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Will Rain Cause a Basement Drain to Backup?

Rain can cause a backup in a basement drain if the drain is tied to a storm sewer, or if there is an issue with the drain pipe. Often a rising water level from rain can cause the lowest parts of a basement floor to get wet first, which may make it appear as though water is coming up through the drain. If you suspect rain is causing a basement drain to back up, there are a few things you can check.


Combined Sewer

Basement floors are typically quite porous and will be quick to show water.

Some municipalities have what is called a combined sewer.  In a combined sewer, all or some of the water that is drained from storm drains flows in to the same sewer system where waste water from homes is deposited.

If you have this type of system in your area, a basement drain that's backing up may be a sign of an overflowing sewer system, a problem much larger than just your basement drains. 


Detached Drain

If, either due to damage or improper installation, a basement drain is not tied in to a drain system, a rising water table due to prolonged rain can cause backups through a basement drain.  In some older homes, basement floor drains were little more than open slots that allowed water in the basement to flow down in to the soil under the house.

During periods of heavy rain, the opposite can occur, with water from the soil flowing into the basement. 


Tree Roots

Tree roots can easily damage and even collapse underground drainage systems.  It is not uncommon for a tree that is seeking water to break open old iron or clay pipes, and cause a back up of the system.

The tree roots clog the drain, and the drain in turn backs up and overflows when it rains.  The long term solution is to replace the pipe, but the short term solution can be a simple snaking by a plumber with a professional grade plumber's snake.


Rising Water Table

The rising water table in an area experiencing prolonged rain can cause basement flooding.  The first place water begins to pool is the lowest parts of the basement floor, which are typically where any drains would be installed.

If the drains are tied to the municipal sewer system, and that system is full from the rain, the perception can be that the drains are overflowing.  The truth, in this case, is that they are merely not draining.

For these sorts of scenarios a basement sump pump drained well away from the house is recommended. 

About the Author

Andrew Leahey has been a writer since 1999, covering topics as varied as technology how-to guides and the politics of genetically modified organisms to African food supplies. He is pursuing his J.D. while renovating an 1887 farmhouse located in the New Jersey Pine Barrens.

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