When you see water in your basement, listen for your sump pump while checking common locations where water seeps into homes
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Water damage in your home is often permanent damage. Whether your unfinished basement stores boxed-up memories or you spend your free time enjoying the comforts of your finished underground space, the chances of your basement flooding depend on your sump pump (more on sump pumps below).
So, what do you do when your pump doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do? Scan our top reasons your basement may flood—even with a pump—for immediate steps to take during a flood and helpful tips for preventing another.
What Is a Basement Sump Pump?
Before we get into the common causes, let’s discuss your sump pump. A sump pump sits in your basement and pumps out the water collected from the sump tank located underneath your house. It pumps excess water into a pipe that deposits it outside and away from your home.
Sump pumps are designed to prevent groundwater from entering your home, but they’re also great for dealing with busted pipes or a broken washing machine. A sump pump can save your basement from permanent damage during a flood.
1. Clogged Gutters
Gutters deposit water away from your house. A clogged gutter can overflow and allow water to pool around your home and seep into the basement.
The next time it rains, throw on a raincoat and walk around your home to see if you notice any issues with your gutters. You can clean your gutters on your own or reach out to a professional who can evaluate your gutters, repair them as needed, or suggest a different placement to reduce your flooding risk.
2. Broken Downspouts
Downspouts deposit water away from your home’s foundation and should be at least six feet away from your basement (some professionals even recommend 10 feet). Broken or missing downspouts can let water in through cracks in your home’s foundation.
You can easily replace a missing downspout on your own. But if you sense the issue has more to do with design, a professional can help you effectively reroute water away from your home.
3. Poor Basement Sealing
A pro must seal the basement properly to prevent flooding. If skipped during construction or sealed incorrectly, water can seep into your basement over time. This will happen faster in areas prone to heavy rain or lots of snow.
4. Record-Breaking Water Events
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Your sump tank is likely sized for the average annual rainfall or snowfall in your location. When storms dump more water in less time than anticipated, it may be too much for your sump pump to handle.
If you notice your pump struggles more often than not, it may be time to have an expert come and take a look. Most sump pumps last for about 10 years. Frequent failure to expel water fast enough from the tank could be a sign you’re due for an upgrade.
5. Power Outage
A pump can’t work without power. Whether a bad storm knocked out the electricity or a sudden power demand blew a fuse, a pump without a power source will fail. Luckily, there’s a simple solution (especially because power outages are common in flooding events).
Most pumps have backup batteries. We always recommend installing a pump that will automatically switch over to battery power if the power goes out. Another recommendation is to have a backup generator for power outages. Just make sure you’re able to operate your generator safely (e.g., outdoors and at least 15 feet away from any open windows) to keep your pump working.
6. Overworked Pump
A small pump can often handle the same amount of water as a larger pump. However, a continuously overworked sump pump will have a shorter-than-expected lifespan. This could leave you without a functioning pump in the middle of an otherwise controllable disaster.
What Causes Basement Flooding?
Any basement can flood. But some spaces are more prone to flooding than others.
Location is the most determining factor when it comes to basement flooding. If your home sits on a floodplain, we recommend taking extra precautions to protect your home. But even if your home is built in an area that rarely floods, take a look at your immediate surroundings.
Does your yard slope away from or towards your home? If there are depressions or grooves around your home’s perimeter, water can pool, erode, and eventually find its way into your basement. If water naturally flows toward your home, there are landscaping tips you can use to help redirect moisture.
Water Supply Line
Your basement’s ceiling likely houses plenty of water supply pipes. If one bursts, your basement can quickly take on water. Look out for signs of leaks, like dark stains or wet spots on your ceiling. Be extra cautious during deep freeze events that could lead to cracked and leaking pipes.
Hot Water Tank
The average hot water tank holds at least 60 gallons of water. A small leak can seem like a manageable issue but it can quickly lead to a soaked basement. Regular maintenance to your hot water tank can spot issues before they get out of control.
Sump Pump Failure
A sump pump keeps water out of your house. So, when it fails, your basement could quickly be at risk for flooding. If you’re a homeowner with property more prone to flooding, don’t rely on your sump pump alone.
Working With a Professional
A flooded basement can quickly spiral into a financially exhausting list of repairs and projects. But once you know the reason behind why your basement is flooding—even if you have a pump—you can work towards preventing another incident rather than dealing with repeated flooding.
If you’re looking for a professional to help speed up the process, look for a basement waterproofer near you. They can help you identify the source of your flooding and work with you towards a permanent solution.