How to Keep Your Basement From Flooding

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How to Keep Your Basement From Flooding

by David P. Pollard AIA LEED AP

To truly understand basement water issues in your home, let’s literally start from the top, and then start to look at what is happening underground and some solutions to help reduce or hopefully eliminate water in your basement. The truth is, water really wants to get into your basement and it figures out how. It sneakily moves underground, and we invaded its space by building underground. This isn’t a specific to your home or town, it’s specific to all of earth…

But there are three things you can do:

#1: Be ok with what gets in (seepage)

Launch it out quickly, and don’t let it touch anything that would need to be repaired or replaced. Interior draintile and a sump does this

#2 Limit the ways it can get in…

Cut off the grossest and sneakiest water (underground sewage) Overhead sewer and an ejector does this.

#3 make it a longer and more difficult journey for the water to get in with grading and drainage.

There are some DIY solutions here and could involve landscapers. Remember to check with the village and understand where you can discharge water – you don’t want to move all of your water into your neighbors yard!

This video walks you through what Dave has done in his own home to keep the water out as a basement warrior:


There are typically two sources of water in your basement that function very differently and are solved differently. There is water that comes from the ground which gets there from rainfall and sewer backup that can come through drains and other basement water outlets when a combined sewer system is overloaded by a heavy rainfall. There are different strategies to deal with these issues that are discussed in the video above such as overhead sewer systems, sump pumps, and interior draintile.

With regards to dealing with keeping water away from your foundation, let’s talk about groundwater. This comes from rainfall on your roof and property. From the roof, the water goes into gutters, then downspouts, then into your yard. Once in your yard, it is going to flow downhill. If downhill is towards your house then that’s the direction it is going to do and fight to get into your basement as seepage. Places to help get water away from your house:

  • Gutters & Downspouts

    • Make sure your gutters and downspouts are clean, and are sized appropriately. 5” gutters and downspouts can make a big difference in big rainfalls
    • Downspout extensions – a 3’ extension pipe simply projects water in the downspout away from your foundation
    • Drainpipes – downspouts can be connected directly to an underground drainpipe to be discharged in an area away from the house that can absorb or dissipate the rainwater
  • Grading

    • In the next rainstorm try and follow the rain and see where it is flowing to get away from your house and into a place where it can dissipate such as a large landscape area or storm drain. This may give you insights into ways to berm your yard to move water in a different direction. Any places where you see water flowing towards your foundation should be remedied
  • Area Drains

    • If you understand where water is pooling or flowing improperly you can also bury drainpipes with a catch basin. In our town this is helpful for backyards that can’t easily drain around a house. The discharge needs to be at a lower spot that has a larger field to dissipate the rainfall or divert it to a storm sewer.

Always check with your local jurisdiction for what is allowed for areas of discharging rainwater, and be conscious of your neighbor. The goal is to get the water to a place away from your house; but don’t make that your neighbors basement!

If you need help with your basement waterproofing project, contact us and let us see if we can solve it.

We know the western suburban areas of Chicago well such as Riverside, Brookfield, La Grange, Hinsdale, Western Springs, and Dowers Grove, and know that every home was built in a different time and may need a different solution. Let us know if we can help.