Wet basements can be prevented

Julio Cortez

Brian Landy holds wet items as he sorts through the basement of his New Jersey apartment.

Heavy storms or steady rain can have the potential to leave homeowners with a wet basement throughout the spring and summer months.

Mark Luba, marketing director at Baker’s Waterproofing and Foundation Repair in Bentleyville, said to help prevent water from entering a basement, homeowners need to make sure their downspouts are open and running away from the house.

The company, owned by Brian Baker, provides services in Fayette, Greene, Washington and surrounding counties.

Also, said Luba, make sure the slope leads away from the house so water doesn’t make its way back toward the foundation.

“When you talk to a homeowner one of their biggest concerns are their (basement) space,” said Luba. “It’s either they want it for dry storage so they can keep valuables, for living space, and they want good air quality.”

According to Luba, some homeowners attempt to paint the concrete in their basements, although it can eventually peel and bring in water because it is porous.

When water is evident or accumulates at ground level in the basement, Luba said installing an external or internal drainage system is necessary to correct the problem.

“They protect against future damage from storms that bring large volumes (of water),” said Luba.

Luba added about 99 percent of drainage systems installed by Baker’s are internal because they can be done in a few days and cost less.

The risk of water damage from spring rainfall has the Pennsylvania Insurance Department urging homeowners to consider purchasing flood insurance while also providing tips to cut premiums.

Acting Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller said that spring flooding is common throughout the state.

“Melting snow, combined with spring rains, inadequate drainage, excessive runoff, or dam failure can cause major damage,” Miller said.

According to the Insurance Department, flood damage is not covered under standard homeowner policies and a 30-day waiting period is required before a policy becomes effective.

Ron Ruman, Insurance Department press secretary, said a flood insurance policy covers structural damage and a home’s contents.

Prices vary however, said Ruman, and depend on a number of factors such as the type of property being insured and the flood risk for specific areas.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reported that Pennsylvania residents filed nearly 18,000 flood insurance claims from 2006 through 2014, and received more than $551 million in payments.

Ruman said in Fayette County, 40 flood insurance claims were filed between those dates amounting to $964,185 in payments.

In Greene County, claims were filed only in 2011, with five that amounted to $45,968 in payments.

To lower the risk of flood damage, the Insurance Department provides homeowners with a number of tips on preventative measures that includes:

n Install a sump pump and make sure it is working and to install a battery-operated backup in case of a power failure.

n Install “check valves” to prevent flood water from backing up into the drains of a home.

n Seal basement walls with waterproofing compounds.

n Clear debris from gutters and downspouts.

n Anchor any fuel tanks.

n Elevate your furnace, water heater, washer, dryer, and electric panel, if you live in a high flood risk area.

Miller said taking such measures can help lower insurance premiums that homeowners may be eligible for under a flood insurance policy.

Homeowners are encouraged by FEMA to keep a written and visual record of all major household items and valuables, including those stored in basements, attics or garages.

Keeping serial numbers and store receipts for major appliances and electronics on hand are equally important. Jewelry and artwork should also be appraised.

More information on what property owners can do to lessen potential flood damage, and possibly lower premiums, is available at www.fema.gov/national-flood-insurance-program.

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