During the winter, you need to prepare for seasonal issues like frozen and bursting pipes. Once the snow starts to melt and the temperatures warm up, it’s easy to assume that you’re in the clear. The pipes have made it through the frigid months unscathed and your basement has seen no sign of water damage.
Sadly, your worries shouldn’t disappear with the winter weather because the next season comes with a different plumbing catastrophe: basement flooding.
Spring is a risky time for basement flooding because it generates a lot of moisture. The first factor that contributes to this increase in moisture is called spring thaw — when the weather warms up the layers of snow and ice melt, pooling into the ground.
If the climb in temperature is gradual, the patches of snow and ice will slowly shrink. Ideally, there should be enough moisture to seep into the soil, without impacting the infrastructure surrounding it. If the temperatures shoot up suddenly, the snow and ice melt too quickly. The amount of water can’t be easily absorbed by the soil or redirected by municipal sewer systems.
The water made by snowmelt can become disastrous when it combines with rainfall. Heavy rainfall can create freshet — this is the overflowing of streams that can spill into residential areas and cause flooding. Homes built near shorelines will be more likely to suffer from flood damages during spring rainstorms.
Certain areas of the GTA will be more susceptible to flooding because there is nowhere for the water to go. The paved surfaces of roads, sidewalks, parking lots and rooftops can’t absorb any of the rain. Instead, the water collects into something called urban run-off that pushes its way into public spaces and overwhelms storm drains. The same percentage of precipitation would create a lot less damage in a grassy field than a downtown underpass.
When thawing snow and rainfall combine, basement flooding can happen in several ways. If basement windows are not closed or completely sealed, pooling water will simply spill inside the house. If all the exits are sealed, then water came still come through the foundation from below. Finally, basement flooding can happen because of sewage back-up. When the sewer system is overwhelmed, the overflow can move into nearby plumbing systems. In the middle of a storm, you could see back-up spilling out of your floor drains or basement toilets.
What can you do to prevent basement flooding?
There are a lot of steps that you can take to ward off basement flooding, whether it comes from water intrusion or sewer back-up. You can’t control precipitation or snowmelt, but you can control how your house responds to those problems.
The first thing you should do is hire a plumber for their drain and sewer cleaning services as soon as possible. Think about the floor drain in your basement laundry room. If there is water intrusion, it can stop water from pooling on the floor and reaching your valuables. A clogged or broken floor drain won’t be much help.
It may not be easy to tell when you have a malfunctioning drain, especially if it’s one that doesn’t get used every day. One sign that you have a broken drain is the powerful smell of sewage. The odour signals that there is sewer back-up present in the drain system because of a clog, break or disjoint. The drain cleaning services will help you get rid of basement smells today to give your nose some relief and to prevent plumbing problems in the future.
To stop water from intruding through the foundation, you should get a sump pump installed. A sump pump will take all of the groundwater collected from the weeping tile, divert it through a pipe and then send it a safe distance away from the house.
If you already have a sump pump, you should give it a routine check-up because basements can flood after a sump pump failure. To avoid a sump pump failure, follow these simple tips:
1. Test out the device at least once a year
2. Remove any debris in the pit, filter and discharge pipe
3. Get it replaced if it’s too old
4. Get a plumber to inspect it and ask for their professional opinion
Always have a backup plan installed, just in case the power goes out and shuts the sump pump off. A battery-operated generator can keep the machine going even when the house has no electricity. A power outage can easily happen during a heavy rainstorm, which is when you’ll need the pump to be up and running.
A backwater valve is the best tool to prevent basement flooding from sewer backup — you’ll also see it called a backflow prevention device. The Insurance Bureau of Canada recommends homeowners get the valve installed if they don’t want to deal with the disaster in their basement.
The valve is inserted inside of your main sewer line, which connects your home plumbing system with the city’s wastewater system. Inside the valve is a cap that is used to block any back-up from pushing its way into the house’s drains. If the wastewater system is overwhelmed during a storm and sends the contents toward the house, the cap will flip up. It acts as a drawbridge, protecting the home from an unwanted intrusion.
The great thing about the cap is that it only stops the city’s flow from coming into your plumbing — but it doesn’t stop the flow coming from your house. It will allow all of your household waste to join the municipal system. The valve is used to turn the sewer line into a one-way passage, so you don’t wake up with foul-smelling sewage pouring out your basement shower drains, toilet drains and floor drains.
Another tip for avoiding basement flooding is to maintain the efficiency of your home’s rooftop drainage system because it can send water directly into the house when it’s clogged. Clear any debris like leaves, sticks and garbage out of the eavestroughs and downspouts that could block the flow of runoff. When the ground isn’t slick with ice or mud, use a ladder to inspect the eavestroughs, dig out the contents with a gardening trowel and rinse them clean with a hose.
Check the length of the downspouts. They are designed to carry all of the roof water out of the eavestroughs and deposit it away from the house. If they are too short, they will send water close to the foundation, where it will pool and enter through windows, cracks and other vulnerabilities. Make sure that they are at least two metres long. You can get an extension from a hardware store and install it yourself.
If you want to be extremely thorough, here are some more ways to prevent basement flooding during rainstorms and times of heavy snowmelt:
1. Seal window wells
2. Caulk cracks in exterior walls
3. Add more green space for increased water absorption
4. Clear debris from drainage swales
Why should you do this now?
Time is of the essence. If you want to secure your property throughout the rainy season, you should do it as soon as possible. You will be relieved when you turn on the news in the morning and hear about flooded basements and rain drenched neighbourhoods, knowing that you managed to dodge that disaster.
Even if you feel like it’s too late because the snowmelt isn’t as severe, it doesn’t mean that the possibility of flood damage isn’t real. It can reach you later in the season. In May 2018, there was a record-breaking rainfall that caused so much flooding that the Toronto Islands had to be closed to the public. A total of 40.6 millimetres of rain fell. The original record was set in 1953 with 34.3 millimetres of rain.
The Provincial Flood Forecasting and Warning Workshop found that Ontario will likely witness more worst-case-scenario storms and floods because of climate change. The predictions aren’t definite, but they show real concern about recent changes in the weather system. Hurricanes are becoming more frequent and intense, which influences storms in the GTA. The region may not be in the eye of the storms, but it’s still facing harsh consequences from being in hurricane peripheries.
If there’s no change in how the country tackles climate change, you can be sure that more record-breaking rainfalls will happen in the upcoming years. It’s better to prepare ahead of time before your house suffers the damage from one of the inevitable downpours.
We can’t stop the storms from coming, but we can help you guard your house against them. We offer speedy, high-quality services at an affordable price. If you need further proof that we are dedicated to customer satisfaction, read our testimonials from past clients and see why we are rated 4.9 out of 5 stars in reviews. The rating is based on convenience, price, quality and overall experience.
Snowmelt is an essential part of the transition from winter into spring and rainstorms are important for the sake of plant growth — as the saying goes, “April showers bring May flowers.” But these positive aspects of the season can come with negative side-effects for unprepared homeowners.
Without plumbing protections, the weather means flooded basements, moisture damage and expensive repairs. If you’re not careful, the lovely progression from the winter into spring will be more of a watersoaked ordeal.