When water ends up where it doesn’t belong, it can do a good deal of damage — but many homeowners don’t think about preventing water damage until it’s too late. Take these 10 steps to help prevent damage to your home before it happens:
- Seal cracks in your foundation walls and basement floors. This is a simple way to help reduce the risk of basement water damage. In most cases, existing cracks can be sealed from the inside of your home without having to dig around your foundation.
- Install window wells and covers. Window wells, or wells dug outside a below-grade window, are typically reinforced with galvanized steel or polyethylene shields that support the earth and block debris and moisture from reaching your basement windows. Not surprisingly, they can significantly improve drainage and help prevent windowsill rot, too. Besides installing wells, adding well covers or even plastic sheeting as inexpensive barriers will provide extra protection.
- Add a weeping tile or foundation drain. A weeping tile can play an important part in making sure your home has proper drainage. Also called a drain tile, perimeter tile, or foundation drain, a weeping tile is a porous pipe used for underground water collection. In case you were wondering, these pipes were originally made from terracotta tiles — hence the name. But in modern days, they are typically corrugated plastic pipes with small slits or weep holes that are buried around your foundation to drain moisture.
Where to direct your weeping tile drainage is an important factor, too. Your safest bet is to install a sump pit and sump pump in your basement and direct weeping tile water to it. From there, it can be pumped a safe distance from your home with a flexible line.
- Disconnect your eavestrough downspouts from your weeping tile (or sanitary sewer drain). Downspouts are intended to move water from your eavestroughs to a more absorbent surface, like your lawn or garden, at least six feet away from your home. Downspouts connected to your weeping tile or sanitary sewer drain can overwhelm these systems, which can lead to sewer backups. If redirecting your downspouts, avoid sending water to your driveway or sidewalk as it can ice over in the winter and create a different kind of hazard.
- Disconnect your weeping tile from the sanitary or storm sewer drain and install a sump pit and sump pump. Weeping tile connected to the sanitary or storm sewer drain means more water flowing into the municipal sewer system during a heavy rainfall — a perfect storm for a sewer backup. Be sure to install a sump pump (in its own sump pit) to move water to the surface where it can safely run off. If you’re unsure of where to direct the flow, contact your municipal government to confirm the right pathway for water runoff. Installing a sump pump could get you a discount on home insurance.
- And while you’re at it…get a backup power source for your sump pump. Sump pumps require electricity and won’t work during power failures. Have your sump pump connected to a reliable backup power source, such as a battery or generator, so it works when you need it most.
- Install a backwater valve to prevent sewer backups. Mainline backwater valves allow sewage to flow out of your house — but not back in — when the sewer system becomes overwhelmed. Backwater valves are required by some municipalities and recommended by others, so if you own a newer home, you likely had one installed during construction. If you’re unsure, most valves have an easily removed cover (somewhere in your basement) to allow for regular maintenance, so start looking! Should you discover your home is without one, a professional plumber can assess your home’s plumbing system and see if your home qualifies. Installing a backwater valve could get you a discount on insurance, too.
- Avoid pouring fats, oils, and grease down your drains. Over time, they build up and create blockages that can lead to a sewer backup. Dispose of these substances with your regular food waste.
- Clean your eavestroughs and downspouts, and keep storm sewer grates clear. Cleaning leaves and debris out of your eavestroughs at least once a year can avoid clogging, and keeping storm sewer grates clear of leaves, trash, ice, and snow is also helpful. When storm sewer systems are clogged, there is a higher risk of water flowing back toward your property. If you notice repeated clogging of your street’s sewer grates, contact your municipality.
- Design landscaping to allow water to run away from your house. Diverting water from your home naturally — with sloping hills and strategically placed shrubbery — can help to keep your basement dry.
At the end of the day, even the most prepared homeowner might not win against Mother Nature in the event of a flood. So remember to keep irreplaceable family heirlooms and important documents high and dry — and out of the basement.
Did you know that standard home insurance policies don’t always cover damage caused by water that enters your home from external sources (like heavy rain, sewer backups, or sump pump failures)? Talk to your licensed insurance broker about the best options to keep you and your family afloat.
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