Primary causes of basement flooding

Posted by Matt Buchanan

When a basement floods, almost every victim of the event is completely caught off guard. ‘How could this happen to me?’ they ask. The reality is that there are a few primary reasons for flooded basements, and you’d be wise to understand what they are and what actions can be taken to protect yourself from these failures in the future.


Why do basements flood?


flooded-basement-damageBefore we address the actual causes of basement water damage, let’s make clear why they are prone to flooding. It’s simply due to their location. They are the low point of your home and exist either entirely or mostly underground. Water comes into your basement in two ways:

() water comes up the pipes that service your home and because the lowest exit point is your basement, it takes the path of least resistance and ends up in your basement.

() groundwater sits next to your home and finds its way in through a multitude of entry points (window wells, foundation cracks, etc.).

(Image above is courtesy of Philadelphia Water Department)


So what are the primary causes of (and solutions for) flooded basements?


Given the two main entry points of water into your basement, the primary causes shouldn’t come as a surprise:

1) an issue with your main sewer line that allows water to flow back up it and exit into your home. This is commonly referred to as a sewage overflow.

2) ground water remaining in close proximity to your basement. Even if you have basement walls that are in great condition, they’re made of concrete which is porous. That means that if you allow the water to sit there long enough it’s going to end up in your home without some divine luck.


Do these things and you can prevent most basement flooding!


1. Reduce the amount of groundwater around your home during rains. This should be a multi-pronged approach, including:

bad-drainage-floods-basements() clearing your gutters and downspouts of debris so they can work effectively and move water away from your home.

() sloping your lawn’s grade away from the house, such that when the gutters deposit water it doesn’t end up trickling back towards your foundation.

() if necessary, install french drains to take any remaining groundwater away from your house and into the street where it can find its way into a storm drain.


2. Install a device known as a backflow preventer valve to keep water from coming up your sewage pipes and into your basement. Here is an excellent demonstration showing how these types of systems work, but as the name would imply, they prevent water from flowing back up your pipes!

If your basement is prone to flooding during heavy rains and the water makes its way into your home through drains, your municipality is probably using an antiquated system called a combined sewer system. As the name would suggest, it combines storm water runoff and sewage into one system, with the former ending up in streams, rivers and other bodies of water while the latter ends up in sewage treatment facilities. At least that is how it’s designed to work. Unfortunately, it only does so during ideal conditions. But with too much rain, it can’t properly dispense of the water running through it and so the water looks for other ways to travel. Unfortunately, the easiest place to go is up the pipe that services your home and ties into the sewer system.


Do you have basement flooding damage? If so, please call us!


If it’s too late this time around, don’t get too upset. The good news is we can help you quickly recover from basement water damage. Our teams are well-versed in dealing with all types of basement flooding and we have the tools and systems necessary to quickly deal with the issue before any black mold growth begins. But we can also help you identify the weaknesses in your basement and provide suggestions on ways to prevent another devastating loss from happening!

About Matt Buchanan

I grew up in Irving, TX and left for Nashville, TN for college. After college I lived in Washington, DC and then in Cairo, Egypt. After coming back to the states, I spent a couple of years back in Dallas before moving with my wife to Denver!
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