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Water Damage

Water in Basement? 5 Likely Causes (and What to Do Next)

A red bucket and mop sit in a flooded basement.

Call Rainbow Restoration® to get water out of a basement as quickly as possible. Emergency restoration services can help keep an inconvenience from becoming a serious hazard.

Picture this: a torrential downpour, incessant rain beating against your property’s foundation, water pooling around the perimeter, seeping into the basement. Or imagine discovering burst frozen pipes on a chilly winter day, transforming the once-dry basement into an unwanted indoor pool. Depending on the geographical location, either of these scenarios could become a reality.

Water in the basement can be a property owner's worst nightmare, and understanding the root causes — and knowing who to call for basement flooding — can be pivotal in preventing such a distressing situation.

Safeguard your residential and commercial property against common basement flood culprits.

What To Do When There’s Water in Your Basement

Discovering water in the basement can be alarming, but knowing how to respond promptly and who to call for basement flooding is the key to minimizing damage and ensuring everyone’s safety.

If you’re experiencing flooding in your basement:

  • Stay calm: While it's natural to feel anxious, maintaining your composure is crucial for effective decision-making.
  • Take electrical precautions: Prioritize safety by turning off electricity to the basement via the breaker panel. This prevents the risk of electrocution and makes the environment safer for any cleanup or remediation efforts.
  • Call for professional help: Don't waste time contacting professionals for water damage restoration. Call a water damage restoration service immediately. Hiring a professional will allow you to restore any water damage and help prevent mold growth.
  • Contain the spread: If it's safe to do so, attempt to contain the water by using towels, sandbags, or other available materials. This can prevent further damage while waiting for professional assistance.

Causes of Basement Floods

While basement flooding most often occurs during heavy rain, flash floods, or rapid snowmelt in the spring, it can also occur during dry weather. Understanding these common causes of water seeping into a basement is essential for protecting homes and businesses alike.

Diagram of a home labeling the most common causes of water in basements.

Surface Water Inflow

Heavy rain can cause a flash flood when the ground’s ability to absorb water is limited or stops, resulting in excessive surface water flow. With nowhere to go, this surface water pools around foundations and may stream in through basement window wells, walls, or a crack in your foundation.

Poor Drainage

Homes and businesses are usually built with a drainage system to safeguard against the accumulation of excessive groundwater. However, if the water table continues to rise, the drainage system may not be able to channel or stop water from seeping in through cracks and holes in the foundation.

Poor drainage can be caused by:

  • Poorly aligned downspouts: Inadequate slope or improper positioning of downspouts may contribute to water pooling near the foundation, leading to potential basement flooding.
  • Clogged downspouts: When leaves, debris, or dirt collecting in the downspouts are left unchecked, it can obstruct proper water flow and block rainwater from flowing away from the building.
  • Inadequate gutter maintenance: Similarly, debris buildup or overgrown vegetation in gutters can also impede water flow.
  • Insufficient gutter capacity: Too small or improperly sized gutters may overflow during heavy rain.
  • Improper grading: Incorrect slope or leveling around the foundation may contribute to water pooling.
  • Weak footing drains: Ineffective or damaged footing drains can compromise the ability to channel water away from the foundation.
  • Impermeable surfaces: Pavement or concrete surfaces prevent natural water absorption and can contribute to surface water runoff and basement flooding.

Sewer Backup

When a sewer system experiences overflows or blockages, wastewater may flow back into a home or business through basement drains, toilets, and sinks. A sewage backup in a basement can not only result in extensive property damage but also pose serious health hazards due to the presence of harmful pathogens.

Common causes of sewer backups include:

  • Aging sewer lines: Deteriorating sewer pipes can lead to cracks, leaks, and eventual blockages.
  • Tree root infiltrations: Tree roots seeking moisture and nutrients can infiltrate sewer pipes, causing obstructions and backups.
  • Improper disposal of grease or non-flushable items: Pouring grease down drains or flushing non-biodegradable items such as wipes, sanitary products, and paper towels can cause the drains to clog.
  • Blocked municipal sewer systems: Overloads in the municipal sewer system, often during heavy rainfall, can cause backups into individual properties.
  • Lack of sewer system maintenance: Failure to inspect and maintain sewer systems regularly can lead to backups over time.

Effective preventive measures, such as regular sewer line inspections, proper waste disposal practices, and timely maintenance of the municipal sewer system, are crucial to mitigating the risk of basement flooding caused by sewer backups.

Plumbing Issues

Pipe leaks, burst pipes, or faulty plumbing connections can release substantial water, leading to basement flooding. Even minor leaks left unattended can escalate into major problems.

Some of the most common plumbing threats to a basement include:

  • Frozen pipes: When the water inside pipes freezes, it expands, creating pressure that can lead to pipe bursts as the ice obstructs the plumbing's normal flow and structural integrity.
  • Corroded water heaters: An aging water heater is at risk of leaks or ruptures that can release a significant amount of water into the basement.
  • Damaged pipes: If left unchecked, damaged or deteriorated pipes can lead to gradual leaks and eventual water ruptures in the basement.
  • Faulty connections: Poorly sealed or connected plumbing joints may result in water seepage into the basement.
  • Leaking appliances: If not properly maintained, malfunctioning appliances such as washing machines or dishwashers can release water into the basement.

Broken or Improperly Sealed Windows

A poorly sealed or broken window is another potential cause of water in a basement. When windows are compromised due to cracks, shattered glass, or ineffective seals, rainwater and melting snow can easily find their way into the basement.

Additionally, a settling foundation and varying temperatures over the years can cause window seals to deteriorate or the window itself to become misaligned.

Damage to the Foundation

Water intrusion into a basement can also be caused by damage to a home or business's foundation. Weather-related issues that result in flooding and ground erosion can cause a foundation to sink or shift, which can cause cracks. These cracks may allow water to penetrate into basements during periods of heavy rain or flooding.

What To Do for Wet Basement Ceilings or Walls

Addressing soggy basement ceilings or walls requires swift action — failing to address the issue promptly can leave the basement (and its contents) open to dangerous types of mold growth. Take these steps right away:

  • Identify the source: Determine whether the moisture is the result of external factors like leaks or internal sources such as burst pipes.
  • Remove standing water: If there's standing water, turn off the electricity and put on protective gear before entering a basement with standing water.
  • Ensure proper ventilation: Increase airflow in the affected area by using fans and opening windows to expedite drying.
  • Call Rainbow Restoration: Water damage should always be assessed by water damage specialists like Rainbow Restoration. We can help restore the damage and prevent mold growth efficiently and safely.

How To Help Prevent Water in Basement

Preventing basement flooding is not just about maintaining a clean and dry space — it's about safeguarding a property's foundation and creating a healthy environment for those who use the building. Take precautionary steps in and outside the property to help prevent basements from flooding.

Steps to take inside and outside homes or businesses to help prevent water in the basement.

Preventative Steps To Take Outside

Securing a property against basement flooding begins with fortifying its external defenses. From relentless rain to subtle shifts in the immediate topography, external factors play a crucial role in determining whether a basement remains dry or succumbs to water intrusion.

Fortify the property’s exterior:

  • Seal cracks and holes in exterior walls, floors, windows, window wells, and the foundation.
  • Make sure downspouts drain rainwater at least 6 feet away from the exterior walls.
  • Clear gutters and downspouts of leaves and other debris that prevent proper drainage of rainwater from the roof.
  • Assess the grading around the property. The ground should slope away from the foundation to help rainwater drain away naturally.
  • Plant native trees and shrubs around the property to help soak up excess water.
  • Install pavement options that absorb water easily.
  • Determine if a damaged tile system is allowing water to penetrate the ground near the property. As the system ages, repair or replace the perforated pipe surrounding the perimeter of the foundation.
  • Ensure shallow ditches surrounding the building are well maintained and clear of obstructions.

Preventative Steps To Take Inside

Flooding prevention doesn’t just stop at the front door — you should also address potential vulnerabilities inside to reduce the risk of water damage.

Here are key preventative measures to take inside:

  • Have your plumbing and water heater maintained once a year.
  • Set the thermostat to 60 degrees or higher at all times and leave under-sink cabinet doors open to help prevent frozen pipes.
  • Know the location and condition of your property’s sanitary lateral. This is the pipeline that carries wastewater from a building to the main public sewer line. Hire a professional to inspect the lateral every five to 10 years.
  • Install a sump pump in the basement. Maintain it once a year and make sure the setup allows the sump pump to continue working in a power outage.
  • Make an effort to avoid clogging the plumbing system. This means never pouring grease down the sink or flushing items other than tissue paper down the toilet.

Where Are Risks the Highest for Basement Floods?

All properties are near a flood zone — it’s typically just a question of whether it’s in a low-, moderate-, or high-risk area. Still, the areas of the country most likely to flood include:

  • Central California
  • The Northern Great Plains region
  • Southern Texas
  • Along the Mississippi River
  • Around the Great Lakes
  • New England

It's important for property owners across the country to assess their local conditions and take preventive measures to minimize the risk of basement floods and resulting property damage — regardless of regional generalizations.

Who to Call for Basement Flooding

A home or rental property flooding presents a complex problem. While initial flood water removal might seem manageable, here are a few reasons to consider hiring a professional restoration company:

  • Faster recovery: Professionals have the equipment to remove floodwater, disinfect, and restore a property in a more efficient timeframe than a DIY approach.
  • Mold prevention: Experts address hidden moisture to stop mold growth, which can be a serious health hazard and cause more damage down the road.
  • Complete solution: Restoration specialists ensure a comprehensive, safe cleanup, not only addressing the initial crisis but also helping get the space back to its best possible condition, if not better. They can also implement waterproofing to help prevent future flooding.

Call Rainbow Restoration for Water Damage Restoration

Even the most cautious property owners can experience water in a basement from time to time — it’s more about knowing how to quickly address the issue that’ll save personal belongings and professional assets and prevent extensive damage. Even relatively small leaks and puddles can cause major mold damage if left unchecked for more than 24 hours.

If water is pooling in the basement or soggy ceilings and walls occur, call Rainbow Restoration for reliable, fast, and high-quality water damage restoration services before mold takes hold.

FAQ About Water in Basements

Is It Normal To Have a Little Water in the Basement?

An occasional small amount of water in the basement, especially after heavy rain or melting snow, is not uncommon. However, persistent or excessive puddling may indicate more serious issues. Regular monitoring and addressing the root cause of water in a basement can help maintain a dry and mold-free space.

How Can I Tell Where Water Is Coming Into My Basement From?

To determine the source of water in a basement, thoroughly inspect both the interior and exterior of your property. Look for visible signs such as dampness, stains, or pooling water, check the condition of windows, inspect plumbing fixtures for leaks, and monitor the basement during rainfall to pinpoint potential entry points.

Why Is My Basement Filling With Water?

A basement filled with water can be attributed to various factors such as heavy rainfall, poor drainage, foundation cracks, or plumbing issues. Call Rainbow Restoration immediately if a home or business is experiencing water in its basement.

What Do You Do When You Get Water in Your Basement?

If water has been discovered in a basement, act promptly by identifying and addressing the source of the water. Remove standing water using a wet/dry vacuum or pump, ensure proper ventilation, and inspect for plumbing issues or exterior leaks. Consult an emergency service professional, like Rainbow Restoration, for extensive water damage and implement preventive measures such as waterproofing to prevent future flooding.

This article is intended for general informational purposes only and may not be applicable to every situation. You are responsible for determining the proper course of action for your property. Services should be performed by licensed and experienced professionals. Rainbow Restoration is not responsible for any damages that occur as a result of this blog content or your actions. For the most accurate guidance, contact a Rainbow Restoration professional for a custom, on-site assessment.

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