Controlling home flooding in Boston area

Controlling home flooding in Boston area

Joseph Wood, Boston Standard Plumbing

Summer is here, which means it's flood season. Even if you don't live in a flood-prone area, your home can still take in water unexpectedly. Flooding in the home happens frequently. More than one-third of homeowners have made a water-related insurance claim on their homes, and more than 90 percent of these claims are related to plumbing or appliance failures.

Homeowner's insurance may or may not cover water damage that arises from your plumbing. Therefore, it's important to check with your insurance agent to determine what types of water damage claims will be covered, and which ones you'll be taking care of on your own.

You can take several steps to mitigate water damage. When you're properly prepared, you can limit the damage that may be caused by sudden storms, sewer backups and appliance or plumbing failures.

If your home is built in a low-lying area, chances are good that you have a sump pump. A sump pump will move water that collects below grade upward and into your drain. Sump systems can also be used to collect and disperse rainwater that might otherwise accumulate around a home's foundation. Some older homes collect rainwater in a sump well and pump it into the sanitary sewer. Generally, these connections are no longer recommended or permitted and some municipalities require homeowners with such a connection to separate their rainwater and wastewater discharges.

Sump pumps come in a variety of designs and sizes. Some pumps sit directly in the sump well and have contact with the water, while other designs allow the pump to reside "high and dry" either on a pedestal above the sump well or on the floor or wall near the sump well.

Sump pumps are mechanical devices and can fail for a variety of reasons. Sump pumps usually have a mechanical float-type switch, which can break or become jammed. Power failures – often a side effect of storms – can also leave you without sump services when you really need them. The pump can also be overwhelmed by a large amount of water in a short time span, the intake can get clogged, or the pump can simply suffer an age-related failure.

Regular maintenance can help prevent surprise sump pump failures. Inspect your sump pump periodically to ensure that its intake screen isn't clogged. Sediment that accumulates in the sump well should be removed to prevent it from being accidentally introduced into the pump. If the float is accessible, it should be checked for obvious signs of wear or corrosion. Don't reach into the sump well to manipulate the float. Instead, use a non-conducting object to lift the float arm until the pump turns on.

When the sump pump fails, a sump well will fill with rainwater or wastewater (as from a basement laundry room) and the sump well will overflow to the surrounding area. To protect against the possibility of a sump pump failure, homeowners can install a backup sump pump or keep a portable sump on hand. Backup sump pumps are often battery-powered to allow for operation during power failures. They're also automatic, so they kick in when the power goes out. Some backup sump pumps are water-powered and use high-pressure flowing water from your home's municipal supply to create upward suction, which siphons water from the sump well.

Water alarms also offer good protection. Most won't stop the water from rising, but a water alarm may warn you about a problem and enable you to act much sooner. You can install a water alarm at the top of your sump well. If the water level rises too high, the alarm will sound and you can take corrective measures before significant damage occurs.

Some water alarms operate with appliances and incorporate automatic shut-off valves. When the alarm is tripped, the built-in valve disables water flow to an appliance, such as a water heater, dishwasher or ice maker.

While most people think that storms are the most likely cause of water damage in the home, the reality is that plumbing failures cause most home water damage each year. By taking a few proactive steps, you can protect yourself against household floods and lessen the damage that plumbing failures can create.

Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating was incorporated in 2008. Starting with one service truck, Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating now operates with four trucks and seven employees. Joe Wood, owner of Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating has been a plumbing, heating and cooling professional for ten years.

As of July 22, 2011, this service provider was highly rated on Angie’s List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie’s List.

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