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Preparing your home for floods

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flooded home

If your home is in a location where seasonal flooding may occur, you need to know how to prepare your home to resist or survive flooding. Flooding can occur in a number of ways.

Sub-surface water leaks

These occur when groundwater levels rise enough to enter the house through cracks or openings in foundations, basement slabs, or sumps and foundation drainage systems. You can prepare for this degree of basement flooding by raising the furnace, water heater, appliances, and storage items an adequate distance above the floor using waterproof blocking.

Spring run-off and minor surface flooding

During spring run-off or surface water flooding events, the amount of water in foundation drainage systems increases the demand on the sump pump system.

Check the ejection pipe, sump, and sump pump to be sure that they are functioning properly.

If prolonged flooding or a power outage is possible, consider keeping a spare sump pump and a gas powered electric generator available. Store generator fuel safely and operate the generator in a safe location where exhaust fumes cannot enter the home.

Sewer back-ups

These can occur even if the blockage or flooding is some distance from your home.

To protect your home, consider having a valve or one-way check valve installed where the sewer main leaves the house. A plumbing professional can help you determine the best method and location. If you do not have a valve installed to block the sewer main, temporary compression plugs can be inserted in floor drains and plumbing drain openings.

Remember that a sewer system blockage could force water higher up in the home’s drainage system than expected.

Major surface flooding

When streams and rivers overflow their banks, major surface floods present the greatest threat of structural damage to the home.

If the home is outside of areas protected by dikes, and the foundation has been strengthened or braced and sealed sufficiently to withstand the external water pressure, it may be possible to keep the basement dry using gas powered pumps. If the basement has not been reinforced and is incapable of withstanding the force of floodwaters, allowing the basement to fill with water may protect the foundation from structural damage by keeping the pressure similar on both sides of the foundation walls and floor.

If there is still time before the flooding, move stored items, furniture, and appliances to a safe upper level of the home or to a safe location outside the flood zone.

Before the home is flooded, shut off the water, gas, and electricity. After flooding clean-up and repairs, your utility company may require that service be restored only by trained utility representatives.

Additional Resources

www.extension.umn.edu/flood — Fact sheets and videos with research-based tips on immediate and long-term flood issues Flood Information Line: 1-800-232-9077, fil@umn.edu — for questions about water, crops, horticulture, and climatology issues AnswerLine: 1-800-854-1678, answer@iastate.edu —- for questions about cleaning, stains, mildew, and food safety issues

 

Author: Richard Stone, housing technology educator, University of Minnesota Extension (2011)

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