Keep That Water Out!

Keeping the water out of your home can be a challenge in Michigan!  As a custom home builder in a relatively wet climate with large temperature swings, water management affects most aspects of building from the roof right down to the foundation.  Water from the sky is best dealt with via a good roof and siding.  It’s also important to make sure that your builder understands flashing (the process of layering water proof membranes and other materials) around window opening, mechanical penetrations and where materials such as stone and siding intersect.  Nothing will cause premature failure or a large insurance claim faster than not correctly waterproofing your home.

The second major source of water that we worry about in the mid-Michigan area is ground water.  The saying goes “water will find a way” meaning that water is constantly trying to find the chink in your home’s armor.  As a builder, we start by providing water management on the outside like gutters and downspouts that should capture the water and get it out away from your home’s foundation.  Make sure that gutters are cleaned regularly and that settling does not cause the ground around your home to slope back towards your home.  Water coming into an older home through the basement wall can most often be remedied with these simple steps.

The water in the ground around you home is most often handled using a system of  perforated piping (known as tiling) buried in gravel at the base of your foundation’s perimeter.  The idea is for the tiling to intercept the water and let if flow into a “crock” or sump usually within your basement.  An electric pump in the crock pumps the water away from the home and your basement or crawl space stays dry.  Count yourself lucky if you don’t have a crock and gravity is responsible for getting the water away from the home.

But what happens when that pump fails?  Pumps can fail because of age, loss of electric grid power, failure of the electrical circuit (electric breaker or GFI trips) or the pump discharge is plugged.  Most homes have some amount of lag time between when the pump fails and before the water rises to wet the basement floor.  Let’s review some strategies to help you avoid a costly flooded basement.

Alarms:  Many options exist including $15 battery operated portable alarms that you place next to the sump crock or any other water source.  Alarms may be either independent or part of a home security system and many options that use your home Wi-Fi to send you a text or even call you to tell you there’s an issue.


Electric Backup Pumps:  Engineers like redundancy – why not have a second electrical pump ready to be installed if the first one fails?  Or even add the second pump into the crock with the first pump, but position it slightly higher so it starts running only if the first pump fails.  Check both pumps routinely to make sure they are in working order.  If possible, wiring for the second pump should be on a different circuit from the first pump.  I also avoid GFI plugs that can have nuisance trips if possible.  If the grid power goes out for a considerable amount of time, then neither pump will provide any protection.

Battery Backup Pumps:  I avoid them.  They give a false sense of security with the battery initially providing a stated amount of run time, but the battery’s capacity and runtime diminish with age so that the pump that was installed 10 years ago offers only very limited protection today.

Water Powered Pumps:  These backup pumps work great even when the power is out.  You must have municipal water of course and they go through a lot of water in order to also expel the groundwater in the crock, but very worth it if the alternative is a wet basement.

If you’re in an area prone to flooding or power outages, I’d suggest talking with a plumber or others to get the best options.  I’d also suggest having a plan – what to do when the power goes out or the sump pump quits working or what to do when the flood waters are rising.  When Midland flooded in May 2020, a neighbor to one of our construction sites called to see if he could borrow sand to fill sandbags.  I was so impressed that he had the forethought to buy and store the bags in advance.  Now he just needed to add sand and he was able to save his home from the rising stream in his backyard.  Now that’s being prepared!  Thank you supporting Greystone Homes and our community.  We’d be happy to consult with you on your new home or remodel.


Kelly Wall