Severe thunderstorms and flash floods frequently occur every year in Iowa, often causing severe water damage to homes.
As an Iowa resident, it’s important to protect yourself, your household, and your finances from the potential damage caused by flash floods as best as you can. While unfortunate when it happens, there are some ways you can prevent excess water damage during flash floods:
Let’s take a closer look at each of these water damage prevention methods and how to prepare for heavy rainstorms.
Maintain your sump pump
A sump pump is a crucial piece of plumbing equipment that keeps your basement from flooding. It does so by sensing rising water levels and automatically pumping water out of your basement when the water gets too high. If your sump pump is not working correctly, your basement could potentially flood every time it storms.
As with any other plumbing system in your home, a sump pump will need regular maintenance to ensure that it’s working correctly and efficiently. And, of course, the last thing you probably want is to find out that your sump pump isn’t working during a flash flood.
According to the Sump and Sewage Pump Manufacturer’s Association (SSPMA), cleaning your sump pump is an integral part of maintaining it, but the frequency will vary depending on the situation.
We've listed general timeline guidelines for cleaning your sump pump below:
- If your sump pump disposes of water from a washing machine, you should clean the pump’s screen (filter) or inlet opening monthly. Washing machines produce a considerable amount of water, and you don’t want to risk unnecessary flooding during a rainstorm.
- Alternatively, if your sump pump cannot dispose of your washing machine’s water because it’s not hooked up, a quarterly cleaning of the pump’s screen or inlet opening is fine.
- The SSPMA also recommends removing the sump pump and cleaning both the pump and the pit annually. (The pit is a basin that traps and filters water before funneling it through a pipe away from your home).
In addition to keeping your sump pump clean, you should also have a professional contractor inspect it each year. Not only will an annual inspection prolong the life of your sump pump, but it will also ensure that it’s working correctly.
During an inspection, a contractor should check for the following:
A properly sized pit:
The pit should be large enough for the pump to work correctly. The sump pit should not be less than 24 inches deep and 18 inches wide for most homes.
The sump pump should have a covering to prevent water from evaporating into your home.
A backup power source:
Power outages are most likely to happen during heavy storms and floods when a sump pump is needed most. For this reason, sump pumps should have a backup power source. If your sump pump doesn’t have one, a contractor may recommend installing one.
A check valve:
This valve fits into the discharge pipe and removes the water from the sump basin. If a sump pump doesn’t have a check valve, it will have to work twice as hard to remove the same amount of water from a basin, resulting in extra wear and tear on the pump.
Although it’s not necessary, you can also outfit your sump pump with an alarm that will signal water buildup if the pump burns out, loses power, gets clogged, or malfunctions. That way, you can resolve the problem before any significant water damage occurs.
To prevent water damage to your home during flash floods, you may also need to consider budgeting for a sump pump replacement.
Common signs that you may need to replace it include:
- It makes strange noises or vibrates
- It runs all the time
- It keeps cycling on and off
- It’s showing visible rust or damage
- It’s more than seven years old
- It has been relatively inactive
- It has stopped working
- You’ve had frequent power failures at home
Read our blog Top 10 Signs It’s Time To Replace Your Sump Pump for more details.
Repair any slab leaks
You can also guard your home against Iowa flooding events by inspecting your home for cracks in your basement walls or foundation and sealing them. You can hire a professional plumber to do this as they will have the expertise and tools to locate any leaks using methods like:
- Hydrostatic water testing
- Acoustic slab leak listening devices
- Infrared cameras
- Smoke/tracer gas testing
If a plumber discovers a slab leak, they will find its exact location and recommend pipe repair options, such as:
- Replacing the pipe
- Rerouting the flow of water to a new pipe above the ground
- Lining the inside of the leaky pipe with epoxy resin, which is a coating that hardens and takes the place of the old pipe
To prevent your home from flooding, FEMA also recommends sealing your foundation and basement walls with waterproofing compounds. You can purchase these products at stores like Lowe’s or Home Depot.
Install wireless water/flood sensors
Wireless water/flood sensors can reduce flood damage by alerting you of any flooding as soon as it happens. These sensors sound an audible alarm whenever a water leak, a burst pipe, or flooding occurs.
You can install them in places where leaks or flooding are likely to happen, such as basements, kitchens, or bathrooms. If you have a home security system, you can also set sensors up to send real-time alerts to your smartphone. That way, you can take the necessary actions to address the flooding quickly and prevent severe damage to your home.
You can purchase wireless water/flood sensors at your local home improvement stores, or you can buy them directly from a plumber and have them professionally installed if you’d like.
Keep up with annual plumbing maintenance
Prioritizing your annual plumbing maintenance will help you avoid property damage by preventing leaks altogether. Although you can check for leaks yourself, it can be pretty time-consuming, and you will also need to educate yourself on how to do so properly.
Instead, you can save time and hire a professional plumber for an annual maintenance service. To get the most bang for your buck, you should hire a plumber who will perform the following maintenance tasks each year:
- Drain and flush your water heater’s tank
- Look for any signs of water damage in your home
- Inspect your home’s pipes and plumbing, including all drains, showers and bathtubs, toilets, sinks and faucets, toilets, garbage disposals, water lines, and sewer lines
- Conduct a pressure test to check for hairline cracks or pipe leaks
- Clean out all drains
To find a reliable plumber in the Des Moines area, look for one who:
- Has 10+ years of professional experience
- Is licensed and insured in Iowa
- Has positive reviews from customers
- Provides written upfront estimates
- Offers guarantees on all their work
Home improvement assistance for water damage prevention
While the tips listed above will be helpful to prevent flood damage, many of them require a considerable financial commitment. Fortunately, if you are a resident of Urbandale, you can apply for financial assistance through the Metro Home Improvement Program. This program assists with housing repairs such as:
- Sump pump installation
- Simple repairs for walls, roof, or foundation
- Weatherization such as insulation, windows, and siding
- Building systems like electrical, heating, and plumbing systems
You can download a program application online here.
Need individualized recommendations from a reliable plumber in Des Moines?
Call Golden Rule Plumbing, Heating & Cooling at (515) 305-2955 or contact us online. Like our name says, we always operate with the utmost integrity, offering fair prices and honest recommendations. Our knowledgeable plumbers can inspect your home and provide you with trustworthy guidance to help you prepare for the worst. We’ll even waive the diagnostic fee if you choose to have us take care of any recommended repairs.