Most lakes area residents don’t live in flood plains, but basement floods can happen to anyone, and spring may be too late for prevention efforts.
“In the summer of 2012 we did have a number of flood claims that occurred mid-summer. My own house was one of them,” said Chris Hanneken of Hanneken Insurance in Pine River. “In western Cass County, some areas had up to eight inches of rain during that one rainfall. There was too much water in a short period of time.”
Hanneken Insurance averages three to four flood claims a year even though few clients live in a flood plain.
Now is the time to make preparations to prevent spring flooding. By the time the ground thaws next spring it may be too late. The following advice is from professionals to take action now and be ready for spring.
Construction and landscaping are the keys to home flood protection. The use of gradients, drain tile and gutters can go a long way in coaxing water away from your home and into more preferred drainage areas.
William Field, owner of Field Landscaping, a business that has provided landscaping from Brainerd to Walker, and Ray Schrupp of Schrupp Excavating, which serves much of the same area, agree that gradient is the key.
“Getting the grade right is probably the most important. You have to get the water away from the house. Six inches of drop in the first 10-12 feet is pretty good,” Schrupp said.
Field said it’s important that driveways, slopes and yards don’t drain toward the house.
“The house has to sit high and dry on that 5-7 percent knoll. All water off the roof, the hills, the yard — nothing can aim toward the house and it all has to go toward approved drainage areas,” he said.
Homes should also have rain gutters that extend 10 feet from the house.
“Rain gutters are huge. If you don’t have rain gutters on your house and you’ve got a couple of roof angles that come together to form an inside corner where you’ve got all that water dumping into a corner of your house, there’s no way it can run away fast enough,” Hanneken said. “You’re going to have problems.”
Field said lawn and gardens can make a difference.
“Keep the lawn about five feet back from the house. No irrigation or water from the lawn should get near the foundation,” Field said. “Slope the soil at 5 to 7 percent away from the house. Keep the plants and the flowers a minimum of about three feet from the house and on that slope.”
What if water does end up pooling next to your house? Most homes today are built with a ring of “drain tile” around the foundation. This is a flexible, perforated pipe installed even with or below your foundation.
Most water that seeps in next to the walls goes into the drain tile and drains harmlessly away into an approved drainage area — be it a rain garden, retention basin or some other county-approved receptacle.
Some older homes do not have drain tile, and there is the very rare chance that drain tile may collapse if installed improperly. In either of these cases, installing new drain tile may still be an option.
“It depends on the additions they have,” Schrupp said. “Most houses have drain tile around them already, but most houses that have trouble have had trouble since the beginning and they are used to it.”
Homeowners should also be aware of the high water mark in the ground, and the elevation of nearby lakes.
For more information, consult with your local county for proper drainage practices. Most counties have a document called a “Stormwater Management Plan” that provides detailed information about what happens to the water that runs off your roof and where you are allowed to drain it off.
Even if your home is safeguarded against basement flooding, you should still be prepared.
One way to prepare is by buying flood insurance. Regular homeowner’s insurance has very strict guidelines for what it will cover.
“On a regular home insurance policy, surface flooding is excluded. But if you have plumbing failure in your home — if a toilet overflows, if a pipe bursts or in the winter if you have your plumbing freeze up and it floods your house — that type of flooding is covered by a homeowner’s policy,” Hanneken said.
Hanneken said flood insurance costs about $400 a year for those outside of a flood plain and has its limits. Valuables in a basement, such as electronics in a finished entertainment room, might not be covered.
It is a good idea to keep valuable and irreplaceable items out of your basement or off the floor. Also, be sure to purchase flood insurance early. Flood insurance has a 30-day waiting period, and if you wait until the last minute you will not be covered at all.
Servpro co-owner Greg Arends said the types of materials that you finish your basement with are key to making cleanup easier and less costly after a flood.
Arends said ceramic tile is the best option for your basement because other flooring absorbs and traps water and can grow mold or warp. Carpet is acceptable as long as there is no moisture barrier that might prevent successful drying following a flood event. He also said moisture and mold resistant drywall is available for basement applications.
If your basement does get a little moist next spring, don’t despair. You have options.
First, act fast. You have three to four days to lessen the impact of water damage. Beyond that time frame, water begins to turn dirty and you run a risk of mold damage in your home.
A basement cleanup business such as Servpro has all of the equipment needed to professionally clean your basement. Your local hardware store might also rent carpet extractors, industrial blowers, emergency sump pumps and dehumidifiers.
Arends suggests using extractors to get your carpet as dry as possible. Keep strong air circulation and dehumidifiers running constantly and long after you think the basement is dry. Afterward, keep an eye out for mold, which can have an impact on the health of those living in your home.
When water damage is caused by a clean water source, Arends said the use of carpet water extractors, dehumidifiers and high-powered fans can prevent permanent damage to carpet and drywall if done within three to four days.
However, water that seeps through soil and into your basement is considered dirty water. Arends said drywall and carpet that are damaged by dirty water should be removed.
“There’s so much bacteria and bugs and stuff in the ground, and all that goes into your house, so you really can’t clean that out of carpet or the middle of walls,” Arends said.