How to Diagnose and Remedy Basement Flooding Problems

It’s Safe to Say Basement Flooding is a Big Deal in Plumbing

Updated Dec. 5th. This is probably the most popular or unpopular if you’re a victim of flooding, topic in the plumbing world. How do I fix basement flooding? How do I repair my basement so it doesn’t flood? Why do I have wet basement walls? What can I do to water proof my basement walls? Why does my basement flood, I’m on a lot that’s higher than my neighbor’s? These questions and many more will be answered in these next few pages.

Basement Flooding

We Haven’t done a Good Job Explaining the Details

It’s surprising how little people understand about how and why houses flood and even more surprising is the fact that no one seems to explain it correctly or in a way that is easily understandable by the homeowner.

Let’s first start by saying that your foundation is akin to a big concrete boat. When the ground is fairly dry your foundation sits comfortably in its resting place. However when the ground is saturated, your foundation is actually being forced out of the ground. If it didn’t weigh many tons it would pop right out of the ground.

O.K. hopefully that gives you an idea of how water affects a foundation hydraulically in fact it is aptly named hydraulic pressure or hydrostatic pressure. (insert side view picture of a home with a basement  and show blue water putting pressure under the basement floor and against the foundation walls. Use arrows to represent pressure)

When water is present in a basement or crawlspace both the home and business owner immediately panic. This is completely understandable especially when most people keep valuables, records or collectables in their basement and if you’ve spent your hard earned dollars on finishing your basement, forget it, you call a plumber.

Basement Flooding Basics

However if you know some basics regarding what is going on outside the foundation walls, under your foundation floor and you know some basics about your sewer you can smartly explain to a plumbing professional what seems to be your problem or you could very well attempt to fix the problem yourself.

Let’s explain some of the characteristics of water with reference to your foundation. Firstly water is not very susceptible to being compressed. Which means it’s going to find its way to every nook and cranny whether it be in air pocket in the ground or a crack in your basement floor or foundation walls. Water also finds its own level, meaning it could be leaking at the bottom of your foundation but find a seam in your wall and wick up 8 ft to the top of your foundation making it pretty difficult to put your finger on the problem.

O.K., so now that we know that water pressure is the root of almost all flooding and moisture problems let’s look and the different scenarios that occur to cause flooding.

If a homeowner called and said “my basement is flooding” the first question should be is “is the water coming from the foundation or a floor drain?”. If it is coming from a floor drain the next question to be asked is “do you have an ejector pit and pump in your basement?” If the homeowner says no it tells you several things. Number #1 they have a gravity sewer, actually all sewers are gravity however this particular one is unique in the fact that all waste water even water collected in the basement flows under the basement floor and out to the city sewer. If water is coming up from their floor drain and they don’t have an obstruction in their sewer then the city main is backing up.

When sewers were first installed in metropolitan areas around the country they were combined sewers in that they took away both rainwater and waste water. This comes as a surprise to some because storm and waste water are always separated in buildings but yes in quite a few municipalities they combine together in the sewer main.

Quite a few cities in the US, one being Chicago, still use combined sewers however they are slowly being phased out. Having a combined sewer lends itself to some unique problems especially to a home owner that is connected to it.

O.K. so we bring ourselves back to flooding occurring in a home in the basement through a floor drain with no sewer obstruction. Think of a sewer in the middle of the street taking sewage from each home or business connected to it and then add to it torrential rains in the spring and fall. These combined sewers were never designed to evacuate that volume of water in fact typically during rainy seasons a combined sewer runs at 100% capacity. When there is nowhere else for the water to go it finds its way back to each home or business connected to it and floods the homes/businesses backing up through the floor drain and if there is enough flooding it will find its way to any crack in a foundation or wall. There are several fixes for this type of flooding, two band aids and three real solutions.

  1. Band AidFloor Drain Plug or Econo Plug. This is just what it sounds like; it’s a plug that fits inside the floor opening. This type of plug usually consists of a neoprene rubber gasket sandwiched together by two plastic or metal plates; they are connected by a threaded screw topped off by a wing nut, as you tighten the wing nut the two plates squeeze the rubber gasket out thereby sealing your floor opening. What are the advantages you ask? It’s real cheap. The disadvantages are many. This is rare but possible, if there is enough pressure and the plug is tight enough the plug could dislodge itself rather violently possibly injuring someone. The other very real disadvantage is that by installing a floor drain plug you are allowing some pretty extreme water pressure to build underneath your floor. We have seen basement floors crack because of hydraulic pressure under the floor. In some instances you are better off letting the basement flood to alleviate the damage to the foundation floor. Lastly, you’ll never be able to detect a plumbing blockage in the sewer system until it’s a real problem.
  2. Band Aid – install a Stand Pipe. This is a pipe installed inside your floor opening that allows somewhere for the water to go in case
    This is a true band aid fix.

    The ever popular stand pipe.

    of a back-up. What are the advantages? It’s cheap. The disadvantages are very similar to the above. Increased hydraulic pressure resulting in possibly buckling of a basement floor and if there is a sewage blockage you won’t find out until it’s a real issue, a very messy issue.

  3. Fix – Install a Back Water Valve. These are made by several manufacturers and they are basically heavy duty check valves. They are installed on the main sewer right at the foundation wall. They come in a check valve style in that when water starts backing up into the sewer line the valve slams shut or in a manual style. If a home owner chooses a manual style back water valve they have to crank the valve shut during heavy rains and remember to open it back up when the rain is over because if someone uses the facilities while the valve is closed you will have some serious backups. Advantages of having a backwater valve, they work and they work well. Disadvantages, they aren’t cheap to buy or install.
  4. Fix - Divorce your floor drain in your house from the house sewer. Basically you just disconnect the sewer from that floor drain tying the house sewer back in after the floor drain. This makes the whole sanitary system in the home or business a stand pipe. Advantages of doing this, again as in the above “fix” it works and the disadvantages are also price.
  5. Fix – The last and probably the most affective fix if it is feasible is to take your gravity sewer make it an overhead sewer. Let’s explain in a little more detail. The waste from the house now drains under the basement floor and out to the street. What you would do is abandon the old sewer, take all the fixtures in the house and tie them in over head in the basement ceiling. You would have to excavate outside dropping down to connect back to the city main at the old connection. You would then tie the basement floor drain into an ejector pit with a pump to take care of any basement fixtures or floor drains. When the basement fixtures are used they fill up the pit and the ejector pump, pumps the waste to the overhead sewer. The advantages to this are many, usually when taking a sewer overhead you add a cleanout on the sewer as it exits the foundation this facilitates rodding if there are any future stoppages and as in the above “fit” the whole sewer system acts as a stand pipe. The disadvantage as you can already probably imagine is the cost. It’s an extensive plumbing job but one when done correctly can really give you some peace of mind.

How to Deal with a High Water Table

The next section of this topic has everything to do with hydraulic pressure against your foundation floor and walls. There are some areas in the country/world where the water table never gets high enough for there to be flooding issues if you live in one of these areas good for you if you don’t read on.
We’ve talked a little bit about water pressure and how it affects your foundation, if you are having flooding problems in a basement or crawlspace and you don’t have a sump pit and pump you don’t have a drain tile system in your house. Most homes with basements are supplied with drain tile systems on the inside of the foundation under the basement floor. When it rains water is collected into the drain tile and the water flows to the pit and it’s evacuated by the sump pump. This kind of drain tile system is an acceptable way to take water away from a home’s foundation.

Let’s start from the obvious, if you have a sump pump in your basement and you are flooding and your sump pump isn’t working have it replaced. If you’re not sure it’s working unplug it for ten seconds and plug it back in, all pumps should cycle, if it doesn’t have your pump replaced. If the pump is working and evacuating water from the pit and the foundation is still taking water there could be multitude of issues.

The first area to check would be to see if the drain tile is collapsed, the collapse would still allow water into the pit but any water before the collapse would find its way into the house. If the drain tile is found to be intact then it is likely that the amount of water is too much for your interior drain tile to handle. One solution to this would be to install a second drain tile system on the exterior of the foundation tying it back to the existing sump pit or installing a second pit. This can be an expensive fix but sometimes it’s necessary.

Emergency Flooded Basement, What To Do First

Here are the steps you should take if you come home or walk downstairs to a flooded basement. We have several acquaintances that sleep with one eye and one ear open during thunder storms. Although waking up to a wet basement is never very fun having a plan of attack in the event it happens can mean the difference between minor damage and a major restoration.

First Step to Take

Sometimes it’s easy to figure out why the basement flooded if your power has been out for several hours. The water table is super high and you’re sump pump isn’t pumping so the basement floods. This one is easy, if you don’t have a battery back sump pump or a standby generator you grab a cocktail and wait till the power comes back on. If you’ve got some sandbags ready or you have a family the size of the Duggars and a garage full of buckets you can get to work but most of us don’t.

If the power is on you have to determine the cause of the basement flooding. Go outside and take a peek at the discharge piping from your sump pump. It should be piped independently outside to a retention area or to the municipal storm sewer. You should be able to see water pumping out right away. If the pump is removing water you’re existing pump is being overwhelmed.

Get the Water Out As Quickly As Possible

The first thing you need to do is get the water out as quickly as possible. The longer the water sits in your basement the greater the chance you have of developing mold. So if you have power and your sump pump is actually pumping water you need to get other temporary pumps with discharge piping helping the cause.

**Caution** as with any situation where you are dealing with water and the possible contact with electricity please take special care. We would recommend calling a professional if the water is over 2″ in depth across the entire basement.

The Water is Out, What’s Next?

So the pumps helped with the water removal now what? If you have carpet in the basement tear it out and throw it away. There is no way to

A Couple of these will dry things out quickly

A Couple of these will dry things out quickly

dry it in time to save it from being a petri dish for basement mold. Now you have to dry the floor, and any walls. Fans won’t cut it. Find your local tool rental company and rent a couple of torpedo heaters and turn them on full blast until the basement is dry.

What if The Basement Was Finished

The basement was finished with flooring and drywall right? We told you what you should do with the flooring or carpeting. So that leaves you with a dry wall problem. You can’t dry the walls quick enough to prevent water damage and subsequent mold. The standard procedure for flooded basement dry wall is to remove the baseboard and the first two feet of drywall. We agree with this procedure unless the water has been laying stagnant for some time. If that is the case all of it has to come out.

Again the above can all be done by a professional plumbing contractor in conjunction with a restoration company but some of the steps can be done by you the homeowner.  As always thank you for reading and we hope it helps in the event of a basement flood.

 

Sean Kavanaugh

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Comments

  1. THE SITE WAS VERY HELPFULL AND ANSWERED ALL OF THE QUESTIONS I HAD. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!! THANK YOU

  2. I had a toliet installed and the installer punched a hole in the floor to install a “doodie pump” . Now when it rais alot the water comes up into the basement. Also only when the water table gets high enough to come through cracks in the basement floor. (6 times in 25 years). Do I just put in a sump in a corner? Do I trench the floor and bring it to the sump? How do I know what to do?

    1. Hey Jim thanks for finding us. I have a few things I need to ask you so I can get a better understanding of your situation.

      1.) The plumbing tech installed an ejector pump in your basement?
      2.) You currently have no ground water drainage system?
      3.) You never had any ground water seeping in before the ejector pump was installed?
      4.) Has the contour of your land changed at all in the last 25 years? Any new landscaping?

      I’ll give some information before I hear back from you. The ejector basin install and the flooding should normally have no relationship with one another. One removes waste products from the house below the outlet of the house drain and one removes ground water from around the foundation relieving hydrostatic pressure. Unless there is something I don’t know about they shouldn’t affect one another.

      Is the water coming in from one particular side? I always recommend a full drain tile system around the entire perimeter of the home, either under the basement floor or around the perimeter of the foundation. However if the water is coming from one side of the house, trenching in that area and installing drain tile to a sump pump may be a remedy.

      If you could answer those questions for me I’d appreciate it.

      admin@theplumbinginfo

  3. YOUR ARTICLE IS OK BUT I HAVE TWO ZEOLLER PUMPS AND A SUCTION HOSE FROM A HONDA GAS PUMP IN MY SUMP PIT AND I CAN’T KEEP UP WITH THE WATER I’VE BEEN PUMPING SINCE APRIL 19 2011,PLUS I HAVE WATER COMING OUT OF THE FLOOR AND WALLS.EXPERT TELL ME IT’S GROUND WATER AND THERE NOTHING I CAN DO ABOUT IT.IT COME IN MY SUMP PIT LIKE A FIRE HYDRAD. DO YOU KNOW ANYBODY THAT CAN FIX THAT,I DOUT IT

    1. @Gary you sound like you’ve got one heck of a problem on your hands. Where are you located? I think I can come up with a plan, at least one to put you at ease. The first would be to see how the contour of your property may be affecting drainage and the second would be to look into getting a duplex sump system with external controls. You need controls that will alternate the pumps to lessen wear and tear on the pumps and if the switch goes bad you can replace it without pulling the pumps. Hope that helps. You can leave us an email if you want me to get help for you on the ground. I’m sure I can find a plumber near you in our directory of 5K plumbers. There has to be a reason you are getting so much ground water. Tell me a bit more.

      Admin@theplumbinginfo

  4. I basically have the same problem as Mr.Ervin. I have 2 sump pits in the basement, each with a strong pump in it. One is a sewage pump that I’m using as a sump pump rated at 10,500 GPH(with 2″ PVC) and the other is 5,600 GPH(with 1.5″), although there’s about a 4′ rise before exiting the house, I figure I’m still pushing well over 10,000 GPH out of the basement. The water exits the house and goes into drains I put in myself, taking it far away from the house. I even did the same with the gutters. All of this water ends up a minimmum of 25′-50′ away from the house, yet after all this effort, the pumps just cant keep up with the water entering the 2 pits and the water simply rises out of the pits, followed by any cracks in the floor. Even hours after a heavy rain event stops, the pumps will run almost constantly. It seems I’m fighting against the water table. Is there anything I can do? I have pictures and video if you are interested in seeing this. Another piece of info that may be helpful is that there was a well on the property some time ago, but I don’t know when it was capped and the home was hooked to the township’s community well. Could that have something to do with it?

    1. Hey Bob we’re glad you found us and thanks for asking the question. I have some ideas for you. Forward me the pix and video and I’ll let you know what I think.

      admin@theplumbinginfo

  5. I am having the same problems! My house is 2 yrs old and has flooded twice in 4 months. I have 2 sump pumps and a battery sump pump backup installed in the same well. We recently had a heavy rain and water seeped from the walls yet my sump pumps continued to run and that room remainded dry where the rest of my basement had 2 in of water through out. After about two hours the water drained on its own (where did the water go and how was it able to magically get out) leaving wet carpet but no standing water. Basement is 1400 sqft of finished space. Another note: my back ditch swelled to almost my back deck and my sump pump pipe was under 2 ft of water the whole time. It seems like the entire neighborhood drains to my cul de sac. Neighbors flooded also. HELP!!! I can’t live this way

    1. Hey Bryan, I completely understand, living scared every time it rains is no fun. Let me ask you a few things just so I can get some perspective.

      1. You have 2 sump pumps and a battery back-up all crammed into 1 pit?

      2. Do you have a floor drain in your basement? That may be where the water went. If you don’t do you have any cracks in the floor? Water will find a way to get out.

      3. You have two issues 1) it sounds like your property doesn’t have enough water retention. If water is coming up to your back deck, the ground is saturated around the house for sure. 2) The drain tile system you have installed is not getting enough water away from your foundation. It’s possible that a drain tile is collapsed somewhere close to where the seepage is occurring but that isn’t necessarily the case.

      4.) Here are a couple suggestions/observations. Do the sump pumps keep up with the water, are all three functional? You can sink another pit and connect it to the drain tile in the area of the basement that floods. (Probably the easiest fix believe it or not). I’m not certain where your drain tile is installed, under the basement floor (Most common) or outside you foundation wall. If it is under the basement floor, you can install drain tile out side the foundation wall and tie it in to a new pit. This is a pretty large project, you’d have to dig down 8ft or so around the entire perimeter of your basement, pop the drain tile under the footing into a new basin. I know this sounds crazy but believe me its been done. You can change the way your property holds or evacuates water. Again this can be pretty costly. Please let me know your thoughts, concerns. Pop a couple pictures of the basement and backyard maybe I can give you a better explanation with that info.

      admin@theplumbinginfo

  6. My house is 4 years old and have 2 zoellers (1 just replaced) 2 sump pits a battery back-up connected to 1 of the pumps and they seem to be working fine. however, water is still getting in the basemant. It appears to be comming in through the walls on the finished side of the basement and it just appears in the middle of the floor on the unfinished side. I have had to take up the totally soaked carpet. I am now attaching a hose to the exit pipe that sends the water outside because its short and the water just stands right under the pipe so i assume it is seaping back into the house. My question is if the rain continues as it is and the puddles caused by the rain gets deep will the water still get into the basement and if its a foundation problem? Also, how long are intrusion warranties usually on the foundation of new homes?

  7. There is an old well in my basement, a few years ago a plumber took the storage tank, told me its worthless. I have no water outside, it has been awfully wet and the basement has flooded 2 times in one month. Is there a way to put a pump unto the old well and use solely for outside water. I don’t know where to begin.

    1. Absolutely, you can use is as a cistern. It would be used as a rain water harvesting unit. Give me some particulars. In what part of the country do you live?

      admin@theplumbinginfo

  8. Hello, I have recently experienced flooding in my basement for about a week! We have had a plumber come out and augger the pipe to the storm drain, and we’ve replaced our sump pump in our Well outside.. but every once and a while (at least every 12hrs), a burst of water shoots up through the drain in the floor in the basement! This is sooo frustrating! What else could it be?

    1. @Ashley can you give me some more information? What events precede the water coming out of the drain? Is your laundry down in the basement? Is the water coming out when the new pump cycles? There is a possibility the sewer line is back pitched. Let me know.

      Admin@theplumbinginfo

  9. Hello…I live on the southeast side of Chicago. I’ve been in this house going on 7 years. My basement has flooded EVERY time it rains hard. The water is coming up through the drain in the basement as well as through what is called “the grease trap”? This is my first home and I’ve had several people come out to see if I can get some help and nothing has been resolved. There is no sump pump. Could this be the problem? I’ve had one person tell me where the “grease trap” is there should be a sump pump there. This is a nightmare!!!! I’m so stressed out and nervous every time it rains. My house smells of sewer and the basement is always covered with black stuff after the water has gone down. I don’t know what to do and I really need some help.

    1. @Artrice I’m pretty sure I know what happens in your house. Can you shoot me a couple pictures of your basement? That will tell me what I need to know.

      Admin@theplumbinginfo.

  10. I recently moved into a townhouse, my basement flooded from the front to halfway to the back on one of the adjoining walls. It didn’t come in from the drain or the window. Where did it come from? Who do I call to investigate the problem? The neighbour said he had a flood last year. He too had a flooded basement and thinks it may be coming from the foundation. It has rained prior to this without a problem, it was a very very heavy rain yesterday. Help please, I have bad allergies to mold and want to avoid any water problems if at all possible.

    1. Do you have a sump pit in the basement? If so is the pump working? If not, have you been able to tell where the water comes from? Are there any cracks in the basement walls or floors? This info would help.

      Admin

  11. I have purchased a house with a luandry pump system in the basement, I am not really familiar with these. I do have a regular sump pump in the floor as well on the other side of the basement. The pump in the laundry pump system went and we replaced it with a slightly more powerful one, I think the one in there was a 1/3 HP and we bought a 1/2 HP. It seems to work fine for the washing machine and sink but everytime it rains hard our basement floods on that side. It looks as though it is coming out of the pump drain; is this possible and if so how can I fix it? HELP!

    1. Hi Cindy sorry to hear about your issues. I do not believe it’s an issue with the pump. Does anything else drain into that pit? I am assuming the pump pit that services the laundry is sealed and vented? The water comes out of the drain line that dumps into the pit your laundry drains into. If water comes out of that drain when it rains you either a connection somewhere that ties the storm into that line or pit or the drain pipe servicing the drain is cracked somewhere and it’s taking on storm water.

      Admin

  12. We live in Brooklyn NY and our basement flooded in the hurricane due to our combined sewer system. We’ve since installed econoplugs in 3 drains in the basement. We’re puzzled by the assertion that the floor might fracture. Isnt the water beneath the floor in pipes? How would that exert enough pressure to damage the floor?

    1. That’s a good question Mark and here’s the answer. We’re not worried about the water in the drainage or storm piping. We’re worried about the water under the basement floor and around your foundation walls when the water table is high and I believe yours was pretty high. It’s why most times we install backwater valves at the foundation wall. You don’t want the water to get that far. If you are putting econo plugs in your basement floor drains the water is already under the floor. The best way to keep your basement dry in an instance such as this is to install a backwater valve or divorce your basement drainage and install an overhead sewer. You should also have a reliable sump pump/battery backup system installed. Please be careful with the econo plugs, whenever you have pressure such as you had those econo plugs can be dangerous if they fail.

      admin@theplumbinginfo

      Sean K

  13. I have a house built in 1949. We moved here in August 2011 and have had 4 basement floods in that time – each time with a heavy rain. The sump pump seems to work fine unless the power goes out. We also have water seeping from the exterior door, which exits to stairs going up to the patio level. We want to finish this space but have not been able to get a handle on the repeated floods. Can you suggest anything? I can send pictures if needed. Thanks!

    1. Here are a couple answers to your questions and thanks for taking the time to write them. Do you still flood if the power is on and the sump pump is working? I want to see if your drain tile system is being overwhelmed. If the sump pump can handle the water from a heavy rain while the power is on you need to invest in a battery back-up system. I will say this, I never like to bash contractors or home centers but hire a contractor to do this and make sure it’s a high quality back-up system. There are many on the market, PHCC Pro is a good one, Metropolitan Industries makes a real nice one.

      OK, on to your next issue. You have water coming in from under the door leading into the basement from the outside. When you get a real good down pour do you have a lot of standing water in the stairwell? Is there a floor drain at the base of the stairs? If there isn’t there should be. If there is then it’s not able to handle the amount of water coming in. You can solve this a couple different ways. If you have no floor drain then you should have one installed, you can tie it back into your sump pit. It gonna take some breaking of concrete but that is the by far the cheapest way to handle the situation. The other way is to dig a pit in your backyard, remove the concrete steps put a floor or small trench drain at the base of the steps, tie it back into newly installed pit. You install a sump pump in the pit, and that will discharge back to your drain tile system. Then you re-pour the stairs. You’ll have some electrical to do as well as some storm drainage. I can explain to how to do that, you can email me for those instructions. If by chance you have a floor drain and you don’t think it’s working properly it may just be clogged with dirt and debris. Hope that helps.

      Sincerely
      Admin@theplumbinginfo

  14. Hi,

    I have a functioning sump pump. However, I have had two occasions of water seeping from the floor against the basement wall about 10 feet away from the sump. Both the times, it occurred following a thaw after a heavy snowfall. This is a newly constructed (6 years) house and it is the first winter this has ever occurred.
    1. Do you think the drain tile has broken on that part of the foundation?
    2. As it’s a new construction, should I approach the builder to help out?
    Thanks in advance,

  15. Hi,
    I have noticed a small amount of water at the junction of the wall with the floor in my basement especially after a thaw following a significant snowfall. It dries up in the next couple of days and it is about 15 feet from my sump pump which works very well.
    I live in a new house built 6 years ago. I asked the builder who has said it is a minor problem and should not have long term consequences. Should I be worried or forget about this?

    1. @Peter could be several things one of which could be broken drain tile. I think the first order of business would be to get a foundation water proof contractor out to see if it’s a foundation issue.

      admin@theplumbinginfo.com

  16. Help PLEASE!! My situation is very similar to the previous inquiry made by Artice….I have a 1940 home located in the northwest side of Chicago and we have sewer backup through our floor drain and our catch basin that is located inside of our home….My family just can’t live like this anymore….We have had our sewer line cleaned out last year and it was inspected with a video camera. The video showed minor tree root infestation which was then cleared out; however we still manage to have the sewer backup into our during the heavy rains! We have had a couple of “plumbers (though they are not licensed) advise that all we need is a modified overhead sewer system (basically via overhead pvc piping inside our home but still keeping our existing sewer line service) and that we won’t need a sump pump; just the ejector…..is this correct??? In our basement all we have is a laundry tub and that is all (maybe if the flood control is successful we’d possible explore the idea of installing a bathroom in the basement)…..also, they failed to address the window well that I am assuming with a some type of floor drain (this window has had been glass blocked by the previous homeowner) that is now also currently protected with a plastic cover to prevent any rain water intrusion. Should the plumbers have taken this into consideration? Should there be a sump pump for this drain?? Your advice would be gratly appreciated. Thank you in advance.

    1. Yikes, well the good thing is that I know Chicago pretty well. There are a couple questions I have.

      1) Are you sure its a catch basin in the house. I have never seen this installation. The only thing I can think of is that a catch basin was installed at the bottom of the stairs leading to the basement and the house was extended over the basin leaving it in the house.
      2) Chicago has combined sewers which means that anytime there is a torrential rain the sewer cannot take all of the water entering into it, the water backs up into the homes tied to it. You have to stop the water before it enters the house with a heavy duty backwater valve or use the theory that water seeks it’s own level and install an overhead sewer. In theory the water will never rise above its own level in the street. Because you are divorcing the floor drains from the sewer you’ll never have a sewer backup again. But you do need an ejector to receive the liquid waste from any plumbing you have in the basement.
      3) There are usually drains in window wells, most times they connect to the interior or exterior drain tile which drains into a sump pit. I have seen many a house that have no drain in their window wells and when I’ve seen them its usually because during a flooding situation they can be used as a fish bowl.

      Lastly, You absolutely according to code need two separate pumps, one for ground water only and one for waste water which should be in a vented pit with a gas tight lid.

      Sean Kavanaugh

  17. I live in southern Illinois in a 100 year old house. I have been in it for 10 years. Our basement has only flooded twice through an open floor drain in the middle of the basement. I have another drain for our washing machine. It has never flooded. I read about and installed a floor drain flood guard in the 4 inch floor drain. Am I asking for trouble. The city I live in has told me that I do not need this drain and can plug it up, but my water heater is next to it and my energy efficient ac/hv empties into it. Any thoughts?

  18. We had two flash floods in 4 days followed by a week of heavy rain. My basement flooded terribly (block walls and concrete floor) I’ve pumped it out 5 times over the last week and each time I do, water still seeps in. It seems to be coming from the floor drain. Several ppl have told me to seal off the drain, but I am hesitant to do this. My washer and dryer are in the basement and I have a sump pump that takes the water out from the laundry. I’m not on city sewer and last year I had a whole new septic system installed. After an 8,000 bill for the new septic system, I really hesitate to call another plumber. Any ideas??

    1. Well the first thing I would ask is, have you had this problem prior to the new septic system being installed? If not then you may have an issue with the septic system. If sewage is coming up from a floor drain and you have a gravity sewer to the septic, the septic can’t take the water coming into it fast enough. Do you have a sump pump for ground water? You have an ejector or what should be an ejector for your laundry. I would say that if most of the water is coming from the floor drain, divorce the floor drain from the house sewer and divert it to the ejector basic. You solve that problem real quick but unfortunately that take someone with some plumbing skills.

      Sean Kavanaugh
      Content Director

  19. I have a slab addition on the back of my house with a concrete floor and gravel under that. I’ve lived here 17yrs and never had a problem until last night. The original basement window is where the previous owners ran the sump pump hose out. My sump pump was working just fine, taking out the water. However water was coming in around the window and where the pipe is run. This was running down my wall like a waterfall. We’ve had a ton of rain and my backyard around the addition is saturated. This morning all is gone, no standing water but would like any suggestions you might have to shore up that window or if you think it’s a bigger issue?
    Thanks, Alisa

    1. I think this may be an easy one. The discharge hose goes out a basement window? Where does the discharge hose run. Does it splash onto the ground close to the window? If so I think because the ground was so saturated every time your sump pump went off the water had nowhere to go but to come back into the house around the window well. The only way to make sure this doesn’t happen again is to have the discharge house run out of the house preferably not through a window and have the discharge piping run into a dedicated piece of drain tile buried under ground taking water away from the house.

      Sean Kavanaugh
      Admin

  20. Let me start by describing my house. We are on city water and sewer, and the three floor drains in my basement are connected to the sanitary sewer system. That branch of sewer runs out at the front corner of our house and connects to a branch of our sewer line that handles the toilets and sinks in the main floors of our house out in the front yard. There is also an old well at the back of our house that was connected to the cold water supply in the house when we moved in (a pump in the basement draws water to a small tank in the basement), but I disconnected it and now have the well only connected to an outside spigot. We never had any water in the basement in our first 11 years in the house. That changed two years ago, when out of the blue the whole basement flooded, with water two feet deep at the low point. The water came out of the basement floor drain in the front corner of the basement. Three lines come together at this drain: the one that goes outside, the one that connects to the middle drain and the third that goes straight back. Not sure where this connects to. Possibly the third drain at the back of the basement, below the well pump? Two attempts to have the drain going outside snaked did not fix the problem, and water came in the basement through that front drain a few more times. The only thing that saved me was the use of a floor sump pump, but it took a few days for the water to do down far enough to let me stop running the pump. A company came in November 2011 and did an extensive review and found that the section of sewer line where the two branches connect in the yard was crushed, and found holes in the sewer line handling the toilets and sink where it exits the basement. They fixed both problems, costing me almost $4,000, and the problem seemed to be fixed. Until spring, when the basement flooded again. I should note that before and after the big fix, water would run continously through the basement floor drain, with it running a little deeper if we had rain. I had the sewer guys out again in the spring and they snaked the line and appeared to have fixed the problem. But two weeks ago we had a bad storm and water came up through that front drain again, flooding half the basement. I ran a sump once the power came back on and it got rid of the water after a few hours. Then last week we got hit with several inches of rain. My basement filled quickly; so strong that water shot out of the front drain a few inches high. I needed three sump pumps to keep ahead of the water, and it took a full three days to get all of the water out as it kept coming in, although at a slower rate. I called the drain guys again. They spent four hours checking things out and said they ruled out wastewater coming back into the house, but believe it must be a spring behind the house because the water was cold and clear. They tried plugging the floor drains, but when they did water forced its way up from the floor drain by the back of the house and some came in from the base of the back wall. So am I to believe there is a spring somewhere in the backyard that’s causing water to rush in? Is that well in the backyard a possible culprit? Is there something else I’m not considering? Please help as this is becoming a growing problem and we’re at our wits end. Thanks

  21. Just bought a 20 year old house in the country. Am pretty sure no drain tiles surround the foundation base. After a very heavy 12 hr rain event there is some water in the basement. Floor drain in basement has been capped. My question is: If there are no functional foundation drains will installing a sump pump help keep water out of the basement.

    1. It will certainly help in the area where you install the pit and pump but it is just a band aid. I would not recommend this as a viable solution to a basement flooding issue. It’s like going to a cosmetic surgeon for liposuction and having one leg done.

      admin@theplumbinginfo.