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Preventing Basement Flooding: Landscape Considerations

Thursday, March 25th, 2021
Preventing basement

Water damage that occurs in the basement may have its beginnings in the landscape surrounding the house. While basement flooding may occur from indoor sources like a broken plumbing pipe, or from naturally high underground water beneath the house, excess water saturating the soil immediately around the perimeter of the home can also slowly leak into the basement through structural cracks and other openings. Avoiding over-saturation of the soil as well as diverting accumulating water away from the house are landscape considerations that can help reduce outdoor causes of indoor water damage down in the basement. 

  • Grade the ground. Landscape sloping toward the house—a condition known as “negative drainage”—causes rainwater and water from sprinklers or other sources to accumulate near the house and saturate deeply into the soil, potentially causing water damage by infiltrating basement walls. Soil adjacent to the foundation should be sloped downward away from the house at least four inches over the first six feet of horizontal distance.  
  • Keep big vegetation away. Large shrubs and/or trees attract and retain considerable water in the surrounding soil. To prevent this water from entering a nearby basement or foundation, these large plants should not be planted closer than three feet from the wall of the house.  
  • Detour the water. Certain areas of the lawn near the house may tend to retain excess water after rain due to the type of clay present in the soil. To prevent potential water damage to the basement, create a one-foot deep trench with gently sloping sides to collect and reroute the water to another part of the lawn further away from the house. Once replanted with grass, this shallow depression will not be visually conspicuous nor interfere with mowing.  
  • Grass is good. The specific root structure of grass very efficiently absorbs water from the soil and contains it. Planting grass close to the house is therefore an ally to prevent basement water damage. Once the grass matures, avoid cutting it too short, which weakens roots and diminishes water absorption.

Six First Steps After a Basement Flood

Tuesday, October 15th, 2019
Basement Flood

Many types of water inundation inside a house will end up in the basement if the volume of water is significant. A flooded basement will not drain or dry out on its own. It rapidly becomes a stagnant source of structural damage and mold contamination, as well as a danger zone for hazards like electrocution. Several important steps must be taken as soon as basement flooding is discovered. 

First, what not to do: Don’t assume the basement is safe. All basements contain electrical wiring and often outlets and appliances. Electrocution is a real hazard in a flooded or wet basement. Never contact or wade into standing water in a basement until an electrician has cut off electrical power to any circuits that are affected by water.

Once electricity is off and it’s safe to do so, here are some suggested steps to take:

  • Determine where the water’s coming from. Is outdoor flooding due to heavy rain entering the basement? Or, is it clean water emanating from a ruptured supply pipe?
  • If the water originates from a ruptured household supply line, turn off water to the house at the main shutoff valve if the valve can be safely accessed. Call a plumber for emergency service if necessary.
  • Sewage backups frequently enter the basement first because it’s the lowest point in the house. Raw sewage poses a toxic hazard and must be handled by experienced water damage professionals equipped for the job. Avoid entering the basement and keep children and pets out, as well. If you must enter, it’s advisable to wear gloves, eye protection and a breathing mask.  
  • Seek professional advice about removing water more than a foot deep. Deeper basement water should be removed in stages. Pressure from saturated soil surrounding basement walls may cause the walls to collapse if all water is pumped out at once.
  • Mold growth is triggered in 24 to 48 hours after basement flooding occurs. After water is removed, qualified mold remediation services are required to prevent contamination.
  • To prevent recurrence of basement flooding, consider installing a sump pump in the basement floor

Prevent Water Damage Wtih These Basic Boiler Maintenance Tips

Wednesday, January 10th, 2018

boiler maintenanceA leaky boiler is a common cause of basement water problems that lead to mold and rot. By staying on top of maintenance you can prevent leaks and protect your basement from damage.

Monitor the Temperature and Pressure

Excess temperature and pressure can both cause leaks. Look in the owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommended temperature and pressure levels, then check your boiler’s pressure and temperature gauge. If the readings are consistently too high, you might need to have a technician repressurize your system. Look for leaks around the base of the pressure release valve, which could mean your boiler has been overfilled or the valve is faulty. A small leak can cause corrosion that leads to a bigger leak. Check for dripping from the overflow pipe, which usually protrudes from the outside of the house. Water coming from this pipe suggests excess pressure in the system.

Inspect for Corrosion

Corrosion in the pipes or tank is one of the most common causes of boiler leaks that result in basement water problems. At least twice a year, closely inspect your boiler for signs of rust and deterioration. If you spot a rusty component that you can replace, such as a valve, replace it. Stay alert for signs of sludge buildup, which will eventually corrode your boiler system. If you need to bleed your radiators frequently or the water from bleeding is dark, it’s likely you have a buildup of sludge. A technician can flush your system to remove the sludge.

When your boiler isn’t working as it should, pay attention to any error codes on the digital display so you can give these to your service technician.

An annual maintenance inspection is also essential for preventing boiler leaks. In just one year of normal use, a boiler can develop problems such as hidden rust damage, worn valves, and even cracks. During an inspection, your technician can find and correct these issues before they cause leaks.

 

Using A Sump Pump To Prevent Basement Water Damage

Thursday, December 28th, 2017

sump pumpion, forcing water upward into the basement. A common source of episodic basement flooding is water intrusion through basement walls during heavy rains. Pooling ground water saturates the soil surrounding the foundation, exerting hydrostatic pressure on basement walls and triggering leaks through cracks and gaps.

A sump pump installed in the basement floor is a must to prevent water damage, as well as secondary consequences like toxic mold growth. As water seeping from beneath the foundation or leaking through walls collects inside the basin, the unit automatically actuates and pumps it outside to a discharge point, usually behind the house.

Here are three suggestions to ensure your sump pump safeguards against basement water damage

  • Don’t rely on AC power alone. Severe weather that causes basement flooding often triggers utility power outages, too. Install a sump pump that incorporates a DC battery backup feature to ensure the unit actuates when it’s needed most, even if the grid goes down.
  • Test the system twice a year. In some locales, the pump may not actuate for months at a time. If a malfunction develops while it’s idle, you may be unaware that the system no longer functions properly—until it’s too late. Make sure the basin is free of foreign objects that could clog the pump. Then pour five gallons of water into the basin and observe to verify that the pump automatically turns on, fully empties the basin, then turns off.
  • Check the discharge pipe. Verify that the outdoor span of pipe slants slightly downward and discharges far from the house to prevent water from re-entering the basement. If the discharge pipe doesn’t fully drain, water inside will freeze in cold weather and the pump will not be able to empty the basin.

 

What NOT To Do When You Have A Flooded Basement

Tuesday, October 17th, 2017

flooded basementA typical 900-square foot flooded basement with water one foot deep contains about 6,500 gallons. While professional water damage recovery services arrive with equipment specifically designed for this job—as well as the expertise to do it right—some homeowners still elect to tackle it themselves. The “Do’s” for safely removing such a large volume of water are many, but let’s start with some important “Don’ts.” Here’s what NOT to do when you have a flooded basement.

Don’t wade into the basement until household electricity has been shut off. The risk of electrocution is great and deaths occur every year from this cause. Because the main power panel is often in the basement, you’ll need a professional electrician to disconnect power at the meter, then verify that the basement is safe to enter.

Don’t contact water in basement flooding. A flooded basement may contain toxic raw sewage or other toxins from outdoor flooding. Health threats can come from direct contact with contaminated water or from breathing fumes that have accumulated in the enclosed environment. Wear adequate protection.

Don’t pump out deep basement flooding all at once. Outdoor flood water saturates ground surrounding the basement, greatly increasing external pressure against basement walls. If all water is removed rapidly, the weight of saturated earth may cause severe structural damage or complete collapse of basement walls. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends this sequence:

  1. Wait until outside flood water has receded before pumping out the basement.
  2. Pump out one foot of water depth to start. Mark the water level and wait until the next day.
  3. Check the water level mark. If the level rose overnight, wait another 24 hours before pumping again.
  4. Repeat the above sequence, pumping out only one foot per day, marking the level and then checking it after 24 hours.
  5. Once the water level stops rising, pump out water at a rate not exceeding three feet per every 24 hours until all water is removed from the basement.

For more about what to do and not to do about about a flooded basement, ask the water damage professionals at Rytech, Inc.

 

5 Tips to Prevent Basement Water Problems

Thursday, February 9th, 2017

basement leaksPreventing basement floods ought to be a concern for everyone with a basement. Some sort of water intrusion, minor or major, affects 98% of basements during the life of the home. Besides ruining possessions stored there, electrical panels, HVAC equipment and other vital systems—as well as posing the potential for long-term contamination by toxic mold—basement floods can also be damaging to the foundation and structure of the house.

Since the flood that never happens is the easiest kind to deal with, here are five tips for preventing basement floods:

  1. Maintain gutters. A roof sheds hundreds of gallons of water per hour during a heavy rainstorm, more than enough to cause flooding if it makes its way down into your basement. Water cascading from clogged, overflowing gutters inundates the ground below and may penetrate the basement wall. Also, make sure gutter downspouts discharge water at least three to five feet from the house
  2. Grade away from the house. Prevent pooling of water around the foundation perimeter. Landscape next to the house should be graded so water flows away and doesn’t soak into the ground immediately next to basement walls.
  3. Install a sump pump. A high groundwater level may cause basement flooding, especially during extended rainy periods. Installed in a sump basin excavated in the basement floor, a sump pump activates automatically to remove groundwater rising up beneath the house. After water is pumped out of the basement and discharged outside, the pump turns off automatically.
  4. Consider a backflow valve. Raw sewage flowing backwards through the sewer line from various causes enters the house at the lowest point—usually basement drains or fixtures. A backflow valve installed in your sewer line diverts sewage reflux up through an outdoor clean-out port before it floods the basement.
  5. Don’t ignore plumbing leaks. Pinhole leaks or seeping joints in water supply lines routed through the basement aren’t “normal” and shouldn’t be ignored. They may be a warning sign of an imminent pipe rupture that can flood the basement with thousands of gallons of water.

Ask the experts at Rytech, Inc. for more information about preventing basement floods.

Landscaping Problems that Lead to Basement and Crawl Space Water Damage

Tuesday, December 8th, 2015

Basement and crawl space water damage can originate from both indoor and outdoor sources. Because they’re the lowest point in the house, basements and crawl spaces are often the final destination of water that leaks anywhere else inside the home. Rising groundwater from the soil beneath the house provides another source of basement and crawl space water damage. One of the major outdoor factors that promotes water intrusion at these lowest levels, however, is the landscaping surrounding the home. Water runs downhill and always follows the path of least resistance. These two facts dictate that the landscaping around your house either helps keep your basement and crawl space dry—or greatly contributes to water damage in those areas. Here are some things to do to make sure your landscaping isn’t working against you:

  • The grade of the landscape surrounding your home should be sloped away from the house so that water flows away from the foundation or crawl space. For the first four feet, the soil should slope downward about six inches to form a mini-berm that diverts water away and prevents pooling near the foundation or basement walls. Extending out into the yard, the slope can be more gentle, but there should be no areas of ground that slope toward the house.
  • If you are altering the landscape, always use clean, dense fill dirt for the area adjacent to the house—not topsoil. Porous topsoil provides little resistance to water soaking into the ground around the foundation, which then infiltrates through cracks in basement walls.
  • Flower beds next to the house may also promote basement and crawl space water damage. Beds generally comprise a large surface area of exposed, porous soil, readily absorbing water that then flows downward along the basement wall. Edgings around flower beds also cause water to pool, increasing ground absorption and infiltration into the house. Instead of flower beds immediately beside the house, landscaping with grass or other dense ground cover is recommended.

For more advice about preventing basement and crawl space water damage—or professional damage recovery services if it’s already a problem—contact Rytech, Inc.