Preventing flooding due to heavy rain

Posted by Matt Buchanan

Every American lives in a flood zone, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). It’s merely a question of whether their flood risk is low, moderate or high.

Floods occur when water runoff overwhelms the capacity of existing drainage systems. In areas where the sewer system doubles as a storm water drainage system, water can back up through sewer pipelines, inundating residences and businesses. Additionally, rainwater enters buildings through doors, windows and other openings, or through cracks in the buildings’ foundations.

Residents in areas at high risk for floods may not be able to prevent flooding entirely. There are measures, however, that minimize risks and prevent the property damage associated with flooding.

1. Sandbags

Sandbags prevent flood damageSandbags are burlap bags, half-filled with sandy soil. They should be used to divert the flow of water away from buildings. Sandbags are not intended to be used as a barricade around your buildings. In fact, if you build a wall of sandbags around your structures, you may end up causing a moat to form between the structures and the sandbags, which will exacerbate flood damage.  Thus, it’s important to take note of the grade around your house so that you can predict how water will flow once it begins approaching your home.

Gutter Flood Prevention2. Install rain gutters and other drainage systems.

Rain gutters are open pipes that catch the rainwater that runs off the roof and channels it to the ground. Their efficiency can be enhanced by the addition of downspouts and splash pads. Without an operational gutter, rain will spill over the edge of a house and damage the exterior walls. Remember to keep your rain gutters and downspouts free of leaves, trash and other debris.

Foundation Grade Preventing Flood Damage3. Grade your lot

Optimally, ten or so feet of ground surrounding your property should slope at least six inches to funnel rainwater away from your property. This will prevent water from seeping into your foundation and basement.

4. Invest in a sump pump

If houses or businesses are on level ground, or have basement entrances that are actually located below ground, a concrete slap, complete with a drain and resting on a gravel base, is an excellent idea. The drain should empty into a sump pump.

Sump pumps are small pumps that drain water from the inside of a structure to the outside, through a small pipe. It’s best to have a battery backup sump pump system as well, since flooding is often accompanied by electrical power failures.

5. Install a backflow protection device

Backup related to overstressed municipal wastewater systems can be prevented through the installation of a Backflow Preventor (BFP) device. BFPs are available with both automatic and manual controls. When the device is in operation, however, you must remember not to use your toilet, dishwasher, washing machine or any other appliance that discharges wastewater into your sewer service line.

6. Purchase flood insurance

Sewer backup and flood insurance are riders to traditional homeowner insurance policies. They can be costly, but if you live in an area that is prone to flooding on a regular basis, you will be very happy that you have this protection.


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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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