Water Damage to Chicago Basements: What You Should Know!

Posted by Matt Buchanan

The most common area to flood in a home is the basement. That’s certainly the case in Chicago, where we handle hundreds of basement floods every year. If we had to put a number on it, 80% of the basement water damage we see could have been prevented with some knowledge and some prevention techniques. Hopefully the information below will help ensure you can keep your basement dry!


Common causes of flooded basements & prevention techniques


Heavy rains

floodwatersThe most obvious source of water in Chicago basements is heavy downpours of rain. When this happens, a home that isn’t properly protected against rainfall can quickly get under water. Luckily, preventing your basement from flooding from rain is possible if you take the following steps:

– make sure your gutters and downspouts are working properly – watch them during a rain…is there water overflowing the gutters or is the water deposited too close to your house? Make sure they’re repaired, and that you clean them every few months to remove leaves and debris. Also make sure your downspouts are properly attached…they should be depositing the water at least 5 feet away from your house.

– make sure you have a sump pump installed and that it has a backup power source – especially if you have a finished basement, it’s important to make sure you have a functioning sump pump!

– make sure your lawn slopes away from your foundation – water needs to flow away from your house. If it pools against your house, it’s only a matter of time before your basement floods. Check to make sure the grade of your lawn slopes towards the street. If this is not possible for whatever reason, consider having an outside french drain installed that will carry water through pipes away from your foundation and to the street.


Sewage Backups

sewage-overflowHere in Chicago, sewage backups are quite prevalent. Due to our aging sewer systems and storm drainage systems, when the city gets hit with heavy rains, it’s not uncommon to see sewage backups in basements. While not 100% effective, the best course of action to prevent sewage damage in your basement during heavy rainfall is to have a sewer backflow prevention device installed outside of your home. The device is attached just on the outside of your home where the main sewage pipe exits your home and then attaches to the line that runs through your yard and connects to the city sewer line system. Just as its name indicates, it has a flap valve that engages when water attempts to flow backup your pipe and prevents that water from entering your home.



While less common, when we experience huge snowstorms followed by higher than normal temperatures, snow can melt quickly and flood basements. To help prevent this from happening, make sure you shovel snow away from your foundation and follow the same steps mentioned above for rain fall. One cubic foot of snow produces around ¾ of a gallon of water, so all that snow piled up against your walls means a lot of potential water in your basement!


Pipe Bursts

frozen-pipesWhen we get cold snaps, the calls start coming in…the culprit is always the same: a busted pipe. This type of basement water damage can occur quickly and cause a lot of destruction. It’s not uncommon to see a basement fill up with a foot of water in a matter of minutes. Pipes bust because they freeze and then thaw. To prevent this from happening, each fall survey the outside of your home. If there are pipes that are exposed to the outside, make sure to wrap them in insulation. And if it’s about to get really cold, or you’re leaving town during the winter, open the cabinets in your kitchen and bathrooms to let some of the heat from your furnace or boiler into the cabinets housing your sink pipes.


Is my Chicago basement flooding covered by insurance?


In most cases, basement floods that are caused by rain or snowmelt are not covered under a typical insurance policy. If you have flood insurance than they would be covered. In the majority of cases of a sewage backup, insurance will cover the cost of the water damage restoration work needed to clean up the mess. And when it comes to pipe bursts, you can rest assured you’re covered under your homeowners insurance policy.


If I have water in my basement what should I do?


Any amount of moisture in your basement, if not dealt with properly, is going to lead to a black mold problem. So if you have wet walls or a couple of inches of standing water in your basement, you should always contact a certified Chicago basement flood cleanup company to assess the loss. If you attempt the water extraction & drying process yourself, you’re likely to cause more harm than good. And if the mitigation job is not done properly, the resulting mold problem could make you sick and cost you a lot of money to get fixed.

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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