WHAT TO DO, HOW TO FIX, CAUSES & PREVENTION
According to the American insurance industry, every day 14,000 people in the United States experience damage related to water at their home or office. Because of the nature of home design, most of these water emergencies involve the basement. If your basement is flooded, it can be the beginning of a laborious and expensive process. The more information you have about basement flooding, the better prepared you will be to both prevent an emergency and to respond if one does happen.
WHAT CAUSES WATER IN THE BASEMENT?
There is a worryingly large list of potential causes of water in the basement. Any tiny crack in the basement foundation, improper sealing of the windows and doors, or leak from within your home can lead to water entering the basement. However, some of the most common causes are listed below.
The big difference when it comes to diagnostics is how much water is in your basement. The likely cause differs depending on whether you have a small amount of water – a few small puddles or less – versus a full covering of water that spans the entire floor.
WHAT CAUSES SMALL AMOUNTS
OF WATER IN THE BASEMENT?
If you notice small amounts of water in your basement, such as a trickle down the wall, or small puddles forming on the floor, the cause is likely one of the following:
WHAT CAUSES LARGE AMOUNTS
OF WATER IN THE BASEMENT?
No amount of water in the basement is a good thing, but finding a trickle down the wall is much less shocking than finding a foot of water across the entire basement floor. If you do find that your basement is totally flooded, it can not only be damaging, but actively dangerous.
For information on what to do if you find your basement flooded, see our guide Water in Basement – Who Should You Call. For a full-on flood of the basement, the cause is usually one of the following:
WATER IN YOUR BASEMENT?
Because the causes of water in the basement are so many, there is no single action you can take that will absolutely prevent water from getting in. The best approach is a multifaceted one – not only does this give you the best chance of preventing water from entering, but it also avoids the problem of you stopping a leak in one place, only to cause the water to pool somewhere else.
The following are the best options for dealing with the majority of causes:
IMPROVE THE DRAINAGE OUTSIDE YOUR HOME
As mentioned above, hydrostatic pressure is a big problem when it comes to keeping your basement waterproof. Over time, even a small amount of hydrostatic pressure will lead to a basement foundation cracking. For that reason, you need to ensure water does not pool in the area around your home.
To do so, ensure gutters are clean, downspouts extend 10 feet from your house, and slope your landscaping away from your home. This will help in the case of extreme rain as well as diminishing hydrostatic pressure.
INSTALL OR UPGRADE YOUR SUMP PUMP
A powerful sump pump is not a glamorous way to spend money, but it can be the difference between a major flood and a minor one. A sump pump with battery back-up is crucial in protecting your home if you lose power during a storm.
For a look at top sump pumps available today, go to our best sump pump guide.
ADD AN INTERIOR DRAINAGE SYSTEM
Much like an exterior French drain system, an interior system will help keep water from the basement floor (and anything else it may come into contact with).
This doesn’t solve the problem of water entering your home, although it ensures that danger is mitigated.
KEEP YOUR APPLIANCES UP TO DATE
A new appliance is not only less likely to leak, but also comes with guarantees that may cover the costs of damage if it does.
Once a year (at least) inspect your appliances – particularly the connection hoses – and check that they don’t show signs of cracking. During cold weather, inspect for damage from freezing.
MAINTAIN OR REPLACE BASEMENT WINDOWS AND WINDOW WELLS
Keeping your windows clear from leaves and debris will minimize damage. You should also inspect them, particularly the sealing and the corners, to ensure there has been no cracking. If they are in disrepair, then it time to consider complete replacement.
WHAT TO DO IF YOUR BASEMENT IS WET
If the worst does happen, and you do experience a leak or flood, acting quickly is often critical to minimize the cost and damage.
YOUR PRIORITIES SHOULD BE THE FOLLOWING:
This is first on the list for a reason. Most basements have appliances in them, and appliances use electricity. Electricity and water are extremely dangerous when they mix. If in doubt, evacuate the building and wait for a professional to help. If it is safe to do so, cut off the power to your home.
Find the source.
The above list will give you a good sense of potential causes of flooding. Once it’s safe to do so, try and find where the water is entering your basement.
Remove the water.
Remove damaged items.
Soft upholstery is particularly badly affected by water and very quickly can spread mold. Similarly, anything made of paper, fabric, wood, or leather is liable to attract mold. You may also need to remove drywall, as well as other parts of the walls that have become saturated with water. A remediation company can help with this if the damage is extensive.
Chances are, at some point, you will experience water damage in your basement. 98% of U.S. basements will suffer some form of water damage in their lifetime. Unless you are one of the incredibly lucky 2%, you need to prepare yourself for the eventuality.
In most cases
This involves taking steps to ensure that any water damage that does occur is as minimal as possible, knowing how to act when water damage does take place, and taking advanced steps to prevent the worst kind of flooding and to eliminate the common causes of leaks.