How to Avoid Basement Flooding: Causes and Tips for Homeowners

Tom Hartelby Tom Hartel
Plumber repairing burst water pipe after basement flooding

If your finished basement is your hub for entertainment, being used as an office or for an extra bedroom, the last thing you want to deal with is several inches of water flooding your beloved space. There are many reasons your lower area of your home can become a pond, and there are many ways to keep that from happening.

The root causes of basement flooding

Anyone with a basement can fall victim to flooding. However, if you’re in a region where a sudden rainstorm can drop several inches of water in a short span of time, you likely know someone who has experienced a flooded basement if you haven’t had it happen yourself.

If you get deep snow in the winter and then a sudden warm day where the snow melts off, you’ve likely worried about water getting into your basement. These are probably the two most common causes for flooding.

However, it’s not always a sudden unexpected rain or snowmelt that can create a creek in your basement. You can have a malfunctioning appliance (hot water heater, washer, etc.), a backed up sewer line or a malfunctioning sump or ejector pump that can also be the culprits.

Foundation drainage failure is something that can happen over time. Poorly managed downspouts, cracks in the foundation and improper grading around the house can be the source of flooding. Finally, a water supply line break can catch you unaware and quickly lead to an emergency situation in your basement.

The skinny on sump pumps

Basement flooding can be a huge issue in regions where summer and spring rains overwhelm drainage capabilities. This is why a sump pump is installed in many homes. Its job is to move water away from your house and keep your basement dry.

These pumps are installed in the lowest part of the basement. They are often placed in specially constructed sump pits. Water will flow into the pit via drains or through water migration, and once it reaches a specific height, the sump pump’s motor is triggered to begin pumping the water away from the home.

Sump pumps come in two styles – pedestal and submersible. A pedestal model has a motor mounted above the sump, which makes it more visible than a submersible, but it’s also easier to get to when it needs to be serviced. While a pedestal is often more cost friendly, it’s got a shorter lifespan than a submersible pump.

A submersible pump has a motor on the inside the sump, where it is sealed. When children are present in the home, this style is the preferred model as it’s safer than the pedestal because it’s out of reach.

Sump or ejector pump?

An ejector pump looks quite similar to a sump pump and is also installed in the lowest portion of a basement or crawlspace. The biggest difference is that instead of collecting groundwater, the ejector pump’s basin will fill with grey water, which is often from the basement utility sink, washer or from a below-grade bathroom.

When an ejector pump fails, it’s usually not quite as dramatic as a sump pump failure because you simply turn off the washer, don’t use the sink or bathroom, and the flooding ceases.

The source of the failure is often located in the motor or electricity to the pump has been interrupted, either by power to the home being cut off, or through a bad switch on the unit.

Your plumber will determine the right type and size of pump that will keep your basement dry. They will also install an alternative power source so the pump will work when the main power supply is shut off (which is common during thunderstorms when fallen trees take down power lines and interrupt service).

What to do when the basement floods

While you might be highly concerned out about the possibility of losing possessions at the first sight of a basement flooding, try to remember this: safety first.

The first thing you need to do is shut off power around the area so that you reduce your risk of electrocution. In fact, it’s recommended to never enter a flooded area when the power is on. Even when the power is shut off, be sure to wear boots and gloves for protection as you turn off water supply to the home.

Next, call your trusted plumber and let them know you’ve got an emergency on your hands. After that call, try to determine the source of the flooding (assuming it’s not a rainstorm). You can try to remove the water with a sump pump, a pool pump, a wet/dry vacuum, mops – anything you can use to remove the water.

You’ll want to remove all items from the basement that have gotten wet and move them to a dry and ventilated area so mold can’t take hold.

How to prevent flooding

Water takes the path of least resistance. If you’ve got cracks in the walls, floors, foundation or windows, water will find its way through them and into your basement. Seal every crack you can find.

Downspouts need to be clear of debris so rainwater from your gutters can run away from your home. This is another common reason water gets into basements – poor eavestrough and downspout maintenance.

Many homeowners will increase green space around the perimeter of their home with native plants and shrubs to help manage water. If you have catch basins near your home, make sure they’re clear of debris, because during a big downpour, those can quickly become the source of pooling water that can affect your home.

Always know where your plumbing service connects to your home. Know where the main drain is, as well as the water supply. Understand how your sump pump works and make sure you have it on a regular maintenance schedule so there are no surprises when you need it to be fully functional.

Be sure not to flush the wrong items down your toilets, because this will lead to a sewer drain clog that can eventually lead to basement flooding. For example, never flush sanitary napkins, dental floss or Q-tips down your toilet.

The kitchen sink can be the source of blockages, too, especially when you’re pouring fats, greases, oils or large debris into your sink drain.

Partnering with the right plumbing contractor

At Old World Plumbing, we have service vans ready to assist you when you have a basement flooding emergency. However, we’re also available to help you prevent basement flooding from happening in the first place.

We have the experience and skill necessary to assist you in finding the right size sump pump or ejector pump for your property. Contact us today and let’s schedule an inspection of your plumbing system to identify potential pain points. We’ll make the proper repairs or replacements that you can count on for a dry basement.

Tom Hartel
President/Author
Tom Hartel

I acquired my expertise by directing day-to-day operations of the business for over 20 years. Continuous hard work helped me become a nationally recognized speaker and expert on plumbing and fire protection systems. In this blog, I share my knowledge that will hopefully help you make better decisions for your homes.

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