Basement flooding is unfortunately a common occurrence in many parts of Canada. But the good news is that many types of basement flooding may be avoided. This publication explains some of the practical steps you can take to avoid basement flooding. |
How Serious Is Basement Flooding? Basement flooding is now being recognized as a potentially serious problem. There are many negative consequences associated with basement flooding, above and beyond the inconvenient mess and disruption of household routine. Research cites the following impacts:
Chronically wet houses are linked to an increase in respiratory problems. Frequent occurrences of basement flooding can result in long-term damage to the building and equipment that may not be covered by insurance. Insurance rates may rise to compensate for repeated basement flooding claims, and/or the minimum deductible may be increased significantly. Property value may depreciate because the basement is prone to frequent flooding. Before appropriate measures can be taken, it is important to identify the causes of basement flooding. These range from problems originating in the individual dwelling to problems associated with the municipal sewer systems that serve entire communities.
Why Do Basements Flood? Water can enter your basement for a number of reasons. Water in your basement is most likely to occur during periods of heavy rainfall, or when snow is melting rapidly during a spring thaw. In these cases, your basement can be wet because of:
a leak or crack in your home’s basement walls; poor lot drainage; failure of the weeping tiles (foundation drains); and overflowing eavestroughs or leaking/plugged downspouts. Basement flooding may also occur because of:
a blocked connection between your home and the main sewer in the street; a back-up of wastewater in the sewer system (or a combination of wastewater and rainwater from the sanitary or combined sewer system); and failure of a sump pump (in some areas) used to pump weeping tile water. Basements are also vulnerable to natural river flooding disasters, but these cannot be addressed by individual homeowners.
Flooding Basics Municipalities attempt to prevent flooding by maintaining the public sewer system. Homeowners with private sewage systems (septic tank and field bed) can appreciate the need for regular maintenance, but unforeseen or accidental problems can occur in any type of system. Here is some municipal infrastructure terminology you should know:
Sanitary Sewer A sanitary sewer is a pipe buried beneath the street that is designed to transport wastewater from your home. This consists of water from sanitary fixtures (toilets, sinks, etc.) and floor drains inside your house, and in some areas includes groundwater from weeping tiles around the foundation of your home.
Storm Sewer A storm sewer is a pipe buried beneath the street that is designed to carry storm-related water runoff. Storm sewers are normally much larger than sanitary sewers because they are designed to carry much larger amounts of flow.
Sewer Backup Extra storm-related water (from sources other than wastewater and groundwater) should flow into the storm sewer or soak slowly into the ground without entering the sanitary sewer. If excess storm water does enter the sanitary sewer system, it can overload this kind of system. When the sewers are overloaded, the water level in the system rises above normal design levels, and this condition is referred to as “surcharge.” Basement flooding can occur if the home has sanitary fixtures or floor drains below the surcharge level
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