How to Prevent a Wet or Flooded Basement This Spring

You spend thousands of dollars refinishing your basement from a concrete dungeon into a relaxing and multi-dimensional living quarters.

You add a new recreation room – your very own man cave, a new home office, a new bedroom, a new bathroom and new laundry room, plus tens of thousands of dollars to the value of your house.

Then out of nowhere one especially rainy spring day, ground water and sewage invades your basement, soaks your carpet, baseboards and walls, ruins your tile and turns your prized investment into a massive, moldy, smelly creek.

April showers can bring major flooding headaches. Restoration of a flooded basement can be a costly situation, especially if your home insurance policy doesn’t cover flood damage.

According to, floods are the No. 1 natural disaster in the U.S. From 2008 to 2012, the average flood claim amounted to nearly $42,000. From 2003 to 2012, total flood insurance claims in the U.S. averaged nearly $4 billion per year.

A refinished basement isn’t finished unless it has strong flood prevention measures built in.

Every finished basement needs an emergency plan to protect your home and family when flooding occurs. For homes standing in low lying areas like along the Mississippi River, a basement flooding plan is essential to financial survival.

The No. 1 way to avoid a flooding disaster in your basement is to think proactively before heavy rains strike and install layers of flood protection.

Step 1: Redirect Rainwater

Most basements flood because of leaks in a home’s basement walls, poor lot drainage, failure of foundation drains, overflowing gutters, and most commonly, from an over-saturation of the soil, which causes rising ground water. When rain falls, you want it falling and running away from your home.

Contractors recommend inspecting and investigating your property for ways to divert rainwater away from your home. A great way to determine how rainwater currently behaves in your property’s landscape is to walk around outside in your yard during a heavy rain storm. Look to see if water is ponding next to the house and if surface water is being directed toward your home.

If this is the case, contact a landscaper or excavation contractor for advice on ways to regrade your yard and redirect surface water away from your home.

Water pours off gutters and into downspouts. Extend rain gutter down spouts at least six feet away from your basement’s walls away from your home and ensure the grade of your yard surfaces slope away from your home. These measures will help prevent water from pooling up near your home’s exterior and running toward your home’s foundation.

Step 2: Inspect, Clean and Renovate Rain Gutters and Water Pipes in the Spring

Winter is a bear on your home’s existing flood prevention measures. Leaves clog up gutters and amass on the edge of your roof. Blocked gutters will cause all roof water to dump directly against your foundation, greatly increasing the chances of basement flooding.

Early each spring, clean your rain gutters and remove all trapped and clumped leaves from your roof.

Also, extend rain gutter downspouts far away from your home. Don’t connect downspouts to your foundation footer drain tiles or to underground dry wells. This will cause roof water to further saturate the ground.

Repair any malfunctioning gutters to ensure that water is draining away from your home’s foundation.

Also, thoroughly inspect your home’s water pipes for leaks or fractures at the start of every spring to ensure you’re not facing a flooding threat from within your home.

Step 3: Install a Primary and Backup Sump Pump

As staff writer Joe Provey notes, “If you’ve ever wondered, ‘What is a sump pump?’ Then you’re lucky, because you probably don’t need one.” But for homes with a prior flooding history or facing a perennial flooding threat, sump pumps are a must. They are the first line of defense against basement flooding. Automatic sump pump act like a huge floor drain and keep water leakage and normal amounts of rain fall from building up in the basement.

But oftentimes, having a sump pump alone isn’t a full flood-proof plan. Even the world’s most reliable sump pumps can fail. A backup battery-operated sump pump system configured with a switch device to begin working if the main sump pump goes out, greatly reduces the chances of flooding.

Step 4: Have An Emergency Power Source

When a heavy storm takes out your home’s electricity for an extended period of time, the odds of your home flooding multiply by a factor of ten. What happens if your home’s sump pump goes dark when you need it most?

Install an automatic emergency generator to provide electric service for essential circuit like your furnace, refrigerator, septic tank pump, and most importantly, sump pump. Propane or natural gas generators are strong emergency backup power providers. Avoid gasoline-powered generators that require manual starts to operate. They won’t work if you’re not home to turn them on.

Step 5: Have Flood Insurance

For a home owner, there is no worse feeling than calling your insurance agent after disaster strikes and discovering your policy doesn’t cover your loss. Most standard homeowners’ polices do not include flood insurance.

We can’t overstate this: Every home facing a flood threat should have flood insurance. The government provides inexpensive flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides a list of local home insurance agents that provide flood insurance.

When it comes to your home’s basement, don’t be caught without a life raft in the event of heavy spring rains. For a smart spring basement flooding prevention plan is the best flood insurance.

While prevention is key, there is no fool proof plan.  Should your basement take on water, contact your local water damage clean up and restoration experts.

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