Flooded basements can be a nightmare, resulting in widespread damage to a home. Even if it’s only a small leak, if left untreated, it could cause damage to your possessions, and even worse, mold that can permeate your home. If mold is left to grow, it could cause a variety of ailments for the residents in the home.
Basements are more prone to flooding because they are the lowest point of your home. Basements are underground, for the most part. Because of these features, and that the it is the lowest exit point, water ends up in your basement.
Causes of Basement Flooding
There could be several reasons why your basement floods. Some can be caused by excessive rainfall, especially in low-lying areas. Other situations that result in flooded basements may be malfunctioning appliances or equipment within the home or issues occurring outside the home. Here are some common reasons that basements flood.
1. Clogged or Broken Gutters and Downspouts
Gutters are important in draining the water from rain, melting snow and ice off the roof and away from the home foundation. If they are clogged with leaves, branches or other debris, or if they are cracked or broken, the water will not flow as it should. This will result in the water spilling over the gutters instead of through them to the downspouts, causing standing water around the home’s foundation. The accumulated water can seep into your basement and/or lead to cracked walls and ceilings.
Be sure to clean gutters regularly (at least once or twice a year) to keep them clear of debris that blocks the water flow. Inspect the gutters and downspouts and repair or replace any that are broken or cracked.
Even if your gutters are clean, the drainage system may not be sufficient to handle heavy rainfalls. You can actually check yourself to see if your gutters and downspouts can handle excessive rain. (Of course, you’ll get wet in the process.) You’ll need to make sure the gutters are cleaned out first. About 15 minutes into a heavy rainfall, check the gutters. If there is water overflowing them, there is a problem.
You can manage this problem by either adding another downspout at the point of overflow or replacing it with a larger one. The additional downspout is probably the better option, since it can serve as a backup if the first one gets clogged or can’t handle the waterflow. If you choose the larger downspout option, make sure the hole in the gutter leading to the larger downspout is larger to accommodate it, or it won’t do you any good.
2. Sump Pump Failure
A sump pump is a great addition to your home to keep the basement from flooding during heavy rains. When they are working the way they should, they help to pump excess water above and away from the foundation, preventing it from flooding the interior of the home. The water is usually deposited onto the home’s lawn or into a storm sewer.
The sump pump can fail, however, resulting in the water backing up, creating excessive flooding. The failure could be from a power outage or the water is so excessive that the pump can’t handle the volume. In the case of a sump pump failure, the water level can overflow the pump and seep into the basement.
If you decide to have a sump pump installed to remediate your excess water, make sure it’s a quality pump and is installed properly. It should be checked and maintained regularly to mitigate the chance of failure. If you’re extra cautious, you may even want to have a backup battery-operated pump installed, in the event of a power failure.
3. Foundation Cracks
Cracks in your home’s foundation are the most common cause of basement flooding. These cracks may not even be visible, but when you experience a heavy rain, even the smallest crack can allow water to enter. If foundation cracks exist, it’s impossible to prevent your basement from flooding. These cracks can cause more damage if there are sewer lines, water pipes or storm sewer lines under the foundation.
It’s important to get any foundation cracks repaired and sealed. The smaller the crack, the less expensive it is to repair, but left unattended, it can grow into a huge problem, both in damage and cost to repair. The type of repair needed depends on the size and extent of the crack. Some can be repaired by simply using caulk. Larger ones will need more effort. Sealing and waterproofing your basement may be a wise decision.
4. Sewer Backup
Sewage backing up in your basement can be disastrous. The waste and fecal matter from the sewer can create foul odors and an unhealthy environment, to say the least! It requires a major cleanup effort and can be great cause for concern.
The causes of sewer backups could be attributed to your individual sewer lines or the municipal sewer lines. If the responsibility for cleanup lies with the homeowner, you are responsible for the cost of cleanup. You’ll need to hire a professional experienced with these situations to remedy the source of the problem and correct any issues to prevent future backups. If the problem lies with the city or municipality, contact the appropriate department to get it fixed and cleaned up.
Some situations that be could be considered your responsibility include:
Grease, excess waste, tree roots, broken pipes or heavily saturated ground clogging individual lines.
Flushing objects down the toilet that aren’t supposed to be in there can cause blockage.
A septic tank that isn’t regularly pumped can cause a problem.
Blockages between your home’s connection and the main sewer pipe can cause backups during heavy rains.
If sewers are backing up through the floor or sink drains in your basement, it’s often due to the municipal sanitary sewer system backing up. Sewer mains can be vandalized or large items could be dropped into manholes.
Whether the problem is the homeowner’s or the municipality’s responsibility, it’s important to address the problem very quickly. If not, the sewage flowing into your basement only gets worse and can even make your home uninhabitable.
5. Poor Drainage
Modern building standards state that homes should sit on a gentle mound that grades downward 6 inches within the first 10 feet moving away from the house. If you have an older home, or building standards weren’t followed, poor grading can cause basement flooding. Or your subdivision may have been constructed in lower-lying areas that are more susceptible to flooding.
The ground around your home should slope down and away from the foundation. If there are any depressions or ruts around the base of your home, fill them in. Using a soil made of clay, rather than sandy soil, is more effective shedding water.
Driveways near your foundation can also cause poor drainage. During heavy rainfall or melting snow, water can enter through small openings in the foundation, flooding the basement. Make sure your driveway slopes away from your house to avoid these problems.
As noted previously in this article, gutters and downspouts are very important in draining water away from your house. Adding splash guards at the bottom of the downspouts can also help move the water away from the foundation. You can also install French drains to help pull water away from the home and into the street where it can find its way into a storm drain.
6. Plumbing Leaks
Water leaking out of pipes can affect other areas of your home as well, but because many water pipes are located in the basement, it is more prone to flood. If the pipes break or even have a slow leak, the basement can flood.
Leaks could also come from a broken washing machine hose or a faulty water heater or tank. Once you are aware of a leak, it’s critical to get it fixed quickly to avoid bursting, which can be very devastating. Pipes should be properly sealed.
7. Leaking Windows
If there are windows in your basement that are cracked or the seals broken, water can seep in. You can easily determine if the windows are the culprit, because the water will be on or underneath the window sills.
Leaky windows are usually relatively inexpensive to fix, compared with other causes of basement flooding. You may just need to re-caulk around the windows to seal it. Even replacing the window or sill can be more reasonable than other remedies.
8. Damaged Drainage Tiles
When your home was constructed, drainage systems were built around it to move the water away from it to avoid flooding. Drainage, or weeping tiles are routinely placed around the foundation wall, inside and/or outside the house. They create a barrier that keeps water out.
If the drainage system was improperly installed, it can lead to water leaking into the foundation. Over time, the drainage tiles can deteriorate and break or crack, which makes them ineffective at draining the water. If downspouts are installed too close to the basement wall, or if they drain towards it, they can overload the weeping tiles.
If Your Basement Floods, Call the Experts!
Hopefully, your basement never floods. But if it does, it can cause lots of damage if not addressed quickly. There is a 24 to 48 hour window from the time something inside gets wet until mold can begin to grow. After that time, mold will multiply rapidly.
Call the professionals at St. Louis Cleaning and Restoration to come in and perform a thorough inspection and get your basement cleaned up. Our water damage restoration process will ensure your home and belongings are preserved and restored to the extent possible.