Steps to prevent basement flooding and damage, and what to do if it happens

When you think of basement flooding, you may consider disastrous weather events to be the most to blame. However, water damage is more often caused by internal issues like leaky appliances, plumbing problems, or improper draining around the perimeter of the home. In fact, among the five most common home claims causes, non-weather-related water damage ranked second at 19 percent.

Regardless of the source, the average cost of a water damage insurance claim is nearly $7,000, and throughout a U.S.-based basement’s lifetime, 98 percent will experience some type of water damage.  It’s important to learn what preventative measures you can take to safeguard your basement, what sources can cause water damage, and what to do in the event of flooding or other water damage.

How to prevent flooding or water damage to your basement

An average of 71% of homes in the East North Central region of America (which includes the Northern Illinois/greater Chicago area) have a basement. Homeowners living in this area need to understand how to keep water out of their basements to avoid repair costs and damage to their space and belongings. Here are 13 tips to keep your basement dry.

  1. Watch your water bill. Not every kind of water damage leads to wading through a pool of basement water. A leaky pipe fitting can cause a slow drip that could go unnoticed. If that pipe is behind a wall, you may not identify the issue until the damage is done. However, keeping an eye on your water bill and questioning even small unexplained rises in usage can provide a clue that a leak may exist.
  2. Tend to cracks. Have cracks and fissures sealed no matter how small they may seem to make sure water doesn’t seep in through the walls or foundation.
  3. Properly seal windows and doors. Have your windows caulked and add weather-stripping around doors.
  4. Insulate basement. Condensation on cold pipes can lead to dripping water, which can ruin drywall and flooring. Install an automatic dehumidifier system and have your basement properly insulated.
  5. Add a drain or sump pump. If you keep appliances in your basement, such as a washing machine, toilet, or water heater, have a drain installed and make sure it is kept clear of debris. In addition to or in place of a drain, install a sump pump to help send any incoming water away from your home.
  6. Install sensors. You will want to know as soon as possible if any water makes it into your basement. Water sensors will alert you as soon as moisture is detected. Some sensors are capable of turning off power and closing valves.
  7. Divert or extend downspouts. Your downspouts should direct water at least three feet away from your home. If not, downspout extensions are a simple addition to ensure water doesn’t pool near your home.
  8. Install a dehumidifier. Excessive moisture in the air can cause significant damage and mold. Keep the air dry by removing it with a dehumidifier. Northern Illinois is a high humidity region, and because basements are extra prone to dampness, installing a dehumidifier is a wise move.
  9. Ensure proper grading. You want rainwater to run off away from your home, not toward it. If the ground around your home slopes toward the foundation, water will pool there and can end up in your basement.
  10. Install backwater valves. Sewage clean-ups are messy, unsanitary, and expensive. Simply installing backwater valves will mitigate the risk of sewage coming into your home. A backwater valve shuts off the drain to sewer lines.
  11. Install a French drain. French drains can help with water drainage issues in the yard and surrounding your home.
  12. Check landscaping. If trees and shrubs are too close to your home, the roots can cause cracks in the foundation or walls which allow water intrusion into your basement. Removing or replanting the plants farther away from your home can help reduce this risk.
  13. Routine inspections. Stop the water damage before it begins by having a professional inspect your property. For those who live in the greater Chicago area (as north as Waukegan and as west as Naperville) McMahon Services and Construction can help assess if your home poses any risks to basement flooding and water damage.

What to do if you have water in your basement

Whether you notice existing damage from excessive moisture or find a large amount of standing water in your basement, do not delay in taking action. Here are the steps to take.

  1. Stay safe. First and foremost, turn off the electricity. To avoid electrocution, do not touch any electrical wires or devices. If you go into the affected area, wear protective apparel like rubber boots and gloves.
  2. Find the source. It’s imperative that you next find the source or you could end up increasing the water damage and have to pay even more in repairs. Call a professional to properly investigate, assess, and start drying, cleaning, and repairing the damage. If it’s a plumbing issue, call an emergency plumber immediately to fix the problem right away. The following items are common culprits to water in the basement.
    • Pipe problems: Pipes are the main thoroughfare for water to travel throughout your home. When a pipe springs a leak, a valve breaks, or below freezing temps cause a pipe to burst, the result is water leaking in places you can’t always see–behind walls, beneath ceilings, and under cabinets.
    • Appliances: Dishwashers, water heaters, refrigerators, and other appliances help to ease daily life, but only when they’re in good working order. Dishwashers can overflow, water heaters can leak from faulty valves, refrigerators can lead to pooled condensation, and so on.
    • Sprinklers and hoses: Rain and melting snow aren’t the only kinds of outside water that can make their way into your home. Automatic sprinkler systems, garden hoses, and even the neighbor’s above-ground pool all increase your in-home water damage risk due to a lack of maintenance or just human error.
  3. Clear out the damaged area. Remove light furniture, clothing, bedding, and any other items. This will make it easier for technicians to get to work and will also help prevent mold. Wood, fabric, and paper all attract mold. Clean and dry these items, or discard them if necessary. When items are wet, they become much heavier. Ask technicians to help with furniture or other heavier items so you don’t injure yourself.
  4. Get in touch with your insurance company. Be sure to take photos or videos of damaged areas, including the source, so that you can provide them if you choose to submit a claim.
  5. Immediately call a professional restoration company. McMahon Services and Construction is equipped and experienced with handling emergencies like basement flooding. They have technicians available 24/7 so they can provide immediate assistance. Damage can spread quickly, and mold issues don’t take long to develop. It’s best to call right away. McMahon can provide comprehensive service to include the following:

Contact McMahon Services & Construction for your water damage restoration service today!

Contact McMahon Services & Construction for an inspection of any past or existing water damage in your basement. Waiting or ignoring water damage can make things much worse!

We have crews available 24/7 to dispatch to your Northern Illinois home or business.

We offer FREE damage inspections and FREE estimates to residential and commercial customers in our Chicago, Arlington Heights, Berwyn, Des Plaines, Evanston, Mount Prospect, Grayslake, Mundelein, Libertyville, Oak Park, Palatine, Wheaton, Naperville, Waukegan, Schaumburg, Skokie, and surrounding IL service areas.