. In a new build, installing a backwater valve costs around $500. To retrofit a backwater valve, the cost ranges from $2,000 to $5,000.
Seal any cracks in your foundation and around windows or doors.
Once a year, you should inspect your basement windows or doors for openings and your foundation for cracks — these are commonly overlooked spots where water can enter your home. You can use caulking to address cracks around windows and weather stripping around doors. You can also repair smaller surface cracks in your foundation by yourself using epoxy or polyurethane sealants. If the cracks in your foundation are larger than ¼” wide, we highly recommend having them looked at by a professional foundation repair company.
Clean your gutters.
During spring and fall, the trees around your home will change, allowing leaves and other debris to collect in your gutter system. To prevent flood-causing clogs, we recommend cleaning out your gutters at least twice a year.
Install downspout extenders.
If your downspouts aren’t directing water a minimum of 6 feet away from the base of your home, we recommend buying and installing downspout extenders. Downspout extenders are available at any local hardware store and through online retailers, and you can expect to pay around $10 to $20 dollars per extender.
What to Do if Your Basement Floods
Despite your best efforts to prevent a flood, water can still find its way into your home. When your basement floods, take these steps to minimize damage to your home:
Shut off your electricity.
If water touches electrical appliances, devices, and outlets in your basement, there’s a risk of electrical shock or electrocution. Before entering your basement to assess the damage, shut off the electricity to your home. If you can’t access your electrical panel, call a licensed electrician. Once the basement is free from live electricity, you can safely enter the basement to begin documenting the damage and cleaning.
Call your insurance company as soon as possible and report property damage.
To make the claim process easier, make sure to take photos of any damage caused by flooding and keep all receipts from any clean-up work and repairs.
Determine the cause of the flood.
If you suspect the flood could be from a sewer backup, don't use any toilets or sinks in your home until the issue has been resolved. Any water sent down the drain can end up in your basement and make matters worse. Sewage water also requires additional health and safety measures because the water can be contaminated with waterborne diseases and chemical cleaning agents. We recommend hiring a professional cleaning company familiar with cleaning sewage contaminated basements in this case rather than tackling cleanup yourself.
Remove the water.
Using buckets, mops, towels, pumps, and more, it’s time to remove the water from your basement so you can fully assess how much damage has been done. It’s important to start removing the water as soon as possible before mold starts to grow. If you have sump pump, this is a good time to check that it’s working. If it is, it can help drain the excess water from your basement and if it isn’t, it could be the cause of the flood.
Remove any wet items.
Move wet furniture, carpets, and mattresses to a cool, dry place to dry. Using clean water and soap, wash and rinse dirt and debris from everything that's been contaminated. To protect your health and wellbeing, throw out anything that can’t be cleaned or completely dried within 24 hours. As you remove items, take note of any items that have been damaged. When you file an insurance claim, you may be compensated for them.
Wash and dry your basement.
Wiping down your walls and flooring with soap and even more water may seem counterintuitive, but it’s an important step in flood recovery. Once complete, you can start drying your basement using dehumidifiers and large fans. It's critical to try and dry your basement out within 48 hours before mold and mildew start to form.
The Best Building Materials to Minimize Damage from Basement Flooding
Futureproofing your basement to minimize potential flood damage to your home starts with choosing the right building materials. If you live in a flood-prone area, outfitting your basement in traditional materials like drywall, carpet, or hardwood flooring that are absorbent and are prone to mold and mildew after water exposure is a bad investment.
For your basement’s walls and ceilings, consider using Trusscore Wall&CeilingBoard instead of drywall. While drywall is made from gypsum and paper — both highly absorbent materials that are easily damaged by water — Trusscore Wall&CeilingBoard is made from PVC and is 100% waterproof. The non-porous panels are designed to shed water and will never grow mold or mildew. If your basement floods, the panels can be easily cleaned and disinfected with soap and water and dried with a cloth or towel. No replacement or patching is necessary.
On the floor, ceramic tile, porcelain tile, vinyl planks, and concrete are all ideal options over carpet and hardwood floors. Each of these options is completely waterproof. Unlike carpet, they’ll be easy to dry, and unlike hardwood, they’re made from inorganic materials that won’t grow mold or hold onto bacteria.
With these materials installed, a future flood becomes a mild inconvenience instead of a complete headache and hassle.