We’ve all seen the amazing footage of rivers and lakes cresting over their banks , of volunteers working feverishly to pile up sandbags. In fact , a flooded basement often conjures up images of a massive thunderstorm accompanied by a deluge of rain or the spring melt after a year filled with higher than normal snowfall. And , while this is common , there are many ways a home can flood.It’s a sinking feeling when you walk down a set of basement stairs only to meet with several feet of water. What was once your home is now a lake and your possessions are under water. How did this happen? Unfortunately , basements flood for any number of reasons and not a single one is funny like the cartoons you watched when you were little. This is real life and flooding causes record damage , personal loss and untold frustration and heartache. What Causes Water DamageWe’ve all seen the amazing footage of rivers and lakes cresting over their banks , of volunteers working feverishly to pile up sandbags. In fact , a flooded basement often conjures up images of a massive thunderstorm accompanied by a deluge of rain or the spring melt after a year filled with higher than normal snowfall. And , while this is common , there are many ways a home can flood. Heavy rain can enter a home through cracks in the basement walls , be forced in through an improperly graded lot or even be pushed in directly from downspouts located too close to the foundation. In fact , many times the water comes down so fast that many municipal storm drains cannot handle the flow. The system is set up to allow most water to soak back into the ground without even entering the drain. Repeated downpours in the spring can overload the system , especially in older municipalities. At a certain point , the water level is so high that it is above the planned water level , called a surcharge. Unfortunately , many basements have drains that are below this surcharge level , allowing water to easily infiltrate the basement. A pipe freezing and subsequently bursting is another way that a basement can flood. In fact , researchers state that 22 out of every 1 ,000 homes have floods due to broken water pipes. As temperatures drop in an insufficiently heated home or one with inadequately insulated pipes , the water will freeze in those pipes. This water expands as it freezes and , as innocent as it sounds , can cause untold amounts of damage. Unchecked , water can spray out of broken pipes until turned off at the source , sometimes days later. This can happen once temperatures drop below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. You can leave the faucet open slightly in an attempt to prevent this , but it does not always work. Proper insulation and heat levels are your best defense. Basement Furnishings and FinishesWhen building or remodeling , try to use an impermeable floor in your basement , which can lessen potential damage. Carpet will become waterlogged quickly and is highly susceptible to mold. If you like the idea of something soft underfoot , use area rugs or inexpensive carpet tiles to cover large areas of space for little money. They can also be easily washed or replaced. Likewise , furniture raised up off the floor with legs stands a greater chance of surviving without much damage than fully upholstered pieces. The most important item in the basement worth saving is family photos. While many families use their basement as a partial storage space , great care needs to be utilized when storing irreplaceable items like family photos , Super8 film from your childhood or any other fragile and non-replaceable memories. Using waterproof plastic tubs , elevated off the floor , helps but you should also consider making copies of the originals in a digital format. You can store them on your computer’s hard drive , upload them to a private YouTube channel or even put them in the cloud. Flooded basements with standing water , wet materials or both are a prime breeding ground for microorganisms. It is extremely important to remove the water as soon as possible to prevent the growth of bacteria , viruses and , of course , mold. Mold is frequently a culprit for simple allergic reactions as well as more serious respiratory problems that afflict homeowners after a flood. Simply washing down the areas affected by mold with bleach will not work. In fact , a fungicide is recommended to remove mold that has infiltrated the porous cement. Professional water remediation companies recommend removing excess water and moisture from a flooded basement as soon as possible. Many even suggest that removal within the first 48 hours can prevent mold from forming altogether. They frequently use high-powered , commercial-grade fans and dehumidifiers to draw all the moisture out of the room as well as the porous , cement walls and , when necessary , drill 1 inch holes into the walls to facilitate the drying process.Insurance Can Help The ProcessInsurance is not necessarily a cut and dry decision. In fact , many insurance companies now have special riders for different types of flooding to protect themselves. For example , most homeowner’s insurance no longer covers unattended houses. So , if you leave and head south to Florida for the winter , you may want to touch base with your insurance agent before you leave. Some companies want you to keep the heat at a certain level to prevent pipes from freezing while you are away and others simply require you to purchase an additional policy rider to cover unforeseen events. Above ground pools poise another dilemma for homeowners. That beacon of summer fun in your backyard may wind up flooding your basement. And , even if your policy covers your basement , it probably won’t pay you for a new pool , new landscaping and , in some cases , even a new deck or patio. You would have to replace those (expensive) items out-of-pocket. Likewise , floods caused by maintenance issues are the problem of the homeowner to solve and are not covered under most policies. Water damage due to a leaky roof , cracked windows , basement seepage due to cracks in your foundation or even a washing machine issue are not usually covered. You should be aware of your policy , but , more importantly , you should stay on top of your home’s minor repair issues before they become a bigger problem. Insurance rates can go up and property values down when a home is in a flood plain or when previous claims have been placed due to flooding. In fact , experts now know that frequent flooding causes long term damage to the building’s structure and , because of this , may not be covered by insurance. Check with your agent regarding separate policy riders for your situation , including the municipal storm sewer system overflowing or failing as well as floods from a nearby creek or lake.Prevention of Future Water DamageTry as we might , we cannot stop Mother Nature. She will still provide us with a deluge of rain whenever the mood strikes. We can , however , take certain steps to lessen the damage she can cause. First and foremost , proper drainage around a home is essential to prevent flooding. Your lot should be graded and landscaped so that the water flows away from your house (and your neighbor’s) and out into the street , where it can meet up with the storm drain. Your gutters and downspouts also help move this water in the right direction and should be kept clean of leaves and other debris so that they are ready to assist when the time comes. The downspouts should be a minimum of six feet away from the foundation to prevent water expelled from seeping into the basement. Inside your home , the basement floor should slope to a central floor drain to assist with removing any water that accumulates as quickly as possible.