For all of us in the Ottawa region, the spring thaw means potential flooding.
More than just a nuisance, evidence suggests that basement flooding can be linked to serious health problems. Recurrent basement flooding can result in longer-term damage to the building and equipment that may not be covered by insurance. It may also mean that insurance rates may rise or the minimum deductible may be increased, as well the potential that your property value may depreciate.
Some flooding can be prevented. A few checks and simple changes in the fall can mitigate the damage and heartbreak caused by flooding.
Slope ground away from the foundation to allow rainwater to flow away from the home.
Seal window wells and cracks in floors, walls and the foundation.
Direct water from downspouts at least 4 ft. away from the foundation. Downspouts should never be embedded in the ground, or connected to the sewer system or footing drains. Water should flow to ground surface or storm drainage system.
If you have a sump pump, ensure that it is connected to the storm sewer system or empties onto the lawn at least 4 ft. from the foundation wall.
Don’t keep valuables or important documents in the basement; if you must, protect them in water tight containers. It won’t hold back the water, but will prevent heartache and frustration if flooding does occur.
What to do when flooded
SAFETY FIRST! DO NOT enter your basement if the water level is above any plug, electrical outlet, extension cord or baseboard heater. Call Ottawa Hydro at 613-738-6400; the power can be shut off from the outside. If it hasn’t reached that level, you can turn off the power at the main switch. Wear rubber boots when walking on a wet surface, and, as dry wood is not a good conductor, stand on a wooden chair and shut off the power with a wooden broom handle.
Call your gas supplier (Enbridge 24-hour service line 1-866-763-5427) if the flood water is threatening your gas-powered furnace, water heater or stove.
Remove standing water with a pump or buckets, then with a wet/dry shop vacuum.
Remove any valuable items from the area until the basement is water free.
Open windows to allow fresh air in.
Dehumidify the house until it is completely dry.
Carpets must be dried and cleaned within 48 hours, this will require professional help.
Throw out canned goods and any other foods that may have been affected.
Flush, disinfect and scrub floor drains and sump pits using a diluted chlorine bleach solution.
Take photos and videos of damage.
Contact your insurance agent.
If the flooding is caused by a back-up of water and/or sewage:
Check and clear blockages in toilets, sinks and waste pipes and clear any blockages to ensure that the flooding is not due to an internal plumbing problem.
Don’t use toilets and sinks, as water sent down the drain will likely end up in your basement.
Install a backwater valve or other plumbing devices that protect against sewer back-ups. The City of Ottawa has an incentive program to encourage residents who experienced back-ups to install protective plumbing devices. Check http://ottawa.ca/en/city-hall/funding/environmental-program-funding/residential-protective-plumbing-program for details.
Add small amounts of chlorine bleach to the standing water, as sewage contaminated water may contain a number of different bacteria and viruses which can cause major health issues. Wear rubber gloves, as skin irritation or infection can also occur from contact with contaminated water. When cleaning up, wear protective clothing, including protective eyeglasses and a facemask.
Remove wall materials at least 20” above the highest water lines You will need to discard all affected insulation materials, carpet, particleboard furniture, furniture coverings, padding and cushion mattresses, box springs, pillows and stuffed toys.
Good quality wood furniture frames must be cleaned, disinfected, rinsed and dried away from heat or sunlight. Rinse and wash clothing several times in hot water with soap and chlorine bleach and dry quickly.
Wash and wipe down all surfaces and structures with chlorine bleach, ensuring that there is adequate cross-ventilation to remove fumes. Then, rinse again.