Ottawa

5 tips to help keep your home high and dry

With days of rain in the forecast and warnings rivers could rise to levels last seen during severe flooding in 2017, residents of Ottawa and Gatineau will be nervously checking their basements for signs of moisture this long weekend.

With flood fears and a rainfall warning in the forecast, Ottawa/Gatineau's in for a wet weekend

City of Ottawa crews worked to clear flooding on a Kanata street last weekend. (Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC)

With days of rain in the forecast and warnings rivers could rise to levels last seen during severe flooding in 2017, residents of Ottawa and Gatineau will be nervously checking their basements for signs of moisture this long weekend.

Environment Canada has issued a rainfall warning for Ottawa and Gatineau, Que. The region is expected to receive up to 50 millimetres of rain by Friday night, with more rain possible on Saturday.

Add still-frozen ground conditions and a snowpack that hasn't fully melted and you've got a recipe for flooding.

John Cooke surveys a neighbourhood in Carp that saw some flooding after last weekend's heavy rainfall. (Stu Mills/CBC)

Here are some tips and tricks to keep your home and possessions as dry as possible.

Keep gutters and downspouts clear

Keeping your gutters clear can be a top defence against water seeping into your home's roof or siding.

When heavy rain's in the forecast, keeping these two channels free of leaves and debris is extremely important, said John Cooke, president of ServiceMaster Restore of Ottawa, a disaster restoration company.

"[People] need to make sure that their gutters are flowing properly and that they're extended nice and far away from the home because of course the whole roof is draining into those few spots," he said.

Downspouts can often be kicked or disturbed during the winter, which can leave water pouring onto your lawn or even into your home, he said.

The City of Ottawa also suggests pointing downspouts into a rain barrel.

Landscaping

Landscaping isn't just about making your property look pretty, but also keeping your home high and dry.

Water takes the path of least resistance, and while much of the ground is still frozen, it thaws more quickly around a home's foundation. That can cause pooling, Cooke said.

Even if downspouts are clear and pointing away from the home, how the lawn is graded or even the placement of trees and flower beds can contribute to problems.

Homeowner should be sure to keep their property graded away from the house, especially since the ground is still frozen, Cooke said.

A parked car sits partially submerged in the Pointe-Gatineau neighbourhood during the 2017 spring floods. (Ashley Burke/CBC)

"A nice positive slope away from the home is going to perch and allow the water to drain off the property."

Planting flowers right up against a house and adding soil or wood chips is another big no-no, he said.

Soil and wood chips can block weep holes in the home's foundation. Weep holes allow water to drain and air to get in so a building can stay dry.

Seal windows, floors, cracks in foundation

Cooke suggests making sure windows are properly caulked, but not to block any part of the frame that could prevent water from properly draining.

"You have to make sure that you don't seal up anything that's engineered or designed within the window itself."

The same goes for mending brick siding: make sure not to cover those weep holes.

Backflow preventers and sump pumps

Sump pumps are typically used in lower-lying areas or more rural areas where there are no storm sewers, while backflow preventers can be used on older homes that may be on a combined sewer or storm water drainage system, or that experience some water seepage.

Cooke suggests always having a battery-powered backup. There's nothing worse than hearing your sump pump working away, then having the power go out.

"When the power fails, it doesn't matter if you have one or 10 pumps. If you don't have a battery backup or a system to power that pump, these are the times when we see a larger frequency of claims because the sump pumps can't keep up or they fail."

Keep the basement floor clear

As a rule of thumb, if a possession is valuable to you — think family photographs or artwork — keep it off the ground. 

If you do have water seeping into your basement, keep the floor clear.

Keeping valuables up high on racks or in sealed plastic bins can save you a lot of stress.

And don't block drains with furniture or boxes, Cooke said.

With files from Stu Mills and Adrian Harewood

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