Don’t let your basement become a flood zone this spring. Take the right preventive measures indoors and outdoors, and enjoy some peace of mind when the rain comes down.
Basements and crawlspaces provide storage and living space, and they’re full of essential equipment. But did you know this is also one of the most vulnerable areas of your home? Water has many ways of seeping in, and once it arrives in a basement or crawlspace, that typically means there’s also been costly damage.
What many people don’t realize is that an ounce of prevention will go a long way toward staving off disaster.
“Water damage can put your home and health at risk,” says Chris Picot, vice president of Flood Pros Water Damage and Restoration, in Machesney Park, Ill. The company specializes in cleaning up water damage, sewage backup, mold, air ducts, and smoke or fire damage in addition to cleaning carpets, waterproofing basements and reconstructing damaged areas. “Waterproofing your basement protects yourself, your investment and the future.”
One of the most common problem areas involves the sump pump. Its job is to clear away excess water from a home’s foundation. As water accumulates in a basin around the sump pump, the machine automatically kicks in and sucks the water outside. The water fills in once more, and the machine repeats the cycle.
Without a properly functioning sump pump, the water has nowhere else to go. So, it overflows the sump basin and spreads into the space beyond. The result isn’t just damp walls, floors and boxes. It’s also a contributor to mold, structural issues and expensive restorations – all problems that are familiar to the crew at Flood Pros.
“We get a lot of homeowners who only go down to their basements a few times a year,” says Picot. “Then one day, they go down there and realize a room is moldy and has been leaking for months. It’s unfortunate and more expensive to deal with after everything turns moldy, but if we can catch it while it’s relatively fresh, it’s easier to deal with.”
An inspection doesn’t have to be painstaking. Every so often, check the wall, look behind furniture or stored items, and open any closed-off spaces to make sure there’s nothing hiding. Puddling, discoloration in the corners and cracks in the foundation are potential warning signs to Picot.
One of the more extreme waterproofing measures involves drain tiles. These corrugated plastic pipes have slits that collect water. Buried beneath your basement’s floor, the tiles sit on a network of pipes that help drain water away from the foundation.
“Flood Pros uses drain tile products that are ridged, smooth and have larger holes so we can control pits, collect more water and direct it more efficiently,” says Picot. “It also will last longer.”
Older, more traditional tiles don’t always lay flat, he adds, and they’re not always buried deep enough. This is problematic because those tiny slits can eventually clog with sand, dirt and algae that keep it from working properly.
“Understand that the bigger the pipe and the deeper you bury it, the more effective it is,” Picot adds. “We come in and have to bust up floor and patch in a new, superior product for drain tile.”
While drain tile is one of the more extreme solutions, there are other problem areas can that make for an easier fix. Picot has seen plenty of tricky situations.
For starters, Picot likes to inspect conditions outdoors as well as inside. In some cases, the yard slopes toward the home and water pools up around the foundation. In other cases, plush beds of mulch sit right along the weak point where foundation meets timber.
“That’s a problem in some homes, especially higher-end homes that are buying new mulch each year,” Picot says. “Now and then, they need to scrape some of the earth away from the home because it’s built up too high and the ground is higher than the foundation.”
Picot also watches for downspouts that aren’t long enough and cause water to pool against the house. Downspout extensions can fix the problem by directing water farther from the house. These long tubes sit on top of the ground or get buried.
“The ground is soft enough in mid-spring that we can bury downspout extensions underground,” says Picot, whose crews install these extensions. “That tends to work better because you don’t have to move them to mow the lawn and they don’t fall or get blown off.”
It may be tempting to fix some of these issues yourself, perhaps with a can of Flex Seal or some hardware-store crack sealer. However, any kind of do-it-your-self repairs in a basement can result in lost time, money and effort, Picot says. Sometimes, it’s best to call an expert.
“You have to realize that everything behind what you repaired is still open to water, and Mother Nature is going to win that battle of pushing the water through whatever repair you did,” he adds. “You can spend your time, energy and money doing a temporary repair, or you can call a professional, get a lifetime warranty on the repair and have peace of mind.”