Maintenance can prevent basement flooding


David Toney and Brenna Swider clean up the inches of mud in front of their home on Fenwick Drive in 2011. (Melina Mara/Post)

If you don’t want to walk down to the basement to find photo albums and cat food bowls floating, check your gutters now.

Heavy rains can cause flooding, which can lead to serious structural and other damage to your home. Water can ruin drywall, carpeting, furniture and major appliances, and can cause mold to grow.

The two major causes of basement floods are neglect of routine home maintenance and poor drainage, according to experts. “The number one thing is to keep gutters functional. They shouldn’t sag or spill and should be kept clean of debris,” says J.D. Grewell, a Silver Spring home inspector. “Downspouts should not be damaged, and once water gets to the ground, it should have a splash pad at the bottom of each downspout or a drain to get water away from the foundation.”

Washington’s leafy neighborhoods create challenges. “This time of year, you drive around and see stuff growing out of gutters. Some people think gutters should be cleaned only in the fall, but in many cases they need to be cleaned two to four times a year,” says Tom Gilday, vice president of Gilday Renovations in Silver Spring. Gilday also cautions homeowners not to pile too much mulch around a foundation, because it can cause water to seep into basement walls.

Inspect window wells. “I have seen window wells after a rainstorm that look like aquariums,” Gilday says. “Keep them cleaned out and put a layer of gravel in the bottom. Consider clear plexiglass covers.”

Other ways to prepare for the rainy season:

●If you have a sump pump, test it to make sure it’s working; you might want to invest in a battery backup.

●Consider elevating your furnace, water heater, washer, dryer and electrical panel to raise them out of water’s way.

●Be meticulous about keeping outside stairwell drains clear.

●Stock cleaning supplies: rubber gloves, a mop, a wet vac, a dehumidifier and fans.

●De-clutter your basement: Move important documents upstairs and replace cardboard boxes with plastic containers. Raise items up on concrete blocks.

●Check with an insurance agent about your flood risk and get information about the National Flood Insurance Program, administered by FEMA, by going to www.floodsmart.gov.

As much as you prepare, you can’t always predict where water might show up. Katie and Frank Hopkins moved into their first home, a 1930s Cape Cod in Arlington, the day after the 2012 June derecho. When the warnings about Hurricane Sandy came in, they stocked up on food and water and loaded flashlights with fresh batteries. They cleaned out the basement, figuring it might leak. Then they heard water splashing upstairs: The light fixture in their spare bedroom was dripping water from a leak in the flashing under a dormer window. “We thought we had prepared and were ready,” says Katie Hopkins. “You can never know what is going to happen.”

The home and design coverage of Jura Koncius has taken her inside hundreds of homes, from tiny studios in Penn Quarter to country castles in Warrenton. Jura also hosts the Home Front live chat, Thursdays at 11 a.m. ET.
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