A concerned man reads on his tablet.

Many homeowners know the anxiety of checking the basement after a heavy rain. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), 99 percent of US counties were impacted by flooding between 1996 and 2019. And that flooding is costly.

Flood claims in 2019 received an average payout of $52,000 from the National Flood Insurance Program.1 Fortunately, there are steps every homeowner can take to minimize the chances of basement flooding. Here are five of the best.

1. Routinely clean gutters and downspouts

Basement floods often begin much higher up in your home where precipitation first hits – your roof. Water runs down the roof and is caught by your gutters, which are responsible for safely funneling it away. But leaves and other debris can build up inside them over time, clogging up your downspouts and causing water to overflow. When this happens, the overflowing water tends to pool at your foundation, gradually increasing the risk of a basement flood. Regularly cleaning out your gutters and downspouts will mitigate this risk, ensuring water can always move through your gutter system and away from your foundation. You can also try to clog-proof your gutters by installing a covered gutter system.

2. Seal basement and foundation cracks

Water can be a sneaky foe, using even the tiniest of entry points to start a flood. You’ll have to respond with diligence, checking regularly for foundation cracks and having them sealed immediately. But don’t wait for signs of trouble to act – having your basement sealed completely is an excellent preemptive move against potential flooding. Close off windows, doors, and other entry points with caulk or weatherstripping to ensure water has no easy way in.

3. Invest in a reliable sump pump system

Sump pump failure can easily spell a flood for your basement if it coincides with heavy rain. Accordingly, one of the best ways to ensure your basement doesn’t flood is to invest in a sump pump you can depend on. While internal failures like blockages or worn impeller blades can disrupt a sump pump, some are simply not designed to handle particularly high volumes of water. Have yours inspected on a regular basis to ensure all is functioning properly and consider upgrading to a higher volume pump for extra peace of mind. It’s also worth noting sump pumps run on electricity, so a backup generator will safeguard you if extreme weather knocks out your primary source of power.

4. Inspect for septic and sewer backup

Septic and sewer backup can be caused by all kinds of mishaps, from accumulated grease inside pipes to one too many flushed paper towels (seriously, don’t flush those). Preventing these backups starts with proper care and consideration on your part (dumping grease in the trash, flushing only safe materials, etc.), but you can get ahead of the problem by having your pipes professionally inspected.

Smart home technology can help you keep tabs on pipes as well, with moisture detectors alerting you to any developing issues. You can also have a backwater valve put in to close your home’s pipes off to anything entering your home.

5. Prevent burst pipes

Every homeowner who has experienced a burst pipe knows how much damage can result. And cold weather isn’t the only culprit. While the changing temperatures certainly do contribute to many burst pipes, others are caused by corrosion, tree roots, or even high water pressure in a clogged or partially blocked section. Make sure your pipes are properly insulated so they don’t freeze during winter months and consider having them inspected for blockages and overall quality.

A little prevention goes a long way in keeping your basement dry. No one really wants to spend time thinking about pipes, but even a single afternoon of planning can help keep you safe for the rest of the year.

It’s also important to know how to protect your wallet in the event damage does occur. Learn how your homeowners insurance policy can protect against water damage and talk to an independent agent about getting yourself all the coverage you need.


[1] “Historical Flood Risk and Costs,” https://www.fema.gov/data-visualization/historical-flood-risk-and-costs (Accessed October 23, 2023).

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