What Causes Basements to Flood?

Published: 26th November 2009
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Of all the headaches that a homeowner has to deal with, a flooded basement may be the most easily preventable. Outside of a major natural disaster such as a river flood or major hurricane, virtually all basements can be sealed against flooding with a little preventative maintenance and repair. The first step in this process is understanding what causes a basement to flood in the first place.

There are four main areas of concern when it comes to your basement. They are:

 The integrity of your basement walls
 Property drainage system
 Foundation drainage system (weeping tiles)
 Household drainage system (gutters and downspouts)

Basement Walls

Leaks or cracks in your basement walls are probably the most common cause of flooding in a basement. Many homeowners will replace siding or paint the exterior of their home on a regular cycle to keep it looking good, but forget to seal their basement. Groundwater builds up with each rainfall and can seep through to cause flooding and harmful mold that can affect the health of your family and household pets.

Basement walls can be sealed with specialized sealants and polymer coatings that can be used on both the inside and outside surfaces. This action should be combined with an overhaul of your drainage system to ensure maximum efficiency.

Property Drainage

In addition to ground water, the walls of your basement can also be assaulted by water running into them during a rain storm. This is the result of poor property drainage. Lots should be graded so that water runs away, and not into, your home. If you have a slope on your property where water runs downhill into the home, you can eliminate the problem by planting bushes or shrubs or digging drainage trenches that will take water around the home.

Foundation Drainage

Weeping tiles, or footer drains, can settle or crack over time and may not function properly, causing your basement to flood during a rain storm. These are areas where water can pool and seep into your foundation walls. Even if you apply a sealant to those walls, the solution will only be temporary if you don't replace your footer drains.

Household Drainage

The gutters and downspouts of your home are designed to collect water and allow it to flow down and away from your home. The gutters themselves need to be sloped so water runs into the downspout and the downspout needs to end at a footer drain that is sloped properly to allow run-off away from the house. Any break or clog in this system can result in water pooling and getting into your basement eventually.

To sum it up, the way to prevent a flooded basement is by using the force of gravity to your advantage. Sealants will help, but will eventually be penetrated by a constant flow of water pushing up against them. When water flows downhill, it will not stop until it hits a level spot where it can pool. Pools of water are what causes your basement to flood. This is simple common sense. To avoid flooding, make sure that you create a steady downward slope beginning at your gutters on the rooftop and going all the way off the property. Each of the elements described in this article are pieces of that slope. Make sure they are uninterrupted and then seal your basement walls. You'll remain warm and dry if you do.
Leo Nov is an editorial staff member of RestorationSOS.com, a leading service provider for water damage cleanups. To learn more about water damage and water restoration, visit RestorationSOS.com.

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