Avoiding, diagnosing and cleaning up after basement flooding

Do you already have water in your basement?

First things, first. If you find water coming into your basement, and you know it’s coming from the sanitary sewer or you don’t know where it’s coming from, call us and we’ll come out. 440-933-6226 (even nights and weekends).

Although it doesn’t happen often, any time part of a home (or any building, for that matter) is built below ground (a.k.a. a basement), flooding is possible after/during rain events. If water makes it into a home, it is usually coming from one of two places: (1) the sanitary sewer and/or (2) your home’s foundation (storm water).

  • Sanitary sewer backups. During rain events, storm water and sanitary (waste) water can meet underground and overwhelm the system, pushing water back into your house through the basement floor drain (often near hot water tank), or toilets, sinks, showers, etc. While this is relatively rare, it does happen occasionally, more often in homes located on lower elevations. Another cause of sanitary sewer backups–a blocked lateral drain. If you have an older home or your home is built on a lot with mature trees, your home’s lateral drain (that takes your water to the sewer under the street) can be blocked by roots or other organic material, giving outgoing water nowhere to go–except back up your pipes. If it’s determined your backup included water from the sanitary sewer, use these clean-up tips from Lorain County General Health District.
  • Storm water backups can result from sump pump malfunction or power outage. Other causes include excessive water at your home’s foundation, compromised waterproofing/backfill, compromised connection (read: roots or other impediments) in your storm lateral drain.


No matter the cause, to safeguard your home against flooding you should understand the basic plumbing of your home and the preventative techniques available to you. Here is a quick look at some things you can do to minimize your risk.

Mitigating sanitary sewer backups (see document attached below for more information on all these items):

  • Add a standpipe to your basement floor drain.
  • Add a backwater valve to your sanitary lateral. (Note: While they can be helpful, backwater valves add a level of maintenance and can, because of sanitary sewage, get stuck open or closed. Avon Lake Regional Water neither recommends nor discourages their use.)
  • 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.
  • Hire an excavation/sewer contractor to inspect your lateral(s) via video camera to check its integrity.
  • If your sanitary lateral is prone to root intrusion, flushing a small amount of copper sulfate crystals down a toilet (per manufacturer’s directions) might help. Copper sulfate or other proprietary substances such as RootX discourage plant root growth on contact.

Protecting against storm water/sump pump flooding

  • Purchase/install a battery backup for your sump pump.
  • Consider installing a sump pump alarm. Some models emit a chirp to alert you to encroaching or a waning battery.
  • Regularly inspect and clean soil or other foreign matter out of your sump pump crock (the casing around the pump). If your storm lateral is prone to root intrusion, putting copper sulfate crystals or proprietary root inhibiting substances inside your sump or in a downspout as it goes into the ground might be helpful. (Per manufacturer directions.)

For more detailed information, read Mitigating Basement Backups.

Basement flooding can result in serious property damage. Be mindful of health and safety when cleaning up a flooded basement. Flood water may carry waterborne diseases, corrosive agents, irritants, and sharp objects. Electrical accidents are possible because of contact between appliances and water. If negotiating flood water in your basement (especially if you are unsure of the source of the water), wear coveralls, gloves, protective eyewear, protective boots and a mask. Open windows. Steer clear of electrical equipment and outlets or shut off the electrical power.

If you find mold, use these mold clean-up procedures from Lorain County General Health District.

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