This summer (2023), Chicago was shaken by record-breaking flooding, leaving many residents scrambling to deal with the aftermath.

So, what causes basement floods?

How can you prepare to deal with a flooded basement and minimize damage to your property?

What can you do when your basement floods?

How Common is Basement Flooding in Chicago?

Basement flooding is a common problem in Chicago, especially during periods of heavy rainfall. The city’s aging infrastructure, combined with the flat surface level and high water table of the region, can make it difficult for excess water to drain properly. As a result, many homeowners experience basement flooding, causing property damage and posing health risks from mold and bacteria growth.

According to the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, approximately 90% of flooding claims in the area are related to basement flooding. While the city is taking steps to improve its sewer system and reduce the risk of flooding, it is important for homeowners to take preventive measures and be prepared for the possibility of a flood.

Weather-Related Flooding

Basement flooding is most commonly caused by weather conditions, especially heavy rain. This sudden rain can occur without warning, but there are still ways to take preventative measures and minimize its impact.

Flooding caused by weather can be particularly dangerous because it can overwhelm the sewer system and cause unsanitary sewage backups into homes.

It’s important to note that weather-related flooding isn’t limited to just the summer months – quick and intense snowmelt in the winter and spring can also put pressure on your sump pump and pose a threat to your basement. Pipes can also freeze and burst in winter, so it’s important to stay alert and informed even after the “flooding season” has passed.

Other Causes of a Basement Flood

Basement flooding isn’t just caused by the weather – occasionally an appliance, such as a washing machine, can malfunction. Regular inspection and maintenance of major appliances can offer you some peace of mind. Poor drainage around a property is also a general factor that can cause flooding that otherwise may not have occurred.

Prevalence of Garden Units

Chicago’s below-grade apartment units, known as garden units, carry a significant risk of flooding. The devastating impacts of flooding in these units contribute to the overall severity of flooding in Chicago. Compared to fully above-ground units, garden units carry a higher likelihood of being damaged by floods. If you live in one of these units, it’s important to be aware of the flood risks and prepare accordingly.

Consequences of Basement Flooding

Why can a flooded basement be so devastating? Basement flooding can have negative impacts on both your property and your health, so it’s important to act quickly to get flooding under control and cleaned up as quickly as possible. Gray water (category 2) and black water (category 3) pose the most significant danger and need to be addressed as soon as possible.

Category 1

Clean Water

  • Not contaminated
  • No immediate health risks
  • Can turn to Category 2 if left untreated due to bacterial growth
  • Sources: broken water supply line or an overflowing sink

Category 2

Grey Water

  • Contains significant levels of contaminants
  • Causes discomfort or illness if ingested or exposed to the skin
  • Sources: dishwasher or washing machine overflows, toilet overflows with urine (no feces), and sump pump failures

Category 3

Black Water

  • Most dangerous and contaminated
  • Can cause severe illness or death if ingested or exposed to the skin
  • Sources: sewage backups, flooding from rivers or seawater, toilet overflows containing feces

Property Damage

One of the most obvious consequences of flooding is property damage. Most of the damage will be obvious and visible after a basement flood, such as damage to your basement floor. However, hidden damage to electrical wiring and your drainage system may be less obvious to spot, so it’s important to get an expert opinion.

Health Risks of Basement Flooding

Standing water on your basement floor can become a breeding ground for harmful bacteria, especially if you’re dealing with a sewage backup, otherwise known as a category 3 loss. Water in the basement, when not cleaned up properly, can lead to long-term excess moisture and mold growth, which can even spread to other areas of your home.

mold on basement floor

Exposure to harmful bacteria from sewer backups can lead to a host of unpleasant gastrointestinal problems, and mold exposure can lead to respiratory problems. Those with asthma and other preexisting respiratory problems are at an increased risk.

Easy Steps to Prevent Basement Flooding

This all might sound scary and overwhelming, but fortunately, there are some preventative measures you can take to minimize flood damage to your home. Simply being informed of the clean-up process ahead of time can save you some headache down the line!

Appliance Maintenance

One of the biggest steps that can be taken to prevent basement flooding is regularly testing your sump pump. Sump pump failure is a large contributing factor that causes flooding, so make sure your sump pump is prepared.

The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors recommends testing your sump pump at least once a year.

sump pumps system failure

Any appliance that can leak can be a flooding hazard. Washing machines are the main culprit and can cause serious damage if left improperly maintained. If you notice a leaky appliance, get it serviced quickly to avoid larger issues in the future.

Foundation Repair

Water will get in somewhere – if it is not through a floor drain, then it could possibly be through your foundation walls. A foundation contractor can inspect your basement and fix any areas where water may be creeping in. Fixing a leaky foundation early will prevent major damage in the future! Even small cracks can cause substantial damage down the line.

Gutter and Plumbing Maintenance

Another simple way to prevent excess water from pooling on your property and finding its way into your basement is by maintaining your gutters and plumbing system. Blocked gutters won’t be able to safely direct the flow of water away from your property, and a plumbing backup can overwhelm your system quickly.

Fortunately, our partner Rescue Plumbing can help fix any faulty plumbing and prevent the massive headache of dealing with water in your basement. A plumbing leak needs to be addressed quickly before it becomes a bigger issue!


Anticipating heavy rains? Stay a bit ahead of the game by placing sandbags in advance. Place the sandbags to block any potential entry points and direct the flow of water away from your basement. This method is helpful if you know your basement is prone to flooding, but haven’t been able to address the underlying causes yet.

So You’ve Got a Flooded Basement – Now What?

Unfortunately, even if you take preventive measures, sometimes disasters happen. Water in your basement can be a massive headache to deal with, but Rescue Restoration has you covered. As a trusted water damage restoration company, Rescue Restoration has the tools and expertise to get your flooded basement looking as good as new.

water removal basement flooding repair service

Document the Damage

First, if you’re dealing with a flooded basement, you’ll want to document the damage for your insurance company. Take pictures of any standing water and damaged items for your records! Make sure you have your insurance policy handy – not all flooding insurance will cover all your contents.


This is where Rescue Restoration comes in! Our efficient drying-out process will have your basement looking as good as new. We service both commercial and residential properties, so no matter the situation – whether it’s water in the basement, bathroom, or kitchen – we’ve got you covered.

emergency services needed in lincolnshire il

Take Flooding Prevention Measures

You can prevent future flooding with some simple prevention measures, such as regularly maintaining your appliances, gutters, and plumbing system. If this is the first time your basement has flooded, you might have an idea now of the underlying cause and what steps to take to avoid a future wet basement and further damage.

Are You Prepared to Deal with Basement Floods?

Basement flooding in Chicago is a common issue, but fortunately, you don’t have to deal with it alone. By taking some simple preventative measures, you can help control water flow and decrease your chance of ending up with a flooded basement.

However, in extreme cases, sometimes flooding is unavoidable even if you feel well prepared. Rescue Restoration is certified by the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration (IICRC), and we’re here to help you restore and reclaim your space. From minor water leaks to catastrophic floods, we are here to help you weather the storm.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes – basement flooding can cause a variety of health issues and even structural problems in your home. Basement flooding should be addressed immediately.

Basement flooding has the potential to weaken your foundation, especially if water is getting in through the walls.

Basement flooding can be caused by a variety of reasons – backed up drains, broken pipes, structural cracks – an expert can identify and remedy the problem.

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