Reduce Basement Flood Risks

Evaluate the Risk

Answer the following questions to help determine your level of basement flood risks:

  • Does the basement flood every year at approximately the same time?
  • Does the basement flood during random intervals?
  • Where is the basement flooding?
    • Is it at the top of the basement wall?
    • At the bottom of the wall?
    • Through a floor drain?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, refer to the specific guidance below about location and retrofit options to minimize or eliminate the risk of water entering your basement. Some guidance may require a plumbing or construction professional to complete the project. 

Flooding Solutions

Inspect the location where water is entering and consider these solutions:

  • Extend and re-direct the downspouts.
  • Reshape the landscaping around the foundation of the building.
  • Caulk any cracks on the interior of the wall around where the water is entering.
  • If the entire wall is damp or water is entering through multiple wall surfaces, this may be a sign of a faulty or missing exterior water proofing membrane. Consider hiring a licensed contractor to install a waterproofing membrane.
  • For an unfinished basement, consider applying an internal sealant that can be painted on interior surface of basement walls. Frequently, these products require constant maintenance or they will stop working.
  • If water is entering near the top of the wall in one location, an improperly sloped landscape angled toward the building could be the cause.

Other location-based solutions

  • If the water appears to be entering the building near the foundation or through a floor drain:
    • Install a “French Drainage” system around the perimeter of the building or at least in areas subject to frequent flooding.
    • Consider hiring a licensed contractor to install the French Drain.
    • Ensure that the drain has a method for diverting the water away from the foundation. The drain should empty into the primary storm drainage system, a retention pond or other appropriate location.

Using Sump Pumps

  • Install a sump pump with a battery backup system:
    • This may require demolition of a portion of the basement floor to install the pump.
    • To be effective, the sump pump needs to be away from the basement walls and have positive drainage away from the building.
  • Sump pumps should be tested at least once a year, preferably in the early spring, prior to the “wet season.”
    • Test the system if a storm is approaching, and make sure the sump pit does not contain any debris that will clog the sump’s inlet pipe.
    • Ensure the outlet pipe is clear and the water flows freely to the designated area.
  • If the sump does not operate properly, check the power source for the pump.
    • If you cannot determine the problem yourself, contact a professional to diagnose the problem.

Choosing the Right Materials

If you have a basement, there is a good chance at some point water could get inside. Choosing the right interior finishes and furnishings will help minimize the risk of damage and loss should some flooding occur.

Here are some examples to get you thinking about how to make smart choices in this location of your home or business:

  • Choose wood-based products over paper-backed products for walls. For example, use wainscoting instead of drywall. 
  • Choose area rugs, which can be rolled up if a flood threatens or removed to dry out after a flood, instead of wall-to-wall carpeting.
  • Place electrical outlets higher up on walls to avoid contact with water should flooding occur.
  • Always place electronics on higher shelves or keep them up off the floor. 
  • Choose plastic storage options for important records or papers or store them on a higher floor.