How to defend against flooding in your home or business
Once again, it’s spring in Canada, and the news is filled with images and stories of flooded homes, basements and businesses. The images are daunting and heartbreaking. In extreme cases, there is not much preparation that can be done, besides moving to higher ground. However, in many less severe circumstances, there are things that can be done for early detection and prevention. Here are some tips that can help!
- Assess your landscaping around your building. Overtime for many reasons, such as amateur landscapers, the grading that should move water away from the building’s foundation can be changed by the addition of flower beds etc. Spring is an excellent time to ensure that proper grading allows gravity to take the water away from your building is intact. Make sure flower beds etc. don’t block the flow of water away from your building.
- Your structure should also have well maintained and adequately installed troughs along your eaves and downspouts that direct water at least 6 feet away from your foundation. In older homes, some downspouts were connected to the weeping tiles, or home drains, these should be disconnected and capped. It can overwhelm the drains, and the water will back up into your basement. It also adds stress to the city sewers.
- Budget cuts have reduced street maintenance in many towns and cities resulting in storm drains that are covered in debris or blocked with sand and leaves. Check the street sewer grates near your home or office, and if some simple surface cleaning is required, do it, if the sewer appears to be severely blocked, notify your local city works department asap so it can be cleared professionally. Getting the surface water drained away quickly protects all the properties in the area.
There are also things that can be done inside your home to prevent flooding and to minimize damage should a flood occur.
- If you are in an area vulnerable to flooding and high groundwater it may be wise to have a sump installed in your basement. If you already have a sump pump, consider installing a battery back up, floods are often simultaneous with storms and power outages, so a battery back up may save your basement from water damage.
- If your building is in a city or town with municipal water and sewage, you may want to consider installing a backwater valve. A backwater valve is a backflow prevention device used to prevent outbound water through a dwelling’s drain pipes from re-entering — “backflowing”—into a home. The valve contains a flap that allows water to exit the house but closes to prevent the backflow into the home. Some municipalities have subsidy programs that will help cover some or all of the installation cost of this valve.
- Your building’s water supply should have a shut-off valve where the supply pipe enters your building. Make sure this valve is in good working order (not seized up) and if you are leaving your place for extended periods, turn the supply off. This will prevent damage from a burst pipe in your absence.
- To limit your exposure to water damage, whenever possible put appliances, like furnaces, on pedestals to get them up off the basement floor. Keep all electric wiring and outlets as high as possible on basement walls. Try not to store heirlooms, and valuable documents in the basement, especially on the floor.
- Your home Alarm System can also help. If you haven’t already added water detection devices in the basement and your laundry room, it’s time to ask your service provider. These devices can prevent 10’s of thousands of dollars in water damage through early detection.
- Although the weather is warming up now, we know in Canada the winters are long. A significant cause of water damage is a burst pipe due to it being frozen. Add a low-temperature sensor to your alarm monitoring plan to alert you BEFORE your pipes freeze.
- Check your insurance policy. Many standard insurance policies have very limited or NO flood coverage. Ask about the cost to add flood insurance in your home, especially if you are in an ear prone for flooding.
It’s essential to have a plan in place of what to do if the threat of flood occurs. If you need to evacuate the building have a list ready of “to do’s”. It should include taking essential documents with you including but not limited to: Home insurance papers, passports etc. and it may be a good idea to turn off the gas and electricity. However, contact local authorities for advice on what to do and where to go! Safety first!