Common Reasons Why Basements Flood & How To Prevent It

A flooded basement is not something that you want to wake up to or find after coming home from a family vacation. Aside from the obvious problem that a flooded basement would destroy many of your items, it is also a health and safety concern.

house floodedBecause basements are generally built underground, they are more exemptible to flooding, typically from a large rainstorm, or rapidly melting snow in the spring. But there are many other ways for your basement to flood and the good news is that many of these can be avoided.

Let’s take a look below at some of the most common ways that could flood your basement.

Window Well

Problem: Homes that have a below-grade window in the basement have a window well. These are great for allowing for a bigger window to be installed to let some extra light shine in. The problem with these wells is that they could fill up with leaves and sometimes garbage, and then during a heavy rainstorm the water pools inside with nowhere to drain out.

Prevention: By installing a window well cover it will block the rain from getting in. If you go with a clear acrylic window well cover, you can still have the sun and keep the basement bright.

Sanitary Sewage Overflow

Problem: Occasionally the sanitary sewage system that is designed to take wastewater away from your home could get clogged and backed up. When this happens, the sewage water has nowhere else to go so it will come back into the home. This is referred to as a sanitary sewage overflow (SSO). As you can imagine, it is not a pleasant problem to have.

Here are just a few reasons why a sewage overflow could happen:

  • Materials being sent to the sewers such as fats, oils, and grease could cause blockages within the system.
  • Tree roots entering the sewer lines through cracks or small openings may cause a blockage.
  • Sump pumps, downspouts, and foundation drain, incorrectly set up to dispose of the water could overload the sanitary system and create too much access water.
  • Stormwater or melting snow, entering the sewer lines through damaged or cracked pipes, causing an overflow of water to occur.

Prevention: To avoid a sanitary sewage overflow from taking place in your home you can use what is called a backflow preventer. Just like its name would suggest, a backflow preventer is a device that is installed on your homes water pipes. The sole purpose of a backflow preventer is to make sure that water flows in one direction but never in the opposite direction.

Overflowing Gutters or Downspouts

Problem: You might not realize it, but gutters and downspouts are essential tools to help keep melting snow and rain away from your foundation. A clogged gutter will overflow with water and send that water straight down to the foundation surrounding your home.

The same goes for a downspout. A downspout that is not properly draining waterway from your home could be adding to a serious problem for you. The sole purpose of a downspout is to send the water away from the house.

Prevention: The best way to make sure that your gutters are not clogged is to get up with a ladder and clean them out. You can also buy some gutter guards that will block leaves and other types of debris from getting in. There are many different styles, which range in price; Amazon has a large selection to choose from. Click here to check.

As for the downspout, you should make sure that it’s draining water away from your home, and that it’s emptying at least 6 feet away from your home.

The downspout can also get clogged with leaves and debris; Take your garden hose and make sure the water is flowing out strong. If it’s not, take a long stick or shove the garden hose down while the water is on a high. You may have to take the downspout apart to clean it out if it’s clogged badly.

Faulty Water Heater Tank, Pipes, Hoses, and Sump Pump

Problem: In your basement, you have four potential sources that could cause a flood; they are; the hot water tank, plumbing pipes, hoses on appliances, and the sump pump.

  • Water Heat Tank – A hot water tank could sometimes leak and spill water all over the floor.
  • Plumbing Pipes – Pipes are prone to cracking and bursting if the temperature gets cold enough. Overtime pipes might leak or fail due to age as well.
  • Hoses – Hoses on a washing machine, water softener, dishwasher, etc. could burst and spew gallons of water.
  • Sump Pump – If a sump pump stops working or it gets unplugged, this could cause water to fill the pit and overflow into the basement.

Prevention: Both the water hear, and the sump pump should be inspected annually to ensure they are working properly. Plumbing pipes can also be inspected for signs of leaks. What you are looking for are visual signs of water damage or wet spots under the pipes.

You should also take a look at the joints connecting the pipes for signs of calcium build up. If you see a calcium build up of any kind, there is a good chance you have a small leak someplace. Also run your fingers around joints looking for any water, as well as any bubbles around the joints.

Check the hoses on the washing machine and anything else with a hose going into it. Again you are looking for signs of a leak, cracks or any other type of damage. If you see a bubble forming in the hose, this is a sign that it needs to be changed right away. It’s recommended that hoses are replaced every four to five years.

Concrete Walls and Floors

Problem: Water leaking through walls or up from the floor is probably one of the most common culprits when it comes to a flooded building. What happens is, water that is absorbed into the ground will find any cracks in the concrete, typically along the joint between the floor and the wall, and get into your home that way.

The same goes for the floor; water will seep up through little cracks in the concrete. If you notice that your basement leaks more during a rainstorm, this could be the cause of it.

Prevention: Regularly you should inspect the exterior and interior walls surrounding your home, for any signs of cracking or other types of damage. Also, inspect the floor for cracks and along the wall joints as well.

If you notice any cracks, you can fill them in with an epoxy solution. If the epoxy doesn’t help and you still have water leaks coming in from the walls or up from the floor, then you should look at waterproofing your basement.

What To Do If Your Basement Is Flooded

flooded housesStep 1 – Proceed With Caution

A flooded basement can be a very dangerous place to enter because of the risk of electric shock. Electrical outlets, wires, and electronics that are submerged in water will make your basement unsafe to enter. Unless you are wearing the proper protective clothing, you should have a professional do this.

Step 2 – Stop The Source of The Flood

Your next step is to find what is causing the flooding and immediately stop it. If you can not find the problem yourself, you will need to have a professional plumber or contractor take a look.

Step 3 – Salvage What You Can

Before you enter the basement and start grabbing items and hauling them up the stairs, you need to make sure that you are wearing rubber gloves and rubber boots. Unplug any electrical items that are still plugged in.

Start by grabbing the items that are most important to you, such as photo albums, keepsakes, personal documents, and family heirlooms. Basically, anything that will be hard to replace. Next start to remove any other items that you can and bring them to higher grounds.

Step 4 – Dry The Basement

This step is important because you want to begin drying the basement as quickly as you can to prevent mold. Get rid of any standing water first with a mop and buckets. You can also use a submersible pump or a wet/dry shop vac to suck up the water.

Once the water is removed, you can open up any windows in the basement and set up floor fans pointing towards those windows and up the stairs to help speed up the evaporation time. Space heaters will also help with the evaporation process.

Step 5 – Do The Cleanup

The first thing that you want to do is remove all of the wet and ruined belongings. Never try to salvage, rubs, carpets, drenched upholstered furniture, electronics that were submerged, fabrics or sheets that have been sitting for more than 48 hours.

Any drywall that was exposed to the water should also be cut out and removed. A finished floor should also be pulled up and possibly disposed of. You might need to rent a dumpster depending on how much you have to get rid of.

Step 6 – Prevention

Now that you’ve done the cleanup, you should contact your insurance company to see if you are covered for the damages. At this time you should also look at contacting a professional plumber or contractor who can help prevent future flooding from occurring.

Does Homeowners Insurance cover a Basement Flood?

Homeowners insurance does cover the costs of a flooded basement under certain circumstances, but not everything is covered. Let’s first discuss what is covered.

When homeowners insurance should cover a flooded basement:

Burst Pipe – If your pipes burst during a cold spell, you are covered if you can prove that you were living in the home during the time and that you had the heat going in the house.

Broken Appliance – If you have an appliance such as a dishwasher or washing machine malfunction or leak, this would be covered by the insurance, but only if you can prove that the appliance has been maintained and taken care of properly.

Leaking Water Heater – Just like the broken appliance clause, a leaking water heater is covered by the insurance as long as the water heater is well taken care of and maintained properly. If the insurer can prove that your leak was caused because of your lack of upkeep, the claim will be denied.

Overflowing Tub, Toilet or Sink – It might come to a surprise to you but a bathtub, sink or even a toilet that overflows could be covered by your homeowners’ insurance. This would be considered “sudden and accidental” and often this is covered.

When homeowners insurance does not cover a flooded basement:

Sewage Overflow – This is a little tricky. Some insurance companies will cover a small amount towards the damage, but normally that’s hard is enough to cover even half of the damage. Other companies won’t cover anything towards a sewage backup. It’s best to speak to your insurance company to find out what they would cover here.

Water From Storms or Heavy Rain – Flooding caused by nature is not covered under your homeowners’ insurance. For this type of insurance, you will need to have flood insurance, but even flood insurance will only cover certain items such as personal items, electronics, and appliances. Very rarely does the flood insurance cover structural damage such as drywall, finished floors, and carpet.

Water Seeping Through Walls or Floor – This is another tricky one, because your homeowners’ insurance will not cover damage from water seeping up through the floor or walls, and if you have flood insurance they will also not cover this damage unless there was a flood in the area that caused the problem in your basement.  Your best defense is to make sure that your foundation is solid, and perhaps treated with a waterproofing system.


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