How to Keep Your Basement from Flooding This Spring

Will it ever stop raining this spring? With the official start of summer just a few days away, it still seems more like April than June. With all of this rainfall, you could start to see water or moisture in your basement, especially if the gutters on your home are plugged or don’t route the water at least six feet away from your foundation. Water too close to your foundation can seep in through your basement walls. Just a few inches of water can cause a few hundred, even thousands of dollars in damage. Even if you don’t normally get water in your basement, this year’s relentless rainfall could make an impact.

So what can you do to protect yourself? Making sure you have a functioning sump pump in your basement could save you a lot of headache. A sump pump sits in a pit, usually a 18″ wide by 2′ deep hole with a gravel base. It should be installed in the lowest spot of your basement. Water flows to the pit through drains or by natural migration through soil. A float activator automatically turns on the electric pump. The pump moves water out of the pit and away from the foundation through pipes. A check valve keeps water from flowing back into the pit.

You should check the pump’s operation once a month or so in the spring or rainy season. Make sure the pump is plugged in and the GFCI switch is not tripped. The pump should be standing up straight so that the float doesn’t jam. Clean the grate on the bottom of the submersible pump and make sure the vent hole in the discharge pipe is clear. If you are not comfortable doing this, one of our plumbers can do the maintenance for you. Pour  a bucket of water into the pit to make sure it starts. If it doesn’t, call for service.

A second sump pump, either water powered or battery powered, can serve as a back up in case of a power failure. This is a popular option for further peace of mind.

How to Keep Drains Flowing Smoothly

Vinegar and Baking soda

Keeping everything running smoothly can be a challenge with a busy family. Chances are you dash home from the office for a quick meal, then drop the kids at soccer practice while you hit the craft store for supplies your son needs for science class tomorrow. When life is this hectic, a clogged drain could send you into a tailspin. To make life easier, we have put together some proactive tips you can use to avoid clogs without investing much time or effort.

  • Next time you stop by your favorite superstore, pick up a drain strainer for the shower. Be sure to use a paper towel to clear the drain, especially if anyone using your shower has long hair. Soap can gum up the pipes, too, so less is best!
  • Not all food scraps should go into the garbage disposal. For instance, egg shells may seem harmless, but the hard sharp edges of the broken pieces will collect other things coming down the drain and eventually cause a clog. It’s best to put your egg shells into the trash.
  • Flour thickens when you add it to water. Flour down your drain will stick to the sides of the pipes and catch other things coming down as well. It is wise to throw into the trash can also.
  • Coffee grounds will also build up in your pipes and cause blockage. They are one of the most common cause of drain problems. You should always dispose of coffee grounds in your trash can, or better yet use them for composting.
  • Pasta or rice will expand when it absorbs water, and can cause blockage. Pasta is also made of flour so it will stick to the pipes and collect other things.
  • Everyone has undoubtedly heard that feminine products clog pipes. Toilet paper is the paper that should go down the toilet. It is designed to break down in water. Paper towels, facial tissue, cotton balls, disposable diapers and other absorbent materials will hold water and cause blockage.
  • Products that claim to be flushable can clog your pipes. Cat litter, wipes, condoms, bandaids, and dental floss are all commonly flushed items that can cause problems.

If you do get a clog, try to plunge, don’t use harsh drain cleaners! Drain cleaning chemicals will corrode your plumbing and then you will have a bigger headache. Instead, flush them weekly with a half cup of baking soda and one cup of vinegar. Let it fizz in the drain for ten minutes, then pour in four cups of boiling water.

Follow these simple tips to avoid clogs and you will save yourself a lot of time and frustration.

Wipes Clog Pipes!

The filter screen seen here is covered in “ragging”  – scores of disposable wipes and other products that have been flushed down the toilet. This pump, part of the by-pass system at the 15 Mile Road Sewer Collapse worksite, loses capacity as wipes clog the screens around the pump or bind up at the pump’s motor. Everytime this needs to be cleaned –  as often as every two hours during a rain – it costs about $500 in manpower and equipment expenses – expenses eventually passed on to sewer rate payers in the Macomb Interceptor Drain Drainage District.

Ironically, the very quality that makes wipes so attractive from a use standpoint – their ability to hold together when wet – is what causes problems in a sewer system. Whereas toilet paper is designed to biodegrade in water, wipes are specifically designed to hold together.

But aren’t they flushable? Many wipes and similar products are labeled as “flushable”. While they may be flushable, they ARE NOT biodegradable. Wipes should be disposed of in a trash can.

The Macomb County Office of Public Works, in conjunction with your local municipal department of public works and the Great Lakes Water Authority, uses a variety of screens and filters in an attempt to limit the damage these wipes can cause to our system. Of course, no screening system is as good as catching the problem at the source – eliminating the wipes from entering the system in the first place. Use the wipes – just be sure that they end up in the trash after use.


Baby, It’s Cold Outside!

If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe. Likely places for frozen pipes include against exterior walls or where your water service enters your home through the foundation.
Keep the faucet open. As you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt ice in the pipe.
Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials), or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame device.
Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. If you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not accessible, or if you can not thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber.
Check all other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too.

Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals up out of the reach of children.
When the weather is very cold outside, let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe – even at a trickle – helps prevent pipes from freezing.
Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.
If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55° F.