This guest post is written by Greg Fontaine. Greg is the owner of A&E Construction, and he understands basement drainage well.
Many people throughout the East Coast suffered from home damage caused by Hurricane Irene and the recent storms. Even in central New Jersey, we felt the impact as several homeowners in the Princeton area experienced basement flooding that caused thousands of dollars in damages. In response to this, here are solutions to basement flooding and how to take preventative measures such as installing a sump pump to keep your home secured and dry.
Fixing Drainage Problems
Most basement flooding problems are simply drainage problems on the outside of your house. Therefore, the first step is to start on the outside by examining the exterior perimeter. Check that you have a good slope in place to direct water away from the foundation walls. Take a look at your gutters to make sure that they are not clogged and that downspouts are directed away from the house so that discharged water is not flowing towards your home.
After observing the perimeter of your house, if you happen to note any ground depressions or water puddling near the foundation, there are 3 basic steps that you can take to correct this.
1. Rake back any mulch and then add new top soil that is tamped and sloped away from your house.
2. Install three inches of landscape plastic around the perimeter of your home. Following this, rake back mulch or stone to reduce erosion (this will also add nice curb appeal to the look of your home).
3. Connect your down spouts with underground pipes to lower areas away from the foundation.
Sump Pump Installation
In order for your sump pump to work well, there must be good communication under and around the basement concrete slab. Most houses today are currently built with the sump pit installed before the basement concrete slab is poured so that the crushed stone and perimeter pipe tie into the sump pit.
Older homes often have sump pump problems because their basements do not include either open or closed perimeter drains (also referred to as “French Drains”). An open French drain is simply a slot of concrete cutout to the subsoil level around the outside of the basement that routes water to the sump pit for pumping to the outside of the house.
A closed French drain is designed the same way but may include drilling of the lower wall block to relieve water pressure. Closed French drains are also effective because they contain corrugated plastic that captures and directs water into the trough slot.
A basement without the French drain system is prone to poor drainage under the concrete slab. The concrete slabs in older basements generally lack good communication to the sump pit because they are poured directly on top of subsoil.
If you have good drainage to the sump pit, you can begin installing your system. For an emergency backup to be effective, it requires a consistent setup.
Two submersible pumps are recommended. Set them at two levels with two separate discharge pipes, and on two separate electrical circuits. Setting up your system like this can protect your basement from the many pitfalls that result in sump pump failure.
- Installing two sump pumps at different levels protects your house against single pump failure and doubles the pumping capacity if flooding should occur.
- Putting two separate discharge pipes in protects against possible line blockage from snow, ice or leaves. These pipes will also increase the water discharge volume by reducing back pressure in the case that flooding occurs and both pumps are running.
- Plugging each pump into a separate electrical circuit protects your home against electrical failure. If your pump should fail, you run the risk that it will likely trip the circuit breaker. Should this happen when your pumps are connected into just one circuit, you will lose both pumps.
- Purchasing a portable electric generator and several long extension cords is key to being able to run your pumps and refrigerator during a power outage. A portable generator is often a better idea than a battery backup system, because most battery backup systems don’t have the same longevity or amperage required to pump water for a significant amount of time.
- Once you install your sump pump, a final recommendation is contacting your homeowner’s insurance company and having them add Backup of Sewer & Drains Rider to your policy (costs approximately $50-$75 more per year). This added insurance covers your house in the event that electrical power goes out and/or your sump pump fails due to some mechanical failure.