How To Prevent Basement Flooding and What To Do if It Happens
Basement floods can happen anytime, but spring weather tends to provide the conditions to make them more likely. Melting snow, partially thawed ground, and spring rain all contribute to the likelihood of water entering your basement and causing problems.
Not only does a flooded basement cause damage to your home and property, it can also compromise your family’s safety and health. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent basement floods and things you can do to minimize the damage if they happen anyway. Here’s how to stop basement flooding, along with tips to make cleaning up safer and easier if water does get into your basement.
Basic Flood Prevention Tactics
The best way to keep your basement dry year-round is to remove or repair the most common causes of floods. Some basic landscaping and home maintenance tips can help reduce the likelihood that your cellar or basement will flood.
Use Landscaping To Direct Water Away From Your Foundation
Water flows downhill. If your house is at the bottom of a sloping yard, all the melting snow and rain is going to end up pooling around your foundation. Even on a fairly level lot, these landscaping best practices can help protect your foundation — and your basement:
- Level a yard that slopes toward your house. If it’s impractical to level the entire yard, use landscaping to add natural features, like swales and drainage ditches, to redirect, slow, or absorb excess water before it reaches your house.
- Plant a rain garden. A well-designed and properly located flower bed can both beautify your yard and protect your home’s foundation from excess rainwater. It should be located at least 10 feet away from your foundation, in an area that can collect water from downspouts and gutters.
- Use native plants wisely. Plants that are indigenous to your area can help reduce soil erosion — an often overlooked cause of flooding and water runoff — and improve drainage on your site.
- Add mulch around plantings. A few inches of mulch in your flower beds and around shrubs can help hold soil in place and absorb rainwater. Keep mulch at least 6 inches away from siding, though, to avoid wicking moisture that can rot your home’s exterior.
Inspect, Clean, and Repair Gutters
Gutters are your home’s first line of defense against rainwater. Make sure that they’re properly cleaned and maintained so that they can do their job properly. Remove any leaves or debris that can soak up or block water, and make sure your downspouts are located in an area that drains away from your foundation. If water pools around your foundation, add an inexpensive diverter or extender to drain the water further away.
Find and Repair Foundation Cracks
Cracks in the foundation are a common cause of water entering your basement. Inspect your home’s foundation and basement walls to locate any cracks — a natural consequence of winter weather and house settling. You can often seal small cracks yourself. But hire a professional to deal with larger cracks.
Install Window Well Covers
If you have basement windows, consider adding window well covers. No matter how well the windows are installed and sealed, there’s always the risk of water seeping in around the frames. Transparent window well covers can help divert water away from the walls of your house while still allowing natural light to come through.
Have Your Sewer or Septic System Inspected and Cleaned
Early spring is a good time to have your septic system inspected and cleaned. Sewer and septic system overflows are particularly nasty flood hazards.
Install a Sump Pump
A sump pump — permanently installed or portable — is a good precaution if you live in a home that’s prone to flooding. You should consider a sump pump if:
- Your basement has flooded before
- You live in an area that frequently has heavy rainfall
- Your house is built on a downslope, or you live on a level lot that drains poorly
- You have a finished basement that you want to protect
- You have an older sump pump
In addition to a sump pump, consider installing a generator to operate the pump in case of a power outage.
Check Your Basement Appliances and Heating System Regularly
Weather isn’t the only cause of basement flooding. A burst pipe, leaking water line, or loose connection on your washing machine can also cause serious damage if you don’t catch it in time. A water leak detector can alert you to small leaks before they become big problems. You can place a water leak detector in any area that might flood. These are some common spots where a leak detector can be helpful:
- By the water heater
- Under the washing machine
- Under the refrigerator or freezer
- By the heating, ventilating, and air conditioning drainage pan
- Under sinks or near toilets
Don’t forget that most basement flooding doesn’t originate in the basement. Early warning from water leak detectors under the kitchen and bathroom sink, in the garage utility room, and other leak-prone areas in your home can prevent a basement flood from happening.
The AcuRite Water Leak Detector with Water Alarm will alert you the moment water is detected, so that you can quickly take action, such as turning off the water supply, to avoid costly damage to your home. Consider adding a wireless pager to alert you even when you’re in other parts of your home. Upgrade to this internet-connected water detector as a great addition to your home monitoring. It's compatible with AcuRite Access®;simply connect to My AcuRite® and place it in any troublesome locations in and around your home to get notified whether you are home or away! Alerts are sent via email, text, or your My AcuRite app, all from the convenience of your smartphone.
What To Do If Your Basement Floods
Whether it’s just a puddle in the corner or several inches of water, it can be tempting to wade right in and fix the problem. Depending on the circumstances, that can be a dangerous course of action. If water ends up in your basement despite your best efforts, follow these safety tips from experts.
Cut Power to the Area
If you can do it safely, turn off the electricity to the area. Even a little bit of standing water can result in a nasty shock if there’s a short in the wiring. If you’re not sure how to cut the power to the area where the water is, or if you can’t reach it without walking through water, call an electrician or plumber. If you have gas-powered appliances, contact your local gas company and follow their instructions.
Turn Off the Water
If the flooding is due to a pipe or an appliance leak, turn off the water that supplies it to stop the flow of water into your basement.
Remove the Water
Check any floor drains and clear away anything that’s blocking them from doing their jobs. Use a sump pump to remove larger amounts of water. Use a mop and towels to sop up as much water as possible. Immediately wash or dispose of the towels you used to prevent mold growth. If you own – or can borrow – a Shop-Vac vacuum, it can help suck up any water the towels can’t absorb. If there’s more water than you can handle, contact a professional restoration service to do the job for you.
Contact Your Insurance Company
Check with your home insurer to see what they cover in case of flooding. Your agent may even be able to recommend a qualified professional in your area to deal with the aftermath of a bad flood.
Wear Protective Equipment
Regardless of the source, water in your basement can be full of bacteria, mold, and other contaminants. If you’re doing any cleanup or salvage work, wear gloves, boots, and protective goggles or a face mask to avoid infection.
Dry Out Your Belongings and Your Basement
Once it’s safe to enter and work in the basement, remove any wet items or furnishings to a place where they can dry out. Depending on the severity of the flooding, it can take several days for your basement to dry out completely. Industrial fans, blowers, and dehumidifiers can help speed the process if necessary and a temperature and humidity sensor can help you gauge your progress.
Watch for Mold Growth
Mold can develop in as little as 24 hours after a flood, and the damage it causes can affect both your home and your family’s health. Keep an eye out for any signs of mold growth, and contact a professional abatement service if necessary.
Fix Underlying Problems
Finally, determine any underlying contributing factors, such as foundation cracks or poor drainage, and fix them to prevent a recurrence.
Basement Flooding Preparation
Dealing with a flooded basement is never fun. But by taking preventive measures and carefully monitoring your home conditions, you can reduce the likelihood of your basement flooding, as well as minimize the impact of water damage if it does.