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Flooded Basement 101

Lucky Noah. When the floods came, he was cozily floating on his ark, a specially constructed, water tight home. The rest of us aren’t necessarily as lucky. When torrential rains arrive or when snow from a brutal winter melts, our homes are at risk of flooding. Hurricane Sandy demonstrated that a few years ago to residents in the northeastern United States, and Winnipeggers hold their breaths as they watch the Red River rise each spring.

Flooded Basement Cleanup

It doesn’t take a major natural disaster, alas, to lead to a flooded basement. A day of heavy rain can leave an unwelcome souvenir, as can a sewer back-up. The aftermath of a flooded basement – clean-up and repairs – can, unfortunately, last much longer. Therefore, it’s worth surveying your property, both indoors and out, to see if you are properly protected in case the weather tries to do its worst.

How to Prevent Basement Flooding

Consider these preventive outdoor measures for keeping your basement high and dry:

  • Outlaw crack(s). Check your property for cracks in the foundation, walls, windows and window wells. Seal them tightly. A tar sealant on the inside and outside walls will seal the foundation properly.
  • Look on high. Angels may not be guarding you from flooding, but clean eavestroughs and downspouts can make the difference. Be sure they aren’t clogged so water can drain properly.
  • Sever connections. If possible, disconnect your downspouts from the sewer system. However, if they’re affecting a neighbour’s property or causing pools on the sidewalk, think again.
  • Keep your distance. Ensure that disconnected downspouts are draining far enough from your home – ideally, about two metres.
  • Make the grade. Landscape your property so that the land slopes away from your home in order to keep water away from your foundation and drain properly. (Take care not to affect your neighbours’ properties.) Walk around the property and see if water is pooling anywhere, a sure indication that there is a problem.
  • Go green. Plant more shrubs and plants around your home to absorb water. Use porous pavement that absorbs both rain and snow melt.
  • Treat tile with care. Be sure to replace or repair damaged weeping tile around your home. Weeping tile pulls water away from your foundation to the local sewer system.
  • Stay clear. Keep the drainage ditches between properties well maintained and clear of obstructions.

There are also measures you can take indoors to prevent your basement from flooding:

  • Check and double check. Be sure that your plumbing system is in working order. Be careful when flushing; remember that your toilet is not a trash receptacle. Don’t flush razor blades, dental floss or personal care items such as tampons, even if the package calls them “flushable.” Why risk a back-up? Also, drains aren’t the right place to dump fats, oils, and grease. You can pour cooking fat, for example, into an empty can or jar and freeze it solid before taking it out with the trash.
  • Know your “enemy.” Understand how your home’s drainage system is constructed and what kind of maintenance it requires. Building codes change over time, so systems vary:

    – Determine the location of the sewer pipe (lateral) that connects your home to the larger sewer system; ensure it is in good condition.
    – Discern whether your system is connected to the storm sewer by a lateral and ensure that it, too, is in good shape.
    – Check to see if you do have weeping tile, which is actually a perforated pipe that follows the perimeter of your property and gives groundwater an outlet. Be sure that it, too, is well maintained.

  • Be an inspector. Check your toilet, washing machine, dishwasher, and refrigerator hoses and air-conditioning lines and ensure that they are in good shape. Hoses should be replaced every three to five years.
  • Invest a “sump” of money. You may want to consider installing a sump pump, a device that pumps water collected by weeping tile to the outside of your home. A pump with a backup battery is a wise choice, since storms that cause flooding may also cause a power outage. It must drain at least two meters away from the foundation walls.
  • Live in a backwater. Consult a plumber about installing a backwater valve, a valve designed to close the sewer line and prevent sewage from entering your home. If the valve is engaged, don’t use plumbing fixtures, including toilets and washing machines, or water will back up into the house.

What To Do When Your Basement Floods


So, you’ve taken all these precautions, but, lo and behold, your basement has flooded anyway. What now? Here’s what the City of Toronto recommends:

  • Assess. Inspect the damage and record it on film or video so that you can provide visual evidence.
  • Report. Alert the municipality so they can assess the source of the flooding. Notify your insurance company immediately and let them know what has been damaged.
  • Collect. Keep receipts for any work you have done.
  • Understand. Generally, you are responsible for damage caused by a blocked drain pipe, leaking foundation walls or poor lot drainage on your property. Prevention is vital!

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Protect your family

Even when you take precautions, accidents can happen. Home insurance is one way to protect your family against financial losses from accidents. And, home insurance can start from as little as $12/month.

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