When water suddenly gets into your basement, it can wreck floors and walls, ruin the furniture and carpeting and quickly give rise to mold.

And maybe the most distressing thing is that because these places are normally used for storage purposes, this water can damage valuable items such as antiques, family heirlooms and photo albums.

If it is the first time you are facing the problem of a flooded basement, it is important to establish if the water problems will reoccur or it was a one-off incident.

Is it possible to leave your stuff downstairs after you have tidied up the mess? Or do you need to move everything upstairs right away? What is clear is that if you regularly experience the problem of water in your basement, it is time to make some crucial decisions about waterproofing your basement.

Identifying the source of the water is the first and most critical step in addressing this issue.

How water may have got into your basement

Apart from the visible flooding around your house and the surrounding area, there are four common causes of water getting into basements:

  • surface water flowing down the walls of the foundation,
  • underground water in waterlogged soils being forced into the basement as a result of hydrostatic pressure,
  • storm sewer water originating from the municipal sewerage system turning back and entering the perimeter foundation drain of your house and seeping into the basement,and
  • sanitary sewer water coming out of a clog in the sewer of your home ,municipal sewer line or a combination of both retreating into the home’s drainage system. This results in sewer water emerging through floor and sink drains on the lower sections.

Every one of these sources has its own characteristics and needs a specific course of action. Learn more about the drainage system of your home by talking to a basement waterproofing professional.

Dealing with surface water issues

If you are experiencing the problem of water in the basement for the first time, the first thing you need to investigate is whether there is any surface water flowing alongside the foundation. Water entering from one point or just at the external foundation wall implies that there are surface water problems. Here are several issues you need to check for when you go outside:

  • Leaves falling into the gutters and causing overflows
  • Cleaning gutters and ensuring they remain free of debris must be in the routine maintenance program of every homeowner. It may be necessary to perform gutter cleaning several times a year, depending on the type of trees in the surrounding area. There are products on the market that are designed to prevent leaves from falling into the gutters.
  • Downspouts and overflowing gutters

If getting wet does not bother you, you can conduct a self-check (but after cleaning out your gutters first). After it has rained heavily for about 15 minutes, inspect your gutters. In case you notice any overflowing water, then you have a problem.

The water that is overflowing from the gutters is flowing alongside the foundations of the house. While it might not be entering the basement, it may be eroding the soil beneath the footings of your home. This can result in the ceilings and walls cracking.

The simplest way of solving the problem of overflowing gutters is to add an extra downspout to that particular gutter run or get a bigger downspout. The most desirable solution is adding an extra downspout to function as backup in case the first has a blockage.

But if you opt to substitute the current downspout with a bigger one, ensure that the contractor expands the size of the correspondent gutter hole. There is no need of installing a bigger downspout and leaving a small gutter hole. 

The span of the downspout 

Downspouts should stretch ten feet away from your house. Even though the majority of homeowners do not want their downspouts to extend that far, this is the shortest distance that is required to release water coming from the roof sufficiently far away from your home.

Replacing the pavement slope

Every once in a while, the pavement may settle as time passes, causing water to change direction and flow towards your home. When this happens, the paving must be removed and rebuilt in order to ensure that it slopes away from the house.

Replacing the pavement sealant

The sealant that covers the edges of the pavement adjacent to your home may crack after some time due to faulty installation or aging. Any cracked sealant must be removed and replaced.

Dealing with the slope of the landscape

The land surrounding your home or your yard ought to slope away from your house. Check if there any sunken areas on the ground adjoining the walls of your house’s foundation. If you find any, fill them up with soil so that water flows away from your home. Get clay-like soil that sheds water readily rather than a sandy soil that lets water permeate into the ground. Ensure that you maintain a minimum of eight inches between the top of the soil and any stucco or wood in your house.

In case there are large hills in the vicinity sloping in the direction of your home and you suspect they may be the root of your problem, you might need to get a civil engineer to assess the situation and figure out the best solution.

Irrigating close to the house

Refrain from irrigating the lawn just next to your house. If it must be done, direct the installer to put a cap on the amount of water that is sprinkled near the house. Ensure that the irrigation system has a functional rain gauge so it does not switch on when it has rained and the plants and lawn already have enough water.

Getting the solution

Perhaps you got a bit wet when you were trying to get to the bottom of the surface water problem. If you identify the source of the problem, you will be delighted since you will be in a position to prevent flooding in future. Once you sort it out, your basement should remain water-free.

Tackling the issue of subsurface groundwater

In case you do not find surface water source, then the source of the water is probably the ground water below the surface as a result of hydrostatic pressure. But problems caused by subsurface groundwater are harder and costlier to rectify than those resulting from surface groundwater.

Once the levels of groundwater outside the basement climb above the floor level, the basement becomes like a boat sailing in a pond. When the boat sits on water, water seeps in through any open holes or cracks. This is how a basement works. Hydrostatic pressure can force water through very tiny cracks.

Signs of this are water emerging from cracks in the floor of the basement or water entering from various points.

If you own an old house in the town and its basement does not have a sump pump or french drain system, probably the perimeter foundation drainage system is directly linked to the storm sewer system of the city. Where the basement level is lower than the level of the street, the storm water can retreat into the storm sewer of the city before getting forced it into your home’s foundation drainage system. This storm water might waterlog the soils surrounding your home’s basement level due to hydrostatic pressure and result in water seeping in.

Problems with underground springs

Regardless of its source, the best method of controlling subsurface groundwater is to set up a form of perimeter drainage system to alleviate hydrostatic pressure. This forces the groundwater into the drainage system away from areas where it can ruin walls, carpets and other household goods. The water flows with the aid of gravity into a sump pit where there is a pump for discharging it out from the home.

There are two primary types of drainage systems designed for wet basements. The first one is where the gutter system is positioned above the slab. The system is then set up at the base of the external walls of the foundation over the floor slab. It also functions as the wall’s base material. The second one is where the drainage is below the slab of the perimeter drain system. In this system, the concrete floor slab is partially removed before a drainage system is installed. This makes it costlier than the base gutter system.

An under-floor drainage system is considered to be more desirable since the under-floor drains reduce the hydrostatic pressure before the storm water gets to the base of the floor slab.

Storm water back up issues

A lot of older houses with basements, especially those constructed before the ’80’s, have perimeter foundation drainage on the outer section of the external wall. It is normally on the same level as the basement floor and was located adjacent to the house footings during the construction of the house. A pipe was commonly installed running from the foundation drain of the perimeter to the street where it was linked to the storm sewer system of the city.

This becomes a concern when the city storm sewer is overstretched due to increased development-leading to increased rain runoff. Once this occurs, the rainwater flowing in the sewer system can rise to such high levels that the water runs backwards towards the house.

Normally, installing an inner basement drainage system linked to a sump pump will resolve the problem. If it fails, the costlier option is to dig up and put a cover on the pipe that runs from the house’s perimeter foundation drain to the street .But this may not be possible sometimes because usually the pipe also carries sanitary waste from the sinks and toilets in the home. If you think you have such a problem, get advice from an experienced contractor.

Sewer water backup issues

Where the water rises through basement sink drains or floor drains, the problem is usually cased by water turning back from the municipal sewerage system. If it rains heavily, the water can overwhelm the sewerage system. This can lead to the sewer water backing up in the system and sometimes ending up in homes.

There are also other likely explanations. Sewer backups can happen when individual service lines are blocked by waste, pipe breaks, grease or waterlogged grounds. Sewer mains may also be plugged by large objects dropped into the manholes or vandalism.

This type of flooding is a massive problem for home owners. This is because it is generally beyond your control and most likely means fecal matter retreating back into the basement. Besides being a revolting sight, it can also pose serious health risks.

So as to keep your individual sewer lines clear, you can fit backflow preventers to stop sewerage water from running backwards into the house. To prevent sewer backups, it is essential that you maintain your individual lines properly. For instance you can pour root killer into your toilet once every year. However, most of the time the problem is beyond your control.

Having sewage in your basement requires an extensive cleanup job. It also causes a great deal of uncertainty regarding future problems. In case it is something you have experienced in your home, you will need to involve your city government. At the bare minimum, understand the problem and avoid leaving any valuable items in areas close to the drains downstairs.