What Causes Basement Flooding And How To Prevent It
Flooding is a situation that all homeowners dread if they have a basement. It can result in serious damage, undermine the structure of your home, pose a risk to your health, and even catch you completely unaware. While some areas of the country are at less risk than others, if you live in Cincinnati and Columbus, OH, where snow and rain are a frequent occurrence, there are more chances for the weather and even your soil to put your basement at risk.
Of course, a random leak may result in water seeping into your basement, as can a few other factors. However, this isn’t considered proper flooding. Instead, only when the water level on your floor has reached corner to corner of your basement is it considered “flooded.”
What causes basement flooding? What type of flooding is your basement at risk of? What can you do to safeguard it with the help of Ohio Basement Authority? Let’s explore all that and more, so you can feel certain that your home is safe, dry, and healthy to live in, both above and below ground.
What Are the Different Kinds of Basement Flooding?
Surprisingly, there are numerous types of basement flooding that can exist. Some of the most common types of basement flooding are:
- Overland Flooding
Overland flooding can occur if the water level outside your home rises. This can result in flooding anywhere, such as your yard, garage, porch, and inside your home—even your basement. The presence of cracks, holes, or any open windows can hasten this process.
Overland flooding is the most common type of flooding. It happens when water from rivers or streams overflows and makes its way onto land. This can also happen from heavy bouts of rain or large amounts of snowmelt. Because your basement is below ground level, it is more susceptible to becoming flooded as a result of overland flooding.
- Flash Floods
Flash floods, as the name suggests, can happen within minutes after a period of intense rain. Flash floods also include floods from dam or levee breakages. As with overland flooding, water from flash floods can enter your basement if the water speeds are high enough and if there are any openings for the water to enter through.
- Drainage Failure
The source of drainage failures encompasses a wide variety of drainage systems that typically reside in or near your basement. The most common drainage system failures are sump pumps, weeping tiles, and plumbing.
Sump pumps can intake gallons of water and redirect it away from your home so that flooding does not occur. In fact, the average sump pump can discharge around 2,500 to 3,200 gallons per hour (gpr), or 42 to 53 gallons per minute (gpm). At max, this is about 10 percent of an entire football field drained in one hour. When these sump pumps fail due to mechanical malfunction or poor maintenance, the large amounts of water they are usually responsible for draining can become backed up and flood your basement floor rather quickly.
Weeping tiles are pipes used to move excess groundwater away from your home, much like the sump pump. Unlike the sump pump, they focus on intaking groundwater due to the placement underneath your home. Some weeping tiles may also carry water to your home’s sump pump. If your weeping tile becomes clogged or broken, this can result in basement flooding, given enough time.
Plumbing failures can result in basement flooding since many of the pipes and drainage connections are located right in your basement. If a plumbing pipe leaks or breaks, this water will escape into your basement.
- Water Seepage
Basement flooding caused by water seepage takes the longest in contrast to overland and drainage failure flooding. This is not to say that this cannot result in drastic basement floods. Water seepage is the gradual flooding of your basement through cracks or holes. It is highly dependent on the amount and speed of the water making its way through those openings in your basement.
For example, water seepage will take much longer to flood your basement if the water level outside your basement is only a foot deep and is standing water. However, if a large volume of water is rushing at high speeds against these cracks and holes, basement flooding can occur in minutes.
Is My Basement at Risk of Flooding?
Homeowners that live in certain locations have a higher risk of basement flooding. The state of Ohio is considered to have a humid, subtropical climate. However, while it gets hot in the summer, the winters can be frigid. As such, the cold months are usually characterized by snow. The state has an average of 38 inches of rain per year.
However, these climate averages can vary slightly depending on which city in Ohio you live. This can change your individual risk of your basement flooding. Both Cincinnati and Columbus, OH, have high risks of basement flooding happening because these cities experience high annual rainfall and snowfall averages.
- If You Live in Columbus
If you live in Columbus, OH, you are all too familiar with the summer afternoon rainfall. It rains the most in July, with an average of 4.8 inches of rain. Columbus, as a whole, has an annual average ranging from 22 to 40 inches of rain. There is also an average of 130 rain days a year, which is a little over one-third of the year. This amount of rain has the potential to flood your basement.
During the winter, there is an average of 22 inches of snow. As the weather shifts into the spring and summer, the snow will melt and may potentially cause basement flooding. During the season shifts, it is best to shovel any excess snow around your foundation away from your house. This way, you will not risk snowmelt trickling into your basement and causing flooding.
- If You Live in Cincinnati
The city of Cincinnati, OH, has a similar annual rainfall average to Columbus, averaging around 22 to 44 inches of rain per year. The wettest month is usually April, with a 2.53 inches rainfall average. Snowfall averages around 15 inches a year.
With April being the rainiest month and snow melting around that month, this can result in a lot of water accumulation before the spring and summer. Basement flooding can happen easily with rainfall and snow melting all at once, especially since puddles are centralized above your basement.
What Doesn’t Count as Flooding?
Remember that basement flooding is only considered true flooding if the water level extends from wall to wall. Therefore, leaks from basement walls or floors do not count as basement flooding. Additionally, any water leaking in from windows in small volumes is not considered basement flooding.
However, basement wall and floor leaks, as well as window leaks, can easily result in basement flooding, especially if it is not carefully monitored. If it is left unrepaired, then rainstorms and melting snow can easily cause basement flooding through these leaks and windows. If you have any leaks or broken windows in your basement, you want to get it repaired before any periods of rain and when snow begins to melt in the spring. This will prevent major basement flooding in the future.
What Damages Can Basement Flooding Do?
Basement flooding can be a lot more than just inconvenient—it can be very damaging to your property as well. The most common damages that come with basement flooding are mold, weakened foundations, ruined insulation, electrical damages, and saturated wallpapers and flooring.
Mold thrives in humid and wet environments. It is important to remove mold or potential sources of mold, such as standing water or damp materials because a high concentration of mold can negatively impact your health. This is especially true for anyone that already has environmental sensitivities, allergies, or asthma.
Given enough time, mold can eat away at your home. Some materials that it can destroy include, but are not limited to:
- Ceiling tiles
Since flooding can ultimately soak your wood, tiles, or cement, basement flooding can weaken your home’s foundation. A weakened foundation can result in slanted structures and, over long periods of neglect, can result in collapse. It is important that your foundation remains strong so that it can support the weight of your house.
Basement flooding can also destroy the insulation within your walls. In the frigid winters of Ohio, this can be a problem. Insulation is usually a soft material that lines your walls and ceilings to prevent heat from escaping (if the outside is cold) or prevent heat from entering your home (if the outside is hot). It can also be placed around certain machinery or appliances to help keep them at a balanced temperature during extreme weather changes. When water is introduced to insulation, it is unable to perform the way it is supposed to, since it is its dry, soft composition that allows it to function properly.
Water is one of the enemies of anything electrical. When water comes into contact with an electrical appliance or plug, it can result in short circuits. This is essentially a result of water damage to electrical wires. This can permanently damage your electrical appliances.
Short circuits also place you at risk for electrical fires, although this may not occur if it is submerged in water and distanced away from flammable materials. Short circuits can create numerous sparks from damaged wires. If these sparks land on any flammable material, it can trigger an electrical fire.
Saturated Walls and Flooring
One of the more minor consequences of basement flooding is saturated walls and flooring. Even when you remove all the water from the flood, both your walls and floors will have permanent water damage. This can be quite expensive to replace.
Wood and other fibrous materials can easily become saturated with water. Do not think that just because you have concrete or tile basement flooring and walls that it is safe from basement flooding damage. With enough time, water can soften and erode concrete. For tiles, although the tile itself is very resistant against water damage, water can remove the adhesive used to stick it to the ground.
You may be overwhelmed by the wide variety of options out there. Fortunately, the options at Ohio Basement Authority are tailored to your needs.
If you have a faulty or ineffective sump pump, replacing it is the best way to avoid basement flooding. We offer a variety of SafeDri™ sump pumps to meet your needs – from basic to extra protection, as well as a battery backup system to protect your home in the event of a power outage.
Our sump pumps have the following features:
- Built-in alarm system for overcapacity
- Airtight lid to prevent odors
- FreezeGuard™ Discharge Line Protection to protect against winter freezing
- SafeDri™ sump liner maintains sump pump longevity
There are two ground drains available: interior drains and the grated drainpipe. The BasementGutter™ interior drainage system collects any water leaking from basement walls and floor and directs it to your sump pump. It is installed just under your basement floor without being invasive or unsightly. It also has an anti-clog design that prevents water backup.
The grated drainpipe is fit for those that have water leakage from doors or other entrances. It is directly installed into your basement floor without being a tripping hazard. It easily spans any entryways where water may flow into, collecting water before it enters your basement, redirecting it to your sump pump.
Unfortunately, repairing leaks at home is not as simple as covering the leak and calling it a day. There is a reason why you should hire certain contractors to do this for you, as it can be very dangerous.
- Consequences of Improper Repairs
You may have heard of some DIYs that discuss how to repair leaks and cracks at home. However, some of these DIYs involve removing parts of your walls or floor and adding new material in that hole. This can be dangerous for many reasons.
If you were to demolish the wrong area of your basement wall or floor, you may quite easily break a water pipe, electrical line, or cause part of your basement structure to cave or collapse. You may also inadvertently weaken your basement or foundation structure. Even if you have “successfully repaired” the leak, a weakened basement or foundation can result in more problems that will arise much later.
- DIY Repairs Do Not Address the Problem
Although some basement flooding can result from minor leaks or cracks, basement flooding can occur from various things. These problems include, but are not limited to, drainage system failures, weakened basement structure, the clay bowl effect, or hydrostatic pressure. Patching a hole or crack in the wall is merely a temporary solution at best.
If one does not properly address the source of the problem, basement flooding will just continue to happen time and time again. In fact, this repeated flooding can do more harm than good in the long run. Any amount of water can cause damage to property, even if exposed just once. Continuous exposure to water and a lack of consideration toward the source leave things patched, not fixed.
This answer varies, depending on where you live. However, the general rule to follow is that it is best to perform repairs and take preventative measures when there is a low risk of more flooding.
Early Spring or Summer
Because both Cincinnati and Columbus, OH, experience cold winters packed with snow, it is best to time your repairs or basement upgrades when there is a low risk of increased flooding during these repairs. The following list shows the best times to perform basement flooding prevention and repairs:
- Early spring, when snow has yet to melt in large quantities
- Summer, when there are fewer chances of rain and snowmelt
This is widely variable on the weather that given month and recent weather conditions, however. Sometimes storms can appear in the middle of early spring or there may be bouts of summer rain. Therefore, you should plan for these variables when considering your repairs.
Not Winter or Fall
Although it may seem easier to begin basement flooding repairs or prevention when the snow is still solid, this can actually pave the way for potential basement flooding. This is because many contractors need to excavate the ground or your basement walls to install many preventative measures, such as effective drainage systems. If solid snow is introduced into this installation process, it may inadvertently introduce snow inside your basement and cause flooding if not careful. This is especially true if snow levels are high.
What Are the Problem Signs of Basement Flooding?
Fortunately, the problem signs of basement flooding are relatively obvious. You can find them upon quick inspection of your basement, as well as outside your yard.
In moist environments, mold proliferates quite fast. If you find that a section of your basement wall or floor has spots of mold on it, it is very likely that you have a leak somewhere in your basement, and basement flooding is not far behind.
- Wall or Floor Leaks
Although wall and floor leaks may seem like a minor issue, they can quickly escalate into basement flooding with enough water. Your basement walls and floors are surrounded by large volumes of groundwater, rain, and snow almost every day. If this volume of water outside your basement increases, it can exert a lot of pressure on your basement structure. If the pressure is strong enough, basement flooding can ensue.
- Standing Water
Standing water typically coincides with wall or floor leaks. Pools of water can easily happen when leaks are left unchecked.
- High Water Levels
Exterior water levels, resulting from immense bouts of rain or snowmelt, indicate that your drainage systems are not working as efficiently. As such, your basement is at risk of flooding, especially if it has any cracks, holes, or any other openings that water can flow through.
What Are the Causes of Basement Flooding?
Understanding what causes basement flooding brings you one step closer to finding the proper solution. So, what causes basement flooding?
- Clay Bowl Effect
Before your house is built, contractors excavate the earth beneath your home foundation. Once this is completed, this hole is backfilled with soil that is much looser than before. This loose soil becomes saturated much more easily than dense soil. As such, it can become clay when exposed to large, flowing amounts of water. This is the clay bowl effect.
The clay bowl effect can cause your basement structure to crack because it lacks support from the soil around it. This can pave the way for basement flooding.
- Drainage Failure
Many drainage systems, such as the sump pump, for example, can result in water buildup. Without a working sump pump, water levels around your home can rise significant amounts. As water levels increase, it can take advantage of any basement openings, resulting in flooding.
- Hydrostatic Pressure
Hydrostatic pressure occurs when large amounts of water exert high pressures against your home. Over time, this pressure buildup can force water into your home, entering any crevice, crack, or space that it can.
How Can I Fix Basement Flooding?
Do not lose hope. Fortunately, Ohio Basement Authority offers a wide variety of solutions.
- Drainage Systems
Ohio Basement Authority offers various drainage systems to keep your basement dry and less vulnerable to flooding. These include the interior drain, grated drainpipe, and sump pumps.
The interior drain is noninvasive and can drain water from your basement walls or floors directly to your sump pump for quick drainage. The grated drainpipe lays flat on your basement floor, immediately draining any water that pools around it. Various sump pumps of different drainage powers are also available, all of which have an emergency failure alarm included.
Rely on Your Local Experts At Ohio Basement Authority
Basement flooding is not a pleasant experience for anyone. If you reach out to Ohio Basement Authority, you can rely on decades of experience, our professional-grade equipment and safety gear, and a no-obligation quote on all the work we recommend. Contact us for a free inspection so you can learn about the risk factors that your unique basement may be facing and how quickly and effectively it can be safeguarded for the future.