We can’t control the weather but we can prepare for the inevitable onslaught of high waters after heavy rains or melting snow. Here are suggestions to avoid or at least limit damage from water.
Give your sump pump a check-up.Give your sump pump a visual inspection to ensure rust is not a problem. Clean the pit and pump. Fill the pit with water to test how effectively it is working and evaluate if you should add a backup pump. See that water is freely flowing from the discharge hose and check that the hose is clearing water far enough away from the house that it is not coming back to the foundation. Be sure it is discharging to property that slopes away from any buildings.
Save valuables from water damage at higher ground.
Important family records (tax records, insurance policies, legal documents) as well as personal valuables (photos, videos, books, yearbooks, etc) should be elevated well above levels flood damage could cause. Move valuables to top shelves or upstairs levels when possible.
Move hazardous materials to higher locations.
Materials that could be considered hazardous, such as cleaning products, oil or paint, should be moved to locations above possible flooding.
When there is a possibility that sewers can back up into your home, install drain plugs. There a several effective products on the market. You might try a plug designed with an expanding rubber middle and metal plates at top and bottom.
Toilets can be unbolted from the floor and the outlet pipe can closed off with a plug similar to the floor drain plug above. Showers can also be plugged. Generally basement sinks and downstairs washing machines have drains far enough above floor level that they won’t back up but these drains can be capped if you choose to be extra cautious.
Clear the house foundation from snow.
A 1″ per foot slope away from your home is effective but snow needs to be moved three to feet feet from the foundation to reduce potential trouble.
Clear window wells of water.
Build up the earth around window wells so water will drain safely away. If necessary create temporary channels and dams to circumvent water from accessing window wells.
Ensure that downspouts are draining away from house.
This is a common oversight that can cause water damage. Make sure downspout extensions are in the down position or use flexible tubing so that melting snow can drained away from the house.
Appliances should be shut off at the breaker panel or fuse box. Large appliances like washes, driers and refrigerators should be raised up on wood or cement blocks– you want to keep their motors away from flood water.
Limit electricity to parts of the house safe from flooding
Don’t get a false sense of safety when water levels are below outlets. Motors of electrical appliances like freezers, washers/dryers and furnaces pose potential shock dangers to anyone working in a basement that has been flooded. Fuses should be unscrewed and breakers turned off but never while standing in water. You can use a dry plastic or wooden pole to switch off electrical breakers or you can stand on a crate or block of wood to avoid contact with water. When the situation is too dangerous call your electrical supplier’s office to have them shut off power.