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Flooded Basements: Causes, Prevention and What to Do

Woman wearing rubber boots because of a basement flood

A flooded basement is a major concern for Toronto homeowners during the hot months. We get a lot of rain from summer storms, sometimes enough to overwhelm our pipes and sewer system.

According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, a single storm in August 2018 caused over $80 million in insured damage across Toronto.

It’s important for homeowners to be aware of the causes of basement flooding and how to act in case of an emergency. In this article, we’re going to do a complete overview of basement flooding—including what immediate steps to take if your basement floods.

Of course, prevention is always the best solution. We’ll be covering everything you can do to protect your home, including taking advantage of the City of Toronto’s Basement Flooding Protection Subsidy Program.

What causes a flooded basement?

Sometimes heavy rain can simply overwhelm Toronto’s sewer system. If there’s too much water flowing in at once, it can pool and backup into homes.

There are, however, many things that can cause or contribute to flooding:

  • Cracks or leaks in your foundation, or your basement’s walls, windows or door
  • Bad drainage from pipes that aren’t angled properly
  • Blocked or failing weeping tile system
  • A sump pump that’s failed or not working properly
  • Eavestroughs that are blocked, overflowing or not directing water properly
  • Plugged or leaking downspouts
  • A blocked or slow-draining pipe
  • Cracked or broken pipes (we’ve even seen this happen in the Beaches from tree roots!)
  • Bad piping like Kitec in a home is a ticking time bomb for leaks and flooding
Tree roots growing through a toilet pipe in the Beaches, Toronto
Tree roots growing through a toilet pipe in the Beaches, Toronto

What do I do if my basement floods?

A flooded basement is a homeowner’s nightmare. Fortunately, knowing who to call and what to do can help you feel in control and protect your home.

What to do if your basement floods

  1. Before you do anything, call Toronto Hydro and have them shut off power to your home. Otherwise, you could get electrocuted!
  2. Call Toronto 311 (available 24 hours a day, seven days a week) to report the flooding. City staff will come to inspect the flooding and let you know the cause. In the meantime:
    1. If you think the flooding is a result of a sewer backup (from heavy rain), try not to use sinks or flush toilets. Anything that goes down your drains could end up in your basement.
    2. If you think the flooding was caused by something else, like a burst pipe, shut off the water to your home.
  3. Call your insurance company to report the flooding. Be sure to take pictures of the damage and keep any receipts from repairs or clean-up.
    1. If the flood was caused by a problem on your property, like a broken pipe, you are responsible to pay for the damage. Your insurance company can let you know what coverage you have.
    2. If the flood was caused by the City’s sewer system backing up (from heavy rain), you can submit a claim with the City. However, the claim will be denied if the City can show that it has met the necessary sewer standards in your area.

When cleaning up after a flood, it’s important to be safe. Always wear gloves, masks and boots, and be sure to keep pets and children away from the area. The safest option, for both you and your home, is to hire a professional clean-up company that specializes in flooded basements.

Once you deal with the emergency, it’s important to think about what steps to take to prevent flooding in the future.

How can I prevent a flooded basement?

Basement flooding is a big problem that often starts with a smaller issue, like a blockage or a bad pipe. By taking care of common plumbing issues in your home, you can prevent major damage from flooding.

Toronto’s Basement Flooding Protection Subsidy Program

There are also some bigger changes you can make to greatly reduce the risk of basement flooding. They’re so effective that the City of Toronto is offering homeowners a subsidy of up to $3,400 per property to make these changes.

Eligible work includes:

  • installing a sump pump, which prevents floods by collecting and removing any excess water. This is a great option for homes in flood-prone areas especially.
  • installing a backwater valve, which turns your drain pipes into a one-way street. With a backwater valve, water can only go out—it can’t back up into your home.
  • severing and capping your home’s storm sewer to prevent flooding

As a licensed plumber, Neighbourhood Plumbing can do these installations and help you collect your rebate.

Looking for more ways to protect your home from flooding? The City of Toronto has a thorough list of things you can do.

Keep your basement safe & dry

Basement flooding is, unfortunately, both common and expensive. The good news is, there’s a lot homeowners can do to prevent flooding and the City of Toronto is offering much-needed support through their subsidy program.

By taking advantage of the City’s subsidy program to make large changes and addressing smaller plumbing issues around the house, you can do a lot to keep your house safe and dry.

Have a plumbing issue you want to take care of before it becomes a bigger problem? Want to take advantage of the City’s rebate program? Contact Neighbourhood Plumbing today!