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If you require help and guidance on how to remediate a flooded basement yourself, or simply doing research on the topic then this article is for you.
A flooded basement is when water gets into the premises causing damage to the property. It can occur at any time and can be caused by a multitude of factors. There are 2 primary ways basement flooding can occur. Water entering the property from the outside, and water entering the property from the inside. In this article, we will cover the main causes of flooding, and how they affect your property. We will also discuss the most important things to do should you actually end up experiencing a basement flood and the DOs and DONTs of dealing with this type of emergency. Finally, we will cover some key preventative measures you can take to avoid a basement flood. So let’s start by defining the key elements of our topic and everything you need to know before diving deep into what and how you can protect your property from such catastrophic events from occurring.
When it comes to understanding what causes a basement to flood, you have to understand the source of the flood and why it happens.
Basement flooding generally occurs in 2 ways:
Rains and heavy downpours often result in insufficient water absorption by the ground. This results in water travelling above ground. This is called overland flooding. Once overland flood waters come in contact with the perimeter of the property, gravity forces the water down cracks in walls, shifted foundation blocks that have formed gaps, or window wells that lack proper irrigation. This is where the real catastrophic damage occurs. The water enters the property and begins pooling on the cement floor foundation, rising in level as more water finds its way in. Left unattended, the entire basement eventually can flood and cause irreversible damage to the property. In countries where the temperature drops below freezing, thaws and freezing cycles put tremendous stress on the foundation and cause it to form cracks that ultimately allow the pressure to get released into the property in the form of floodwaters.
Another source of flooding can originate from sources within the property. Sometimes the source of the water can be easy to identify, such as the cases of overflowing sinks and toilets, backed up sewers, or overflowing sump pits. Other times it can be hard to locate because it is happening within the structure itself. This can include burst pipes inside walls, leaky water pipes.
Reference the diagram below to see the most typical sources of water penetration that can occur in a home.
Click image to enlarge
ICLR – Why basements flood
(Basement flood risk reduction video)
Basements are often used as an expansion to a dwelling to increase living spaces. Most basements are built below the ground. While some are more exposed to above-ground grading, others can be completely submersed and well below the ground. In residential homes, the most common types found are English Basements which are below the ground but stick out enough above ground to have full (or near full) size windows. There are also Walk-out basements which are built on sloped grading properties where one side of the basement is mostly or fully underground while the other side is fully exposed with doors leading out to above ground grading.
The important thing to consider when it relates to water damage is the material that makes up the foundations of basements. Modern basements are built using one of 3 common methods:
It is important to know the type of material the foundation is built from to better understand how floods affect the basement structure.
When dealing with a basement flood, often you would involve your insurance company due to the magnitude and cost of the damage involved. It is important you understand the terminology used in the industry to better understand what and how floods get categorized and handled when making a claim. Floods are classified into 3 categories of flood water. When discussing the category type, it references the water quality itself and where it originated from. Each type has an underlying problem it may present and how it gets handled.
“clean water” – It comes from a sanitary source such as faucets, broken water supply lines, toilet tanks, water heaters and other sources of water that is safe to interact with or consume. When you experience this type of flood, the insurance company will approve drying and decontamination for most of the content through standard cleaning and drying methods exercised by a professional water damage restoration company.
“gray water” – It typically comes from a washing machine or toilet overflows (contaminated with urine or cleaning chemicals). It most likely contains microorganisms that are unsafe to consume and interact with. When you experience this type of flood, the insurance company will determine what gets cleaned and what gets replaced based on cost/replacement value comparison as the cleaning method is more costly.
“black water” – Typically comes from sewer backups, toilet bowl water or flood water originating from sewers, streams or rivers. It contains lethal viruses and microorganisms that if handled or consumed can lead to severe sickness or death. When you experience this type of flood, generally any affected content or structural materials are written off and get fully replaced unless specifically requested to preserve with specialty cleaning methods.
When discussing the class of damage, it references the severity and penetration level of the water damage.
Partial flooding with slow penetrating effects. Easily cleaned up with minor to no repairs needed.
Fully affected room. At least one foot of standing water affects structural materials. Requires medium repairs with some content salvageable through specialized drying techniques.
Fully affected room. At least two feet of standing water that affects further into the structure due to prolonged exposure. Ceilings and walls are fully affected. Requires partial tear out of fully deteriorated materials and some minor repairs to other materials
Fully affected room. Everything in the premises is affected and drying times are longer, backed by specialized drying techniques. Major tear-our and reconstruction are required due to fully deteriorated materials having prolonged exposure to water.
The most important thing to remember when you are dealing with a water problem in your basement is the potential hazard implications that come with it. There are many health and safety risks involved when you have a flood in your basement or other areas of the property. It is highly advisable that you seek the consultation of a professional water damage remediation specialist before entering the water-affected zone. If you feel you must absolutely enter the area, follow the steps below on things to do and things to absolutely avoid doing. If you’re not sure, contact a professional who is generally available 24 hours a day on an emergency basis. They will be able to guide you through what to do and how to avert any further damage/dangers to you or your property.
In a recent incident, a client began experiencing signs of difficulty breathing and found themselves in the hospital with life-threatening respiratory problems. Only through proper education and proactive thinking was the client diligent enough to investigate the problem and call a mould remediation company to investigate. The inspection discovered a leak in the wall pipes that soiled insulation in the wall and this lead to massive mould growth across half the basement foundation wall. The toxic mould was slowly killing the inhabitant long before any water damage was visible on the drywall itself.
The above scenario was documented in a basement flood service call back in 2012. It is one of many examples of similar incidents where residents were not aware of the dangers lurking within their walls.
DO: Make sure you have no active electricity in or around the areas that are directly affected by water.
DO: Turn off the main water line to the house until you can pinpoint the source of the water
DO: Contact a professional Water Damage Restoration specialist to properly assess the dangers and help advise you on the best step to take in order to recover from the problem.
DO: Act quickly to have a professional help remove the water from your premises before further problems can arise that will potentially be life-threatening (we’re looking at your mould!).
AVOID: Don’t rush into a flood hoping to save your belongings. It’s heartbreaking to think your valuable belongings are getting damaged, but you need to consider the dangers that may be apparent first.
AVOID: Any contact with wet surfaces unless you are a professional electrician and understand the risks of electrical shock and how to spot them.
AVOID: Remaining on the premises for a prolonged time without having a professional Water Damage Restoration specialist evaluate the damage and potential health risks.
AVOID: Starting to remove items out of the flood waters in a panic often will end up being a costly mistake. You need to understand what type of flood you are facing and the dangers involved. This is the perfect time to call a professional to evaluate and advise you on what to do next.
While it may be a fact that there is very little that you can do to fully do away with the threat of experiencing flooding in your basement, this does not mean that you will not do everything that you can in order to minimize the possibility that you will have to keep dealing with this kind of problem every time that it rains. There are many things that you may do to minimize the possibility of flooding in your basement. For one, you may dig a flooding ditch around the perimeter of your home to ensure that unwanted water will get channeled away from your basement. Get the help of a professional waterproofing company if you are not fully confident that you will be able to go about the task yourself.
If you already know that there is a chance that your basement will become flooded in case of heavy rains, then you should think twice about storing your valuables in this area of your home. This way, you will not have to worry about replacing your valuable belongings in case of an unfortunate occurrence. Minimize the amount of damage that you will incur as well by protecting the furniture and possessions that you will store in your basement. Cover your possessions with heavy-duty plastic, for example, and make sure that they will not come in contact with water in case of a flood.
In case your home gets flooded and you experience certain forms of damage in your basement, you need to ensure that you get the help of professional flood and water damage companies to clean up and repair the place. This will allow you to ensure that every single part of the recovery process will be done efficiently. While you will have to spend a certain amount of money, there is no denying the fact that you will be able to deal with your problem as best as possible. Some companies will even assist in processing insurance claims to minimize your stress.
Depending on the severity of the flood, either way, we highly recommend consulting with a professional. Performing your own flooded basement clean up after a flood is a challenging task and has health implications to consider, to say the least. If you are going to attempt the task yourself make sure you read this whole article thoroughly especially the above section of this article titled (Top 3 Risks of a Basement Flood and the hidden dangers you can’t see) there are a few key things to keep in mind when it comes to safety and full recovery.
Time is of the essence and imperative to do a thorough and proper cleanup in the fastest possible time. You also have to make sure the affected area is completely dry (that includes areas that you can’t normally or easily access). Once this is done properly and you have verified that the place is properly dried and decontaminated, you can begin the cleanup process.
The basement cleanup process is the most crucial one. If your incident relates to an unfinished basement, the cleanup process is much easier and is a DIY job unlike finished basements can be tricky and does require experience. You need to use proper equipment (which can usually be rented by a water damage restoration company on a daily basis). You also need proper assessment equipment to ensure the walls are not wet and the cleanup was done successfully. There is a science to water damage that must be thoroughly understood and requires extensive training which only professional remediation specialists can perform. On finished basements, the water can get within the structure of the walls and if not accessed for drying Mould can generate and spread. It is usually safer and often cheaper (in the long run) to hire a professional service provider to perform this task quickly and properly.
If you find that hiring a company is not an immediate option (could be due to a communal flood situation that leads to prolonged wait times for availability), then you can attempt the initial cleanup process yourself using the steps listed below. This should be considered a last resort as often it can be done incorrectly and may lead to bigger problems down the road. It is still strongly advisable to bring in a specialist to inspect the work you performed as soon as possible.
After ensuring it is safe to approach the water-damaged area (no electrical or gas threats), begin by marking a line with the pencil/chalk on the wall indicating the current level of the water. Next, place the sump pump directly into the water and begin extracting 2 to 3 feet of the water out and away from the premises (at least 6 feet away from any foundation walls). Once this is done, make a new mark on the wall indicating the new water level. Allow up to 12 hours for the water to sit and see if the water level rises. If the level rises then your basement is still being flooded and you should not attempt to remove any more water. Keep recording the water level on a regular basis, recording the height change, and the time it took to rise. Once the water levels stabilize, you may begin proper extraction of the water. Once you have pumped out all the water, allow an additional 12 hours before determining if the threat is over. If the water level begins to rise again, wait until it stabilizes before attempting another extraction. Repeat this process until you have a water-free basement for at least 12 hours. Once the area is free of rising waters for at least a 12 hour period, you can use the wet/dry vac to remove any remaining pockets of water you come across. Do not attempt using the wet/dry vac to remove large amounts of water. This is only for small puddles and pockets of water the pump could not reach.
NOTE: You should always be monitoring the foundation for any cracks or structural deficiencies that may be a direct result of the damage. Should you encounter any foundation-related cracks, stop immediately and vacate the premises as the structure may no longer be safe to sustain any occupants in the premises. Cracks generally form when the foundation shifts, which is an indication that the water is still applying tremendous pressure on the foundation from the outside.
Basement Floods that are caused due to overland flooding are the result of excess water entering the house through windows and doors. This occurs when storms or prolonged heavy rains occur. Although there isn’t much we can do to prevent these natural disasters, we can prevent basement flooding through preventative measures and proper systems being implemented to manage the water level even when it rises above the water table. You should first determine if you reside in a floodplain-prone area or not. You can search your local conservation authority to find their Flood Plain Map which can help you determine your flood risk based on your geo-location. If you reside in a high-risk area, you should consider waterproofing your property according to the risk level. Not all properties require waterproofing. Some simply need good maintenance to keep your sewer system pipes in good healthy conditions and free of any obstructions. If you’re not sure, contact a professional waterproofing company for an overall exterior and interior inspection and a plumbing & drain company specialized in sewer line repair and cleaning and get a consultation on the best solution for your property.
It is important that you have window wells that go below the window line and have proper drainage systems to back them up. Generally, water flow diversion to a perforated pipe that leads to a sump pit which has a sump pump that diverts the water back out of the house and away from the foundation.
It is generally acceptable to have the earth around your house slope an inch per foot as you go further away from the premises. This should continue for at least 6-8 feet. Soil with 20-30 % clay content is best. Avoid using soil that is sandy or abundant in organic matter.
ICLR – proper lot grading to prevent basement flooding
Running your dishwasher, washing clothes, taking showers are all actions that put a strain on your sewer system. Combined with heavy rainfall going into the main storm sewer lines will likely cause sewer backups to occur right back into the property. It is always a good idea to install a backwater valve (it is a device that prevents public sewer content from spilling back into your house). If you have one installed already, be sure to inspect and maintain it regularly. If you’re unsure of how to do this, watch the video below on proper backwater valve maintenance steps.
ICLR – basement flood maintenance series Backwater Valve Maintenance
It is actually very inexpensive and easy to do and will save you headaches in the future. The sole purpose of eavestroughs and downspouts is to control and divert excess water to a proper location that can handle offloading this water safely away from the foundation walls. Once these stop working as intended, you are risking pooling and new channels of water going into areas that are not prepared to handle excess water. This can create slow degradation of foundation walls which will in time form cracks and provide the water with a new way to enter your property.
As buildings settle and shift, cracks in the foundation are unavoidable. They are a prime source for water to enter the foundation unexpectedly. Make sure to regularly monitor for cracks in the foundation, shifts in blocks and other natural deteriorating factors to your basement foundation walls. Areas in the foundation where the largest amount of stress on the building occur are most prone to have cracks form (middle of the foundation on a sloped hill is generally the highest stress location). Areas where heavy freezing and thawing occur also become prone to floor cracks due to heavy shifting with the climate changes.
The top reason for the basement flooding is due to sewer line backup. This often happens when the main sewer lines get clogged up. Although sometimes it happens beyond our control and through the city sanitary lines, the most common instigator is our lack of filtering what we pour down our drains. Grease, oil, and fats do not mix with water very well. As a result, when they are poured down the drain, they do not get washed out easily. Once they settle on the walls of the pipes, they dry up and begin forming a blockage. Eventually, that block chokes the pipe and creates a full clog. Once this occurs, the water you pour down the drain has nowhere to go and begins flowing back into the house pipes, finding exits through floor and shower drains, toilets, and even sinks. Often with gravity, this happens in the lower point of the house which is the basement floor drains. The best way to prevent this from happening is to collect the oils and fats we cook with and throw them into the garbage inside a water-sealed bag. Municipalities that offer Organic Recycling programs will accept these in their “Green Bin” program.
If you live in the Greater Toronto Area and are in the midst of a flooding catastrophe, Flood Tech can provide you with the immediate help and expertise you need. They offer cost-effective water damage inspection and services. Call now for professional free advice and quote.
If your location is outside of the GTA area, you can find a local 24/7 water damage services company on any search engine provider
While your insurance company can regularly provide water damage coverage, there’s often a catch associated with going through this process. To learn more about the limitation when using insurance, read about this topic in the lower section of the Flood Tech home page titled Insurance Claims Handling. There you will discover how to avoid being WRONGFULLY DENIED on your insurance claim and the steps needed to ensure you get your claim approved.
In case you have no flood insurance coverage, there are catastrophe financial assistance programs from the government. You can also reach out to not-for-profit organizations that provide grants and loans to help with disaster recovery. Each country has a dedicated organization that handles emergency disaster financial assistance.
If you live in the USA, the (FEMA) Emergency Food and Shelter Program is a pandemic response government organization that provides FEMA disaster grants and resources.
Canada’s provinces and territories operate a disaster relief program named (DFAA) Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements. The program is currently available to eligible small businesses and residents.
Toronto Ontario provides Basement Flooding Protection Subsidy Program for property owners of single-family, duplex & triplex residential homes a subsidy of up to $3,400 per property installation for flood protection devices.
When facing an emergency disaster scenario, there are many risks involved. Click the blue tab below for a guide that outlines the best steps to take and how to get you safely through an emergency scenario. Take a moment to read through the guide and save a copy on your phone. It will guide you in dealing with all types of emergency scenarios such as floods, fires, hurricanes, earthquakes and other catastrophic disasters.
Flood Tech offers Flooded Basement Services proudly serving the Greater Toronto Area residential, commercial properties, the insurance industry, and contractors since 2012. Throughout the years, the founder has worked with Toronto’s top Journeymen & Tradespeople specialists in the water damage industry. Through multiple collaborations, a franchise partnership was born. Together, we built a single specialized brand under one roof, bringing to light Flood Tech – your one-stop-shop for all property water damage repair and restoration needs. Throughout the years, our teams have been working together to develop unique customer experiences for fast reliable water damage mitigation and remediation processes that save you time and money. We solved and accomplished this through our specialized dedicated team of project managers. Each team member is trained in rapid emergency response methods. Based on the water damage situation requirements, the managers properly delegate the necessary Flood Tech division to the job, making us a company that meets all your needs under one roof. If you have a flood or water problem and you do not know who to contact, we can help. Our team of 24-hour flood experts is available for free consultation and visual assessments.
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During the spring and fall months, there’s a higher chance that your home may have to deal with flash storms. These sudden storms can be scary and dangerous as they can suddenly fill your home with water and cause severe destruction.
For internal damage incidents such as basement foundation leaks or pipe bursts, Flood Tech can help. We are experts in leak detection arising from basement foundation flooding in your walls or floors. We also specialize in plumbing & drain clogs, bursts, property exterior waterproofing deficiencies, HazMat remediation, Mould & Asbestos removal, Emergency Flood & Water Damage Restoration services and Insurance mitigation handling.