Basement Flooding in Lapeer

Basement flooding in Lapeer

Basement flooding in Lapeer has been an issue recently, with heavy rain and more to be expected. Knowing how to prevent basement flooding and also what to do if it occurs can help you save thousands in water damage cleanup. Even the most well-prepared basements can flood. If you’ve experienced basement flooding in Lapeer, then call Aladdin’s.

Why Lapeer Basements Flood

Flooding of basements can occur any time. It can happen to anyone who has a basement, even if never flooded before. While most often flooding occurs during big rains or rapid snowmelts in the spring, it can occur even during dry weather.

There are a number of reasons why basements flood. Flooding can occur by seepage or flow through the walls or foundation floor, from surface water sources, or by a sanitary or storm sewer backup. Please remember:

Basements are inherently prone to flooding. They are, by definition, the lowest level of a building, typically built partly or entirely below ground level.

Groundwater is water that is naturally located below the ground’s surface. The groundwater level can be, at times, above the level of the basement floor. In some locations, groundwater can be above the level of the floor at all times.

Sewers are also located in the ground. This includes all varieties – storm, sanitary, and combined. While in most cases, sewers are below the level of the basement, the water level in the sewers can be, at times, above the level of the basement floor.

Gravity does its best to move water from high to low. If either the groundwater level or sewer level around your home is above the basement floor, gravity will try to move that water into your basement. A crack in the foundation floor, for example, provides gravity with a perfect path for water to be pushed into the basement. Sanitary sewers always have a path to the home, by design, and it is called the sanitary sewer lateral. While under normal conditions, the lateral allows water to flow from your home to the sewer, there is the potential for water to move from the sewer toward your home.

In order to understand why a basement might flood, it is important to show the more common pathways, intentional or not, that permit water to flow into or around your basement. Not all homes in Lapeer have a storm sewer lateral, but most just have a single sanitary sewer lateral.

Most common problems are on private property, or are things that are within a home owner’s ability to change – whether by regular maintenance or by specific projects to eliminate or reduce potential flooding sources. Some of these problems include:

  • Poor lot grading: the sloping of the land is promoting water flow toward the house
  • Unmaintained foundation: cracks have developed that allow water to seep in
  • Problems with pipes: both the weeping tile and laterals have problems

Flooding During Dry Weather

Water damage in Lapeer homes

Sometimes, your basement can flood during dry weather. While not nearly as common, it could reflect structural or plumbing issues. Some common reasons for basement flooding in Lapeer during dry weather include:

  1. A blocked or failed sanitary lateral. The sanitary sewer lateral, just like the shingles on your roof, or your paved driveway, is a feature that will degrade over time. As a lateral degrades, several things can happen. For example, tree roots might penetrate and the lateral might collapse because of gradual deterioration. These scenarios can block the lateral, resulting in a sewage backup. In this case, it will be your own home’s domestic wastewater that floods your basement. The only way for the wastewater to drain becomes the lowest fixture in the home – usually the floor drain or a basement level shower stall, sink or toilet. Your lateral, just like your roof, your driveway or windows, needs maintenance, and ultimately needs to be replaced or rehabilitated. Talk to a licensed plumber, who can carry out an assessment. Another reason for blockage of a sanitary sewer is simply due to what is being flushed down the toilet. Toilets are for human waste and toilet paper, and that is pretty much it!
  2. Foundation drainage failure. Subdivisions are sometimes constructed in lower-lying areas that are generally wetter than others. In such cases, the foundation drainage system, whether by gravity or by pump, must work continuously to keep the ground water level around the foundation lower than the basement floor. Just as with sewer laterals, gravity foundation systems, often called weeping tiles, may degrade over time or get plugged by fine sediments. As a result, the ground around the foundation will cease to drain itself by gravity. In other cases, sump holes in the foundation are constructed to accommodate a sump pump. These devices pump out the water around the foundation and either discharge it to the lawn, storm sewer, or illegally to the sanitary sewer. It is possible for these pumps to fail, or simply be unable to keep up with the incoming water, or get plugged. This flood type will be discussed further in the wet weather section.
  3. Water supply-line break or hot-water tank failure. Sometimes, a flood is due to a break in the home’s internal water supply plumbing or failure of the hot-water tank. This can result from aging plumbing or equipment, a puncture of a pipe during construction, or freezing-induced splitting of a pipe.

Basement Flooding in Lapeer in Wet Weather

Water damage cleanup

Wet weather can obviously cause flooding in basements. While rain is the most common culprit, melting snow and ice can also create problems. Here are common causes of basement floods in Lapeer due to wet weather:

  • Surface inflow, or overland flooding. During periods of heavy rain or rapid snowmelt, surface water may pool around the house, or accumulate in hard surface depressions such as driveways or roads adjacent to a home. During extreme weather events, this water can flow into the home. Close proximity to a natural stream or road-side ditch can also present a risk. Generally, proper grading on the property will reduce the risk of surface water getting into your home.
  • Foundation drainage failure. Homes usually have some form of a drainage system built around them. This safeguard promotes the movement of water away from the basement and blocks the entry of water into the building. For the purposes of our discussion, the waterproofing aspects of a foundation are considered part of the foundation drainage system. Within this category, there are three main causes for basement flooding, all generally a result of excessive groundwater around the foundation.
    1. Seepage. If the water table rises, water can enter the basement via cracks, holes and other unintended flow paths. This is generally considered to be part of the aging process of the home and the materials used to build it. Regardless of the condition of the drainage materials and pipe work around the foundation, if water can enter the foundation floor or walls via cracks and holes or other defects, it likely will do so during heavy rains, ground-thaw or snow-melt periods, when there’s lots of water in the ground. Settlement of the lot grading around the building and downspouts discharging run-off water too close to the home can increase the quantity of water around the foundation and increase the risk of water entering via cracks.
    2. Sump pump failure. If your basement is equipped with a sump and sump pump(s), it can mean that the foundation drainage system of your home requires some assistance to keep up with the groundwater around it, or it simply cannot drain adequately by gravity to the surrounding ground or storm sewer. New homes are required to have sump pumps in these situations. Sump pumps, when working properly and adequately maintained, can safely pump excess water above the foundation and away from it. Ideally, this water should be routed to the lawn or storm sewer. If the pumps cannot keep up, or fails to operate (perhaps due to a power failure, or malfunction), the groundwater level around the foundation can rise to the point that it flows up and out of the sump onto the basement floor.
    3. Weeping tile failure. Over time, the foundation drainage system can deteriorate. As a result, the weeping tile system can fail. This may be, due to a partially- or fully-collapsed pipe, or due to sediments plugging the pipes. If the weeping tile fails, the drainage of water around the foundation is either impeded or blocked altogether. As a result, the groundwater level around the foundation gets too high and it may spill into the basement via the sump, if one exists, or via leaks in the foundation. In situations where there are leaks in the sewer lateral or plumbing beneath the foundation, groundwater can inundate the sanitary lateral and restrict the flow of sanitary wastewater. This could result in both groundwater and/or wastewater entering the basement by way of the floor drain or lowest sanitary fixture.
  • Sewer backup. Most homes in the City of Lapeer only have one connection to the sewer system, and that is the sanitary sewer lateral. However, newer homes built in the last 20 years, as well as some other older neighborhoods, have storm sewer laterals as well, for the purpose of foundation and downspout drainage.

    These laterals form either one or two intentional direct connections to the municipal storm and/or sanitary collection systems. The municipal storm and sanitary systems operate well and are maintained through a variety of municipal maintenance programs.

    However, when a blockage occurs, or when the systems are overloaded during heavy rains, a sewage backup can occur into a building. You can contact the Lapeer County Drain Commission for questions. Here are a few reasons why:
  1. Sewers are full. When the sewers are full, this is called a “surcharged condition”. It means the pipe system is full and the water level in the manholes may rise well above the top of the pipe. If the sewage level in the system exceeds that of your basement, flows can be blocked, or worse, sewage can flow towards your home. When this occurs, the wastewater may enter your basement by way of the lowest fixture, which is usually a floor drain, shower drain, sink, washbasin or toilet. The underlying cause of this is excess water in the sewer system, which ultimately overloads the sewer with more water than it was designed for. Excess water generally comes from leaks in sewer-mains and sewer laterals, inflow from surface features as well as illegally-connected, private-side sources including foundation drains, sump pumps and downspouts. The technical term for this is “extraneous flow” or “inflow and infiltration”.
  1. Flow restriction. Any situation that puts additional flow into the sewer lateral may make the problems of a partially- or fully-blocked sewer lateral worse. If flow is restricted, there is more chance a sewer backup can happen.

In summary, there are several different circumstances that can result in basement flooding. So how can you stop it?

Prevent Basement Flooding in Lapeer

 1. Undertake a plumbing investigation on your home

Part of reducing the risk of basement floods is to understand how your drainage and plumbing work. Every home is different, and homes over time have been built with ever changing building practice and building codes. Things that are valuable to know about your home’s plumbing include:

  • Where is your sanitary sewer lateral located? Do I have trees on top of it?
  • Does your home also have a storm sewer lateral? If so, where does it go?
  • Do you have a backwater sanitary valve on your lateral? Do you know how to maintain it?
  • How does your foundation drainage work? Is it connected in to the sanitary sewer?
  • Do you have a sump and sump pumps? If yes, where do they discharge?
  • Where do your downspouts go? Are they going into the sanitary sewer?

To understand these elements of your home’s plumbing, you may wish to engage a licensed plumber who can conduct specialized testing or inspection, perhaps through using a video camera.

Sometimes it is difficult to figure out how the foundation drainage works and where it drains to, and a video inspection may not be enough. Some of this learning may require some extra efforts from specialized contractors, such as camera inspections or dye-testing. The City and Utilities Kingston may have some of this information which is why it is worthwhile speaking to your municipality first.

2. Understand your insurance coverage

Your insurance does not cover any flood damages related to “overland flooding”, including flooding that is caused by heavy rainfall, riverine flooding and all other sources of overland flooding. This also includes flooding occurring due to cracks in the foundation, or up through the sump, should any sump pumps fail to operate properly.

Typical home insurance, on the other hand, does offer coverage for sewer backup, whether from the storm or sanitary sewer system.

This coverage is not necessarily automatic. It is prudent to verify with your insurer that you are insured for sewage backups, and to review the stipulations of that coverage. For example, what would happen to your coverage if you were to make a claim? How does it affect your rates, or insurability? Learn about this aspect of your coverage to understand the implications and know what is covered and what is not. If your home is not insurable due to previous flooding claims, find out what you can do to reinstate coverage, if anything.

3. Know your responsibilities as a homeowner

As a homeowner, you are responsible for your connections to the municipal systems, and for what you put into those connections. In summary though, a few items that are noteworthy for the average home owner to know and understand:

  • The sewer lateral has shared ownership. The municipality is responsible for the portion from the property line to the sewer main. The homeowner is responsible for the portion on private-property, generally from the property line to the home. Responsibility includes general maintenance and upkeep of this connecting pipe.
  • Sanitary sewage is the only thing that is permitted to be discharged to the sewer, and this means that connections from roof leaders, sump pumps and weeping tiles are all considered illegal connections (Clause 3.11). Not only do these connections increase your own risk of flooding, they also increase the risk of your neighbours flooding, and increase the occurrence of sewage bypasses to the environment.

Lifestyle and use of space

There are a number of simple things a homeowner can do to reduce their risk of basement flooding.

4. Avoid pouring fats, oils, and grease down the drain

Fats, oils and grease can cause a sewage backup because they have a tendency to solidify and accumulate in your internal plumbing, the sanitary lateral or the sewer main. While fat, oil and grease may be liquid when warm, they quickly cool and solidify as they flow through the plumbing pipe network. Flushing down with hot-water generally does not eliminate this risk, it may just get the substance a bit further down into the plumbing system.

The municipality will not take responsibility for any blockage due to fat, oil or grease accumulation and blockage that is found on any portion of the lateral.

5. Reduce household water-use during heavy rains

While a rainy day may seem like a great time to get some domestic chores done, including doing laundry or running the dishwasher, it does increase flood risk for yourself and possibly your neighbours. To reduce the risk and reduce the load on the sewer system, wait until a few hours after heavy rains to undertake heavy water-use practices in the home. This helps you and your neighbours!

This is particularly important if you have a backwater sanitary valve on your sanitary sewer. If the backwater sanitary valve is closed because the sewer is full, you risk flooding your home since your own domestic wastewater will not be able to drain to the sewer main.

6. Avoid storage on your basement floor

The lowest level of your home is your basement floor, and it is at the greatest risk of getting flooded. The basement floor is where water will accumulate first, and anything stored on the floor is at the greatest risk. If you do need to store items on the floor, consider lifting them up a bit on shelving or supports, or using water-tight containers.

7. Keep the nearest storm drains clear of debris

Catch basins are the storm sewer grates located on the street, and they are responsible for storm runoff drainage to the storm sewer. In some cases, you might even have one in your front or back yard. Often, particularly in the spring after snowmelt or in the fall when the leaves drop off the trees, catch basin grates can get blocked by debris that accumulates on top of them. This may cause or worsen localized street flooding, which may increase the risk of high groundwater levels and possibly surface flooding of neighboring areas including homes, all occurrences that are not covered by insurance. If you know of a catch basin outside your house on the road or even on your lawn, or neighbor’s lawn, consider taking ownership of it and keeping it clear of debris. This simple activity might save you or your neighbor from flood problems.

8. Seal the cracks in your foundation walls and floor

As mentioned earlier, while some insurers may offer it as an extra provision to your home insurance policy, in most cases, home insurance does not cover floods occurring from surface-water or ground-water getting into your basement, whether by direct overland routes of via cracks or holes in your foundation walls or floor.

As with anything, foundations deteriorate over time. With this deterioration, and potential construction flaws and differential settling, cracks may form in your foundation, either on the walls or on the floor. When the groundwater level around your home is high, it may submerge these cracks and pressurize them to the point where they leak water. Leakage rates may be minimal, but they can also be substantial, depending in how much water there is near the crack, and how big the crack is. So, just like you get the shingles on your roof replaced, say every 10-15 years, it is also important to maintain your foundation.

In many cases, you may be able to simply seal the cracks from inside the basement, without any need to dig. But for larger cracks, or particularly persistent ones, contracting the help of professionals may be required as these may be candidates for more substantial repairs done on the exterior of the house. You may wish to flip through the City’s Yellow Pages for “Foundation Repair” to help find a suitable contractor.

9. Maintain your eavestroughs and downspouts

One good way to ensure effective drainage of your roof is to maintain your eavestroughs and downspouts. Ensure they are clear of debris and not partially or fully plugged. Plugged eaves and downspouts may result in water filling up and spilling over and discharging to locations close to the foundation. In addition, blockages allow for water to freeze and expand and break apart the seam on downspouts, such that water may spill out down the wall.

A big rainfall is a great time to take a walk around your home, and make sure everything is working as it should.