Ward off fast-thaw basement flooding

When significant snow is on the ground, a fast warm up (one or more days of above-40 temperatures) accompanied by rain puts your basement at risk for flooding. Frozen-solid gutters and downspouts can send water where it doesn’t belong, causing water damage to your roof/ceiling AND can dump large amounts of water against your house, which can easily overload your sump pump.

Here are some more things you should know about preventing snow-induced basement floods, but remember: All homes are different. Stay safe no matter what, and call a professional contractor to remove ice if needed.

Outside

  • Remove snow from your roof near gutters/downspouts. If your roof is low enough for you to safely reach, use a roof rake or wide broom to SAFELY remove any snow or ice within reach to keep it from blocking your gutters. Put it in your yard and let it melt naturally.
  • Remove/prevent ice dams with snow-melt products or hot water. Start near the downspouts. If using water, you can get an adapter and attach a long (100’ or longer) garden hose to an indoor sink or your washing machine’s hot water tap, then use hot water to help you remove the ice from your gutters (spray hot water at angles on either side of gutter where the ice is attached, then lift it out in chunks). Do not use hard tools.

Inside

  • Get a backup sump pump. Sump-pump battery backups can cost around $500, but depending on where you live, could be a good investment. Another, less-expensive option is installing a second sump pump beside your original one, but that pump would be useless if the power went out. If you opt for the second electric sump, place it on a separate electrical circuit from the first.
  • Install an alarm. Especially if you don’t have a backup pump, consider buying a sump pump alarm (plumbing section of home-improvement retailers). They are inexpensive and will warn you of rising water levels or a dying sump pump battery.
  • Clean the crock. Inspect and clean soil or other foreign matter out of your sump pump crock, the casing around the pump. (This should be done regularly.)
  • Add a standpipe to your basement floor drain (often found near your hot water tank) or install a drain float (Flood Guard makes a popular one) in it and any basement shower drains.
  • Disconnect your basement from your sanitary lateral. If your basement is prone to sanitary backups, you can disconnect your basement plumbing from your sanitary lateral then pump that water out through your sanitary lateral. This option comes with the same limitations as storm lateral sump pumps. Namely, the importance of battery backups/alarms in case of loss of your home’s electricity.
  • Keep valuables and irreplaceable items off the basement floor.

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