Heavy storms that have drenched Cleveland and surrounding suburbs over the last several weeks has brought to light another problem city and county officials have long been reluctant to address: a clogged sewer system which cannot handle the capacity from severe storms moving through the area. The problem was highlighted this past week in the Western Cleveland suburb of Bay Village, where disgruntled residents went before the city Council to complain about ongoing basement flooding issues. One resident in particular said his basement had flooded for the second time in just a few weeks, and that the problem has been ongoing for 30 years.
In response, officials promised to look into cleaning up the city’s sewer system in order to mitigate some of the problems. Admittedly, cleaning sewers has not been a high priority in major cities like Cleveland because of lack of funding. Nonetheless, when storm and sanitary sewers are filled with debris they have less capacity to handle runoff from storm systems. The inevitable result is a plethora of flooded basements throughout the metropolitan area.
While most homeowners can’t do much about city sewer systems, there are some steps they can take to avoid basement flooding and to minimize the damage when it does occur. The most important thing they can do is seal foundation walls with a waterproof sealant. Quality sealants are available at most home improvement stores at a reasonable price. Though they prevent a severe flood where water backs up from the sewer, they’re very effective in preventing basement flooding caused by seepage through foundation walls.
Homeowners should also be proactive in maintaining their sump pump and crock if they are not public sewers. Crocks should be kept clear of debris and sump pumps should be checked at least twice a year to make sure they are working properly. Because sump pumps are relatively inexpensive, it doesn’t hurt to keep an extra one around the house just in case. Finally, proper grading of soil can help water runoff drain away from your house and reduce the chances of flooding from seepage.
When flooding does occur, you can mitigate the damage if you keep critical things off the basement floor. Consider raising your furnace and water heater 6 to 10 inches by placing them on concrete blocks. You should also place any boxes or furniture stored in the basement on pallets, several inches off the floor. Lastly, if your basement is finished with drywall, you should consider cutting away the drywall to a level of 4 inches off the floor. Cover the gap with a piece of vinyl baseboard to make it look a bit better.