As summer begins, you are probably thinking more about barbeques than basements. The warm weather seems to invite lazy days, iced drinks, and long vacations. However, this coming winter has already invited excessive rain--a cold awakening to reality as your unready basement fills with water. La Nina is coming to Illinois, like it or not--and that means a wild winter and flooded homes.

Trouble ahead

The country has just emerged from an El Nino winter. This weather phenomenon is caused by above average temperatures in the Pacific Ocean. It means wild winters for southern and western states while the upper midwest region of the country experiences warmer, drier weather than usual. This held true for the winter of 2015-16. States on the west coast were pounded with heavy rain; landslides, urban flooding, and river rescues were frequent images on news broadcasts. Here in Illinois, while the late fall brought a great deal of rain, the winter months were cold and snowy--but not rainy.

However, El Nino has now yielded to its weather sister, La Nina, which means that below average Pacific temperatures will fuel the country's weather. Sure enough, the impact of La Nina is opposite that of El Nino: while southern states can plan for a warmer, drier winter, northern states should prepare for heavy rainfall.

Trouble in your basement

Pondering the impact of heavy rainfall in Illinois may give you pause in your summer picnic. For example, the 2012 Category 1 hurricane, Sandy, wreaked havoc in 24 states and caused $71.4 billion of damage; the storm surge that hit New York City flooded streets, tunnels, and subway lines. In Illinois, 25 foot waves driven by 50 mph winds crashed ashore. The following spring, flooding from more heavy rains racked $89 million in FEMA claims around the state.

If you have a basement in your home, the time to act is now. Floods are responsible for more home disasters than any other event, and incur $3 billion in insurance claims annually. Several inches of water in your basement could cost $10,000 to repair; plan on $25-50,000 if the flood is severe. Beyond the water damage floods cause, the dangers from mold put you and your family at risk for a variety of health problems.

Thwarting trouble

Now is the time to prepare your home for this winter's heavy rain. To prevent basement flooding, take the following steps:

  • Make sure your gutters are debris-free and downspouts are clear. This will usher rain out of your patio and entryways.

  • Seal cracks. Use epoxy for outside cracks, masonry sealer for inside ones. This prevents rainwater from seeping into your home.

  • Use creative landscaping. Plan your landscaping so that the yard is highest at the point nearest your home. This will channel away any water that tends to pool by your house on a regular basis.

  • Locate low-water plants near your house. Situate plants that need a lot of water away from your foundation to prevent soil saturation.

  • Install waterproof window covers on basement windows. This will allow the rain no access.

Basement waterproofing: the best defense

While these are all wise ways to prepare for a rainy winter, the most decisive action you can take ahead of time is to waterproof your basement. Waterproofing involves one or more of the following actions:

  • Sealing of interior walls with epoxies or urethanes (best used on concrete foundations)

  • Installation of an interior drainage and pump system

  • Exterior excavation to seal exterior walls and coat them with repellant (this method may also include placing drainage tiles at the foundation)

Basement waterproofing is not a do it yourself project; these actions require the skill and know-how of an expert. Call a basement waterproofing and foundation repair company, such as Safe-Guard Waterproofing, for an assessment and estimate.

Illinois is going to have a wet winter whether you're ready or not; but if you act now, you can at least keep it out of your basement.