The tragic hurricane damage which recently afflicted residents of the Gulf Coast and many areas of Florida and the Caribbean demonstrate the potential for flooding to cause devastating personal and property losses. The storm systems produced widespread disruption. Yet some experts recommend all homeowners residing in dwellings with basements should consider taking steps to prepare for possible flooding risks, even in areas outside frequent flood zones. Four simple precautions may help households address this issue more effectively:
1. Monitor Your Basement For Signs of Water
One element which contributed to the severity of the recent hurricane damage related to the widespread nature of the natural disaster. Many residential neighborhoods suffered extensive flooding. In fact, cases occurred in which water surged over dwellings located well outside designated flood zones. The situation suggests real estate owners with basements cannot afford to discount the risk of flooding even when their property does not sit within locations known to have sustained flood damage in the past.
A recently reported study conducted under the auspices of Texas A&M University at Galveston and Rice University intimated some maps utilized by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”) displayed a very poor track record in predicting flood plains. Researchers contended the agency failed to correctly predict three quarters of the flood damage which transpired in some suburban parts of Houston, Texas during a decade-long period ending in 2009. While generalizing on the basis of a limited academic study may do a disservice to the federal agency, it remains important for homeowners to remember many different causes potentially contribute to flood situations.
In addition to coastal floods precipitated by storms or tsunamis, flooding may occur as a result of swollen rivers, unexpectedly heavy rains, necessary yet unanticipated discharges to prevent dam ruptures, municipal water line breaks, and even household plumbing accidents. The bottom line for homeowners: you need to monitor your basement waterproofing to better safeguard your residence against flooding hazards. Don’t assume you will never have to contend with a flooded basement simply because your dwelling remains outside a known flood plain. A waterproofing expert can suggest effective ways to monitor moisture levels in basements and cellars.
2. Review Basement Storage
Since gravity will force water to drain from higher places to lower elevations, experts recommend utilizing basement storage cautiously. For instance, given the choice between stacking stored household belongings on the basement floor or on elevated shelves, selecting raised storage sites generally offers better security. Many households do utilize basements for storage purposes in lieu of renting self-storage units; however, if flooding appears imminent, you’ll probably want to relocate items to safer locations, if possible. Belongings you place in the basement face a greater risk of sustaining flood damage.
Additionally, by using a waterproof and fireproof home safe to store valuable documents, photos, or fragile items, you’ll enhance the chance these possessions survive a catastrophe. Today manufacturers have developed a wide array of personal safes. Many carry laboratory-issued safety ratings attesting to their ability to withstand listed hazards.
3. Address Known Basement Flooding Problems
Experts recommend considering risks from basement flooding prior to taking extended absences from residential property. For instance, if you plan to split your year between a summer residence in North Carolina and a winter home in a warmer location, review the flood risks in each dwelling. Taking a few common sense measures may increase your ability to mitigate flood losses:
- In colder locations, minimize the risks of water damage from burst pipes by asking a plumber to shut off the water supply into your home. The plumber should also drain remaining water from the pipes and fixtures and correctly turn off the hot water heater or boiler ;
- Hire a reputable caretaker service to help maintain your gutters, downspouts and grounds during your absence to promote adequate water drainage; instruct your caretaker to board up your windows and doors before tropical storm emergencies occur, if possible;
- Ask a trusted local person, preferably a close neighbor, to check on the condition of your property promptly if you do suspect leaks or flooding.
4. Consult Regularly With a Waterproofing Firm
Periodically reviewing preventative steps you might take to mitigate basement water damage helps manage some risks. For example, while not a permanent solution, today specialized waterproofing paints and membranes offers assistance in certain situations. Applying these coatings to low-lying foundations and basement walls may prove helpful in some (but certainly not all) situations.
Prepare for basement flooding in advance, if possible. Floods usually occur unexpectedly and these catastrophes frequently prove unavoidable and overwhelming. Yet planning sometimes helps mitigate personal property losses.