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How can I best protect my home?

According to Conservation Ontario, flooding is the greatest cause of public emergency in Ontario. It causes millions of dollars in damage to personal property and great inconvenience for affected homeowners.

If your home has a basement, you are always at risk of having a basement flood, even if it's never flooded before. The protective measures outlined below may help you reduce the risk of basement flooding and sewer backup.

Install a backwater valve and sump pit drainage system

A sump pit and sump pump system is required in all new basements. As a foundation drainage system, the sump allows for automated draining of a home's weeping tile. The pump is typically triggered by a float and activated when the water level in the sump pit rises. The pump pushes water out of the sump pit through a discharge pipe and should ideally drain into your lawn, at least 2 metres away from the foundation, NOT into the sanitary or storm sewer systems.

The sump pump discharge line needs to be equipped with a check valve or backwater valve to prevent the water in the pipe above the sump pump from flowing back into the sump when the pump shuts off.

You should also have a check valve on the sanitary sewer line in the basement of your house. If properly installed, a check valve should automatically close if sewage backs up from the main sewer, providing added protection but not guaranteeing that a backup will occur.

If you live in a relatively wet area or store valuable items in your basement, you might consider installing multiple pumps. You might also consider a second pump with an alternative backup power source. Since most sump pumps are electrical devices, they won't work during a power failure.

Proper placement of a sump pit is very important. We recommend you use a reputable, licensed plumbing contractor to do the work. Get at least three estimates, ask for references, and check the contractor's references.

Before you install a backwater valve and sump pit, call the Town's Building Department at 519-776-6476. Make sure your contractor obtains the necessary information and permits before the work begins.

Find out more about backwater valves in the following videos from the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction (ICLR):

Check your backwater valve and sump pit drainage regularly

Sump pump systems are not maintenance-free. To best protect your home, follow the pump manufacturer's recommendations for servicing and maintenance, and consider the following tips:

  • Check and test your pump regularly--before the rainy season begins, when heavy rain is forecast, and before you leave your house for a long time. Pour water into the sump pit to trigger the pump to work.
  • Remove and thoroughly clean the pump at least once a year. Disconnect the power source before handling or cleaning the pump.
  • Check the sump pit regularly to ensure it is free of debris. If your pump has a screen that covers the water intake, be sure to clean the screen regularly.
  • Check and clean your catch basin / floor drain trap regularly.
  • Check the discharge pipe to ensure that it is draining well away from the house without any blockage. If it discharges against the basement wall, the water will drain into the weeping tiles and head straight back to the sump pump.

Improve drainage around your house

Proper drainage can help to reduce the risk of basement flooding in the following ways:

  • It helps reduce the amount of water flowing to your home's sewer system and the main municipal sewer system.
  • It helps reduce water seepage into your home through cracks in your basement walls.
  • It helps to stabilize the moisture content of the soil around and under your house, thus reducing the chance of cracking and shifting. Excess moisture at the footings that support your basement walls can cause swelling and the footings may heave.
  • It extends the life of your sump pump by reducing the amount of work it has to do.

You can improve drainage by building up the ground around your house so that water flows away from the basement walls. Ensure that sidewalks, driveways, patios and decks aren't draining towards the house.

Extend your downspouts so that water flows away from your house. If your downspouts are connected to your home's sewer system, disconnect them if doing so would not create a freeze hazard in the winter. Take care not to divert water to your neighbour's property.

Clean debris from your eavestroughs. If they overflow even when clean, replace them with larger eavestroughs and downspouts.

Learn more about downspout disconnection on our Downspout Disconnection Program page.

Practise preventive home maintenance

Some of your everyday practices could increase your risk of sewer backup. Consider the following best practices:

  • Don't throw garbage down your sinks or toilets. Garbage can clog your sewer and cause sewer backup. Avoid washing or flushing dental floss, diapers, cotton swabs, sanitary products and food solids through your drains.
  • Don't pour fat, oil or grease down your drain or into the toilet. Grease hardens as it cools and sticks to the inner lining of sewer pipes, eventually causing a blockage.
  • Raise appliances such as washers, dryers and freezers off the floor and onto wood blocks. Some backups are less than a few inches of water, so taking this precaution may help save your appliances.
  • Store belongings in plastic totes or on shelves, not in paper boxes on the basement floor.
  • Avoid putting grass clippings, leaves or other debris on the streets as they can plug the storm water drains and prevent proper drainage. If you notice a plugged drain, please contact the Town.
  • After a heavy snowfall, move snow away from the foundation of your home so that it drains away from your property when it melts.

Apply to the Basement Flooding Protection Subsidy Program

The Basement Flooding Protection Subsidy Program is a Town of Essex program that assists homeowners by way of providing a financial subsidy to disconnect downspouts, complete investigative camera work, install a sump pump and pit and/or install a backwater valve. The application and additional information can be found at the link above.