Reduce the risk of flooding in your finished basement

Posted by Matt Buchanan

50 years ago basements weren’t really considered living space. As such, they were mostly unfinished areas with cinderblock walls and concrete floors used primarily to store items and house mechanical systems. But these days, more and more homeowners want to utilize their basements as livable areas. That means spending a lot of money to finish them out. Adding insulation, drywall, carpeting or tile, electrical outlets and wet bars, and of course all of the fun stuff you put into the basement to enjoy the area.  Add it all up, and you could easily spend over $20,000 turning your musty old basement into a great area your entire family can enjoy. But given the costs, doesn’t it make sense to spend a little more to make sure you don’t end up with a flooded basement that ruins your new space?


Investments you should make to prevent a flooded basement



flooded-finished-basementNormally when we discuss measures you can take to reduce the risk of basement flooding, we ask readers to weigh the costs of extraction and drying out a flooded basement (including any restoration services that may be required) with the actual costs of installing the systems that can help prevent the loss from occurring. For some with unfinished basements, the rewards don’t outweigh the risks. But since you have a finished basement, it’s our opinion these 2 systems are an absolute no brainer.


Install a sump pump


sump-pump-prevents-basement-floodsIf you’re reading and saying ‘well duh!’ you’d be surprised how many people ignore this step of installing a sump pump. If you’re in the planning phases of a basement remodel, please go ahead and factor in the roughly $1000 you’ll need to spend in order to have this system professionally installed. If you’re not familiar with how these systems work or what function they perform, here is a good summary. Basically, it’s a pump that is installed in a catch basin in the lowest part of your basement. In times of heavy rain, and even when there is no rain at all, the ground outside of your basement absorbs ground water. Sump pumps work by collecting that ground water and then pumping it away from your home towards the street where it can safely enter a storm drain and make its way to a sanitary water source.

One thing that we must point out about sump pumps is that they can fail when you need them the most. So when trying to make sure this shiny new system you installed actually works and prevents a basement flood, you’ll need to consider what risk your home is of suffering a water loss. For most people with proper drainage away from their house, their sump pump won’t need to run often (and maybe never). For others, groundwater is a constant battle and they’ll be relying on their sump pump quite often. If you find yourself in the latter group, spare no expense when it comes to making sure your sump pump actually works. You should consider:

() installing a top of the line system

() installing a backup power generator that will power your sump pump should your home lose electricity

() having the system checked/maintained annually by a licensed plumber

() routinely testing the system


Install a back-flow valve


backflow-valve-prevents-flooded-basementNow that we’ve addressed the issue of groundwater pooling outside your basement’s walls, we must next address the other leading cause of basement flooding: water entering your basement through your main sewer line. This can happen for any number of reasons, but in all cases the pipe that typically sends water out of your home ends up being the conduit that allows water to come back into it. This type of water damage is especially prevalent in municipalities that are still operating on what is called a combined sewage system. In modern sewer systems, there are separate pipes to carry raw sewage waste and rain water. In these older systems, the same pipe is responsible for carrying both. For most of the time it can work, but when there is a big rain storm, it can easily malfunction because it can’t handle the excess water flowing through the pipe.  In order to prevent this from happening to you, you’ll need to have a backflow valve installed in your home.

Just as the name would suggest, a backflow valve prevents water from flowing back up your main pipe and into your home. This video has a good illustration of how the system works. If you’re going through the process of converting your unfinished basement to a finished basement, now would be the time to have this system installed. That’s especially true if you do some homework and discover your city or town is still tied into a combined sewer system. We believe if that is the case, you should absolutely spend the money to install one of these systems professionally!


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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