A few minutes of preparation could save you hours of removing water from your basement and thousands of dollars in damages.
Todd Coleman, president of Basement Waterproofing Tech in Perry Hall, spoke with Patch on the eve of Hurricane Irene's expected rampage through Maryland. His advice to homeowners was simple: prevent basement flooding before the storms strike.
"Some people, no matter what you tell them, they won't do anything until the eleventh hour and by then it's too late," said Coleman, who has worked on basements throughout Maryland for the past 15 years.
He offered several tips for homeowners to prevent flooding and quickly remove water if it seeps in.
Before heavy rain or storms:
- Keep valuables and emergency items off basement floors. Flashlights, food storage, first aid items and tools should be elevated or kept on the first floor of the home during hurricanes. Valuables and anything in cardboard boxes should also be kept off basement floors.
- Examine the drains near exterior basement doors. Many homes have drains installed at the bottom of exterior stairways leading to basement doors. Remove any debris from around the drain cover. Then dump a few buckets of water near the drain. This will help flush out the drain and allow you to see if a clog exists. If the drain cover is plastic, consider drilling additional holes in it to increase water flow.
- Line basement doors with duct tape and towels. If a basement door is known to leak, do not open it during a storm. Keep it closed and cover the cracks on the interior and exterior.
- Clear out gutters and direct spouts away from your home. Gutters need to be free of leaves and debris in order for water to flow away from the sides of your home. Spouts should send roof water flowing within three to five feet from the home.
- Don't rely on masonry waterproofer paints to prevent flooding. Products like DRYLOK may help prevent dampness on basement walls but they cannot withstand the pressure of flowing water. These products can also lead to damage on homes with cinder block foundations.
- Check your sump pump and have a battery backup. Test your sump pump by removing the cover and dumping a few buckets of water onto it. If it does not begin working, call a professional or purchase a new one. Also, make sure it is equipped with a battery backup in case the power goes out.
If flooding occurs:
- Make sure there are no live electric lines in the water. Turn off your home's circuit breaker and wear rubber boots while treading through water.
- Consider plugging holes or leaks with hydraulic cement. If water is seeping in through obvious holes or cracks, commercial products like QUIKRETE can quickly and efficiently fill those areas. Be prepared to chip out part of the holes or cracks to make them bigger before filling.
- Use a wet vacuum cleaner to suck up puddles. Shop-Vac machines and other wet/dry vacuum cleaners can be helpful in removing small amounts of water, especially when it is not yet deep enough for the sump pump to begin working.
- Use fans and humidifiers after water is removed. Lift out carpet and get air circulating throughout the basement to prevent mold. Ideally the area should be dry within 48 hours of flooding.
- Call a professional to pump out water and repair basement. If the task becomes overwhelming or makes you feel unsafe, contact a trained professional immediately. Many offer 24-hour emergency services and bring in additional workers during hurricanes. Some cases of extreme flooding will require professional help to remove water.
Basement Waterproofing Tech plans to provide 24-hour emergency service during the storm. Services are available to customers in Central Maryland by calling 410-274-9682.
ServPro in Hunt Valley is also available for emergency service to customers by calling 410-229-0012.