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Protect Your Home from Floods

Take Steps to Reduce the Risk of Basement Flooding Due to Summer Storms

Summer downpours can drop a tremendous amount of water in a relatively short period of time. All homes – even those that have never flooded before – are at risk of flooding. Take these steps and watch the video to reduce the risk of summer storm water finding its way into your basement. 

  1. Extend downspouts at least two metres (six feet) from your basement walls. The further the water is from the foundation, the less chance that it will make its way into your basement. Splash pads can help direct the water to a permeable surface, such as a garden or lawn. Alternatively, you could recycle the storm water by diverting it into a rain barrel for later use in your yard.
  2. Clear debris from your eavestroughs (gutters) to prevent them from overflowing. If your eavestroughs or downspouts overflow even when they are clean, install larger ones.
  3. Build up the ground slope around your home. Soil should slope down from your foundation and window wells for at least two to three metres (about six to ten feet) at a drop of at least 10-20 centimetres (about four to eight inches). See the diagram below. If water soaks into the ground within the backfill zone, it will accumulate next to your basement walls and floor, where it can leak in or damage the foundation. Check your ground slope annually, because soil, sidewalks, patios, decks and driveways can settle over time.
  4. Check the drainage paths on your property. Ensure that storm water flows to the lane or street, not towards your home. It also shouldn’t flow into your neighbour’s yard! Property should be graded to keep water flowing in the right direction.
  5. Fix leaks in walls, floors, windows and doors.
  6. Install window wells around basement windows. This will prevent your window sills from leaking and rotting. Keep window wells free of leaves, branches and other debris.
  7. If you have protective plumbing, such as backflow valves and sump pumps, make sure they are working properly. To learn more about protective plumbing, click the link in the navigation on the left.

Where is all this water coming from, and how is it getting into the Sanitary Sewer System? 
In some homes, eavestrough downspouts are connected to plumbing that empties into the Sanitary Sewer System. Other homes (generally, those built between 1965 and 2004) have a foundation drainage system, also known as weeping tile, which diverts water from the backfill zone into the floor drain in the basement. These systems can contribute to the overload of the Sanitary Sewer System.

During a long or heavy rainstorm, hundreds of litres of water from one property can run into the Sanitary Sewer System. Multiply that by thousands of homes, and the runoff can cause serious problems.

What is the City doing to reduce the risk?
In addition to encouraging homeowners to remove their property drainage from the sanitary sewer system, the City is taking a number of steps to reduce the risk of Sanitary Sewer backup, including:

  • increasing the storage capacity of the Sanitary Sewer System;
  • sealing off sanitary manholes at intersections which flood frequently; and 
  • creating an Emergency Diversion Plan for critical sanitary sewers.

As of February 1, 1997, the City has a mandate which requires all new residences to have backflow prevention devices. The City also encourages owners of residences constructed before that date to have a backflow prevention device installed.

What should I do?
Evaluate your home’s current plumbing and drainage system. If your eavestroughs empty into interior plumbing, have them disconnected and add downspouts to disperse the water at least two metres (six feet) away from your home’s foundation.

Many homes built between 1965 and 2004 have a foundation drainage system, also known as weeping tile, which diverts water from the backfill zone into the floor drain in the basement. In this situation, the weeping tile system can be disconnected from the basement drain and reconnected to a sump pump system.

Less water in the Sanitary Sewer System will lower the chance of sewer backup in your home or neighbourhood, and in all areas of the city. However, no municipal sewer system can guarantee every house complete protection. Protective plumbing should be used in all residences.

Protective Plumbing

Protective plumbing is the term used to describe various devices, such as backflow prevention devices and sump pumps, that can help protect against basement flooding and sewage backup. 

What is a sump pump?
A sump pumping system consists of a pit, a pump, and a pump discharge pipe. The pit collects water from the weeping tile around the foundation. When water begins to accumulate in the pit, the pump will start automatically, and push the water outside the building through the discharge pipe, where it is directed at least two metres (six feet) away from the building.

How do I know if my home has a sump pumping system?
The City of Saskatoon has mandated that all homes built after January 1, 2004 have a sump pumping system. If you have an older home, a system could have been added later on. A sump pit may be round or square. Look for a hole in your basement floor that is about 750 millimetres (30 inches) deep. There should be a pipe entering the side of the pit, and there may be a pump in the pit. The pit should be covered with a child-resistant cover.

Is my sump pump working?
You should test your sump pump system every fall; before each spring thaw and before you leave your house for an extended period. Pouring water into the pit should trigger the pump to operate.

Routine maintenance should also be done every fall. First disconnect the sump pump from the power source. If your sump pump is not equipped with a standard plug in, and is hard-wired to the electrical system, call a qualified electrician. Once the sump pump is disconnected from the power source, remove soil, sand and other debris from the pit; clean the screen that covers the water intake; and make sure that the discharge pipe is clean and that the water is discharging at least two metres from your basement walls. Be sure to reconnect the sump pump.

What is a backflow prevention device?
A backflow prevention device, more commonly known as a backwater valve, is a device that prevents sewage in an overloaded sewer line from backing up into your basement. If sewage backs up, the valve automatically closes. The backwater valve must be installed properly so that sewage backup will not come out through plumbing fixtures or the floor drain in your basement.

How do I know if my home has a backwater valve?
If you have a backwater device, it is likely located near a perimeter wall in your basement in an access chamber below the basement floor. Most often this is in your utility room, and probably near your floor drain. It might be hidden under carpet or behind stored items. Some homes have multiple backwater valves.

I don’t have a backwater valve or a sump pump. What now?
Sump pumps and backwater valves must be installed by a licensed plumbing contractor. There are many types of backwater valves and sump pumps. Detailed information, including installation requirements and routine maintenance, can be found in Protective Plumbing.

What is weeping tile and how do I know if my home has it?
Let’s take a look at the average home drainage setups in Saskatoon. The most common is a foundation drainage system, also known as weeping tile. This is a perforated plastic pipe, surrounded by coarse gravel, located around the outer edge of the concrete footing of the basement. When water seeps down through the soil, it flows into the holes in the pipe, and is diverted out.

Homes constructed prior to the early 1960s likely do not have a weeping tile system. 

Recommended Action: Evaluate your plumbing system. If they have not already been installed, have a sump pump and a backwater valve put in by a qualified plumber.

If your home was constructed after the early 1960s, it is likely that a weeping tile system was installed. Until early 2004, most of these systems were built to divert water into the floor drain in your basement. This can contribute to the overload of the Sanitary Sewer System.

Recommended Action: Evaluate your plumbing system. If they have not already been installed, have a sump pump and a backwater valve put in by a qualified plumber, and have the weeping tile system disconnected from the basement floor drain and diverted to the sump pump.

The City of Saskatoon changed weeping tile requirements as of January 1, 2004. All homes constructed after that date must have a weeping tile system that diverts water into a sump pit inside the basement.

Recommended Action: Evaluate your plumbing system. Make sure that the sump pump is in good working order. Do routine maintenance in spring and fall. If one has not already been installed, have a backwater valve put in by a qualified plumber.

How do I choose a plumber?
City staff can perform a Property Information Disclosure (PID) search on your property that will tell you what plumbing has been permitted and inspected. To request a PID search, call the City’s Building Standards Branch at 975-2645.

It is important that you choose a qualified professional. Plumbing contractors and technicians must be licensed in Saskatoon. Ask neighbours, family and friends for recommendations. Obtain at least two written estimates. Ask for references and be sure to check them. Before making a choice, find out if the work will be covered by warranty or maintenance contract.

A plumbing system may not be constructed, altered, extended, renewed or repaired unless a plumbing permit has been obtained for the work. You must be a licensed plumbing contractor  registered with the City of Saskatoon in order to obtain a permit.