5 steps you can take to prevent basement flooding
Anyone living in an area that has high ground water and or near waterways knows how costly and devastating it is to have your basement flood. There are many causes for basement floods and in many cases regardless of the cause the steps you can take to help prevent and mitigate the damage are the same. I have spent the majority of my life living in the northeast and I have yet to live in a home that didn’t have a sump pump in place either as a precaution or as an active countermeasure to a steady stream of ground water that attacked the foundation during the spring and fall. Most of us don’t actually buy flood insurance either from the federal government or private insurance companies, so we have to bear the expensive clean up cost personally. FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) actually has some great info on their site related to this topic and it will help you decide if it is right for you as well as the approximate cost.
The result of a flooded basement can be in the tens of $1000's. Damaged HVAC equipment, appliances, sheet rock, carpet and personal belongings can be destroyed in a matter of hours.
The key to preventing this type of disaster is good preparation and a bit of investment. Spend as little as a few $100’s or up to $10,000 and everywhere in between. These 5 Steps will help you prepare and determine which level of investment is right for you.
1. Generator or back up battery – There are a few ways to go here but you definitely want back up power for your sump! It is critical to have a power supply that will kick on automatically should you lose power when you aren’t home. There are many choices for generators that range from a few $100 to $10,000 for systems that can power your whole home. You can also buy a very simple Batter back up which holds a 12v charge and can last a few hours depending on how active your pump is during the outage. Here is a link to an excellent article on choosing the right solution
2. Funnel water away from the house – Depending on the cause of your basement being flooded you may be able to “permanently” solve the issue by excavating the soil in strategic locations and adding drainage piping and French drains. This is clearly an expensive proposition and one that may only work for a limited number of years due to settling and sediment eventually causing the drains to clog over time.
Another solution that involves removing the soil from around the basement is to waterproof the foundation itself to make it water repellent. We’d recommend visiting a well known national contractor for this type of advice due to the complexity of the Project.
If your source of basement flood is surface water that attacks the foundation you can often stop the problem with Landscape. Planting bushes, shrubs and mounding soil to the correct contour can redirect the surface area away from the foundation and window casings. Another temporary solution would be to use inexpensive Reusable Flood Barriers to divert water away from the house.
3. Buy a water alarm! This is perhaps the cheapest and easiest investment to make. A well place water alarm can buy you enough time to react to incoming water and failed sump pumps. The quicker you respond the better the chance you can avert a disaster and days of clean up! There are many good models available and plenty of reviews to help you find exactly the right one.
4. Sump pump and Back up pump – It is a great idea to service your sump pump regularly. This includes making sure that the float switch is operational especially after several months of dry weather where the pump may have been idle. It is also a good idea to have a back up pump available with your system set up with quick change and release connections for the sump. This will allow you to change the pump in minutes with the need for tools. Having an addition pump on hand can literally keep water from ever getting out of the well.
5. Have the proper equipment- once water gets into your basement you will need the proper equipment to begin containing it and picking it up or absorbing it. The list below is inexpensive but can save a tremendous amount of time and effort after any flooding begins
- Shop vac- Relatively cheap ($99 for a 12 gallon unit) probably a good idea to have a size large enough to handle a good amount of water but you will also need to consider that a full 12 gallon unit will weigh 100lbs. You may have to carry this upstairs to empty
- Squeegee- Great for pushing water back into a sump once the pump is repaired of replaced.
- Flood barriers - Excellent for diverting water away from the house but also great for absorbing water and containing rising waters in the basement. They can be used to ring the sump well and buy extra time to ix the pump or replace power supplies.
- Dehumidifier - This will be critical after the flood to help completely dry building materials such as sheet rock and framing. You will definitely want to do this to prevent hazardous black mold from forming.
Lets Face it! Basements flood.
If you have a sump pump or an older home, basement leaks and floods are going to happen. The key is to be prepared to act quickly! Back up power, back up pumps, water alarms to alert you to a flood (even when not home) and protective barriers to keep water contained can all buy you enough time to limit or eliminate the damage that follows a basement flood.