Toronto’s sewers are designed for most storms, but Toronto is experiencing more severe weather events with higher rainfall levels occurring over a shorter amount of time – which can lead to flooding. The City is taking action to prevent basement flooding, but we also encourage property owners to be aware of steps they can take to protect their homes. Just like the shingles on your roof, your home’s plumbing and drainage need to be properly maintained.
The City also has the Basement Flooding Protection Subsidy Program to help property owners flood-proof their homes.
During emergency preparedness week (May 5 to 9, 2014) and all year long, the City encourages residents to learn what can be done around their homes to help prevent basement flooding. For more information, please go to the city website.
Tips to help prevent basement flooding
Part of reducing the risk of basement floods is to understand how your drainage and plumbing work and how to maintain it. Every home is different and homes over time have been built with different building practice and building codes. Some of what you should know about your home includes:
- Knowing the location and condition of your sewer lateral (pipe).
- Knowing the location and condition of your storm sewer lateral (pipe).
- Finding out if you have a backwater valve or sump pump, and if so, how to maintain them.
- Finding out if you have weeping tiles and if so, their condition and where they are connected.
- Inspecting your eavestroughs and downspouts to ensure they are clear of debris and functioning properly. If your downspouts are connected to the sewer system, disconnect them if it is safe to do so and have the water drain on to your lawn, at least six feet away from your foundation.
To understand some of these elements of your home’s plumbing, you may want to hire a licensed plumber who can conduct specialized testing or inspection, often through video camera inspection.
Once you understand your plumbing and drainage system, you also have to maintain it:
- Fix any cracks or other condition problems.
- Avoid creating clogs. Items such as dental floss and personal care products including “flushable” wipes should not be flushed down the toilet. Also, never pour any fats, oils and grease down the drain.
- Other things a homeowner can do are:
- Seal cracks or openings in basement walls, floors, windows, doors and foundations.
- Ensure the grading around your home slopes away from the foundation wall.
- Install flood prevention devices including a sump pump and backwater valve.
What to do if your basement floods
- Stop all household water use.
- Call your insurance company as soon as possible to report property damage caused by flooding.
- Call 311 immediately to report basement flooding. During extreme weather, call volumes will be high. 311 is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- Do not enter a flooded basement, as you may be exposed to sewage or come in contact with water and electricity.
- Be mindful of your health and safety when cleaning up a flooded basement. Do not stand in flood water. Call a professional for assistance.
What the City is doing
- The City of Toronto is working to make improvements to its complex system, with a 10-year plan (as of the 2014 budget) that includes spending $3.1 billion on waste water and stormwater collection systems.
- However, these improvements alone cannot completely protect a home from basement flooding. Those who act to prevent flooding on their own property can significantly reduce the risk of basement flooding.
- To assist homeowners, the City offers the Basement Flooding Protection Subsidy Program, which offers eligible owners of single-family, duplex and triplex residential homes a financial subsidy of up to $3,400 per property to install flood protection devices. Devices include backwater valve, sump pump, and pipe severance and capping of the home’s storm sewer or external weeping tile connection.