Basements are known for several negative complaints. They are dark, filled with insects mostly spiders, smell musty and can flood. A basement can flood at any time and during any season and the causes of basement flooding very. Spring has its rainy season, fall has thawing snow, but summer and fall are not immune to basement flooding. Sometimes basement flooding manifest for other reasons not related to the outdoor environment such as an indoor plumbing leak, toilet overflow, broken hot water heater of appliance malfunction.
All basement flooding has one thing in common; they are unpredictable and happen at the worst time. Once basement flooding is discovered, time is of the essence because water can destroy a basements dry wall, wood base and expensive building materials like wood cabinetry and hard wood flooring. Also at risk are articles of clothing, furniture, stored items like pictures, family heirlooms, antiques and sentimental personnel belongings.
When considering the causes for basement flooding the resulting damages may very greatly. Flooding can be a minor issue that ensues by a slow seepage from a crack in the wall or basement flooding can be from a drain backup affecting the entire space.
Because basements occupy the lowest space in the home they are inherently prone to flooding. Unwanted running water from a leaking water pipe or toilet overflow will always deluge quickly to the lowest surface of a home.
Groundwater outside of the home is lower than the concrete slab of a basement. During heavy raining this water can begin to rise above the slab and infiltrate the home through a floor drain or floor crack. Homes are designed mechanically to keep this from occurring by use of the force of gravity. Gravity will naturally channel water from the property keeping basement flooding from occurring. However basement flooding will result when this system fails.
Although the basement system for keeping water from backing up through a drain is mechanically sound, there are times these proven systems fail and knowing why can help you be preventative for this cause of basement flooding.
When sewer drains become blocked by tree roots basement flooding is very probable when heavy raining occurs. Older sewer drain systems are comprised of materials that over time begin to degrade much like a shingled roof. Many of these out dated drain systems are made from clay and after 20 or 30 years will acquire small holes and cracks where water will seep into the soil. Nearby trees with roots deep in the soil will migrate in the direction of moisture and eventually grow into the clay pipes. What starts out small over the years will inevitably become a full blown blockage as deterioration only gets worse.
The scenario that may result when the system becomes totally clogged is an abundance of back pressure bringing in sewer water or ground water into the basement, often with great intensity.
Sump pump failures are one of the most common causes of basement flooding. When power outages happen or systems fail from wear ground water can easily infiltrate property. When ground water surrounding the property rises it brings with it incredible hydro static pressure that will be released through the floor drain or any crack or seam in the concrete slab. What keeps this from happening in homes with a sump pit is an installed discharge pump that engages each time the float detects rising water. Some homes are situated on property with a high water table or nearby stream and run almost continually. Other homes may be situated in a dryer soil condition and seldom engage. When these pumps run they pump rising water away from property by discharging it to the lawn, city storm drain system or pond. Some homes are illegally plumbed into the sewer drain system making the plumbing against code.
When power outages occur these pumps will cease to operate so it is recommended to have either a water backup or battery backup system that will keep the property from basement flooding. In addition to power failure there is the possibility of a pump just simply wearing out and completely stopping when you need it most. Sump pumps have longevity of about 7 years so it is highly recommended to replace the pump before they fail.
A blockage in the homes sewer system can be a source of basement flooding when items are flushed down the toilet that should be disposed of through the trash instead. Items like a child’s toy, a dead gerbil, feminine products, thick paper towels and other such items are capable of becoming culprits for clogged drains. Keeping toilets free from all objects except human waste and toilet paper will ensure nothing from the indoor environment will be responsible for causing blockages that would create basement flooding.
The most feared type of basement flooding is a sewer backup because of the contamination level of the water and the health risk it brings. Just the mention of toilet water on a bathroom floor can make someone bristle in disgust let alone thousands of gallons in the basement coming into contact with carpet, walls and valuables.
Sewage in your basement means a major cleanup project and a lot of anxiety over germs and infection. Professional water damage restoration is always recommended for high risk mitigation to assure the successful restoration of the property and the thorough removal of germs and moisture.
Water Supply Leaks
Fresh water sources from broken water supply lines and malfunctioning appliances are another cause of basement flooding. When plumbing leaks occur they can allow unabated water to continue to run for hours before being discovered. Some have actually been gone for weeks and longer to come home to a literal water damage nightmare from continuous water running.
When supply lines to toilets, sinks and appliances rupture, the water will quickly make its way to the basement from the higher floor. Such scenarios will not only affect flooring but ceilings, walls and all structures between floors. Water from plumbing is fresh having no contamination, making it the safest type of water to actually produce basement flooding. However, when this water migrates through the property it picks up dirt’s from floors, walls and wood substrates. As it migrates throughout the property it will become increasingly more soiled. Although the water began as fresh it has quickly become dirty from the traveling water that comes into contact with contaminates that exist in the home.
Broken / frozen water pipe
Michigan winters often dip down to subzero temperatures. Cold temperatures make for cold air that can easily force its way into cracks and openings that are in proximity to plumbing. When copper or plastic plumbing is introduced to temperatures below 32° water will expand destroying whatever material it is in. Copper pipes will rupture and break whereas plastic will freeze solid and often rupture during thawing out. If your heat happens to go out, it is important to get heat back into the property as soon as possible to avoid frozen water pipes.
Washing machines dish washer’s hot tubs and Jacuzzis use water in order to function properly. If for any reason they fail or break due to an electrical, plumbing or mechanical issue, the malfunctioning device may leak with water. While these causes of basement flooding are less common they can result in greater cost for damages. Water pipes that comprise household plumbing are under regular pressure that will quickly release and cause basement flooding in several minutes. If no one is home the amount of water can become devastating by the time it is discovered.
During the fall season when tree leaves begin to fall it is important to keep your gutters clean of debris and leaves. Keeping up with a regular maintenance program can help keep water flowing away from the home. When gutters are blocked the water can spill over onto the soil around the base of the property. If the soil should become overly wet foundation walls can become compromised allowing basement flooding. Even if the water is not getting into the basement, it could however, be eroding soil from under the house footings, which can lead to cracking of walls and ceilings. This slow process can eventually manifest in basement flooding.
Pavement slope towards property
Sometimes concrete paving settles over time and water flow can change direction toward the house. If this is the case, the paving should be removed and replaced so it slopes away from the home. Some companies offer hydraulic lifting of sinking concrete slabs. The same can happen with soil around the property. It may divert the water from the home for years, but over times the constant effect of rain may result is loss of soil which in time will allow water to pool at the base of the home instead of channeling it away.
Lawn sprinkler systems
Avoid placing lawn irrigation near the house. If this cannot be avoided, instruct the installer to limit the amount of water dispersed next to the house. Make sure the irrigation system includes a working rain gauge so the system does not turn on when there has already been plenty of rain for the plants and lawn.
Frozen / burst outside water spicket
Failure to either cover with an insulated cap the outside water spicket or failure to turn off the water and drain the valve may result in bursting from the cold weather. It is not uncommon when the frozen water pipes break that the water makes its way into the basement requiring water removal service.