Great flood of 2014 taught us important lessons

Glenn Haege
Special to The Detroit News

While we are still a few weeks away from spring, it won’t be long before the snow melt and rain could cause some flooding in basements. Hopefully, we won’t experience another record-setting rain like we did last August that left streets flooded and many homes with water in the basement so high that all contents were lost.

One of the biggest problems from last year’s flood was the damage to people’s personal items that weren’t stored properly, and they didn’t have the insurance to cover the losses.

“People buy insurance based on price, but during a catastrophe like last year, they found out they didn’t even have coverage for sewer and sump-pump water backup issues,” said Rick Sovel, an independent insurance agent with Michigan Community Insurance Agency, (248) 465-6200,

Sovel said homeowners who had an added endorsement on their policy — commonly known as a “rider”— may not have had enough coverage.

“It’s common to add a $5,000 rider for coverage to water damage due to sewer backups or sump pump failures, but with the huge amount of water many people had in their basements last year, that may only have been enough to cover the cleanup,” Sovel said. “That’s why I recommend spending a few extra dollars a month to add more coverage, such as a $10,000 rider, especially if you have a finished basement, to have enough to cover the cleanup and the cost to replace damaged items like furniture or personal items.”

Of course whenever you have a flooded basement due to sewer backups, you need to clean it up effectively. Unfortunately, even if you wanted to hire someone to clean it up, you probably had to wait in line or may have done it yourself.

“We were really busy right after the flooding and a lot of people tried to do it on their own, but they ended up calling us months later because it wasn’t done properly and their basement really started to smell,” said Al David of Emergency Restoration Services, (248) 299-4500, “That’s why it is so important to do the job properly the first time.”

David said that means first extracting all the water from the basement and drying it, then using an anti-microbial product to disinfect the floors and walls and eliminate the chance for mold to grow. In cases where people have a finished basement, he said that could also include removing all the wet insulation in the walls and replacing drywall as needed.

“For a typical 1,200-square-foot basement in a ranch that is common in a city like Warren, it would cost around $1,500 for a cleanup of a nonfinished basement, and an average of $2,500 if it was finished,” David said.

As you can see, that leaves very little left over to replace items that were lost to water damage if you have a $5,000 rider. And remember, most basement flooding has 2 to 3 inches of water on average, but last year’s rains caused some basements to have a foot or more of water, causing damage to more items than usual, such as furnaces and water heaters.

To make sure you know the minute you have a basement leak, you can use products such as Water Safe,; Floodstopper,; or Water Cop, These systems can contact you via a text, email or phone call if a leak is detected or provide a loud alarm so you can hear it if you are home.

Another preventative measure is having a backwater valve inserted on the sewer, floor drain and sanitary system. According to Dennis Kernya, a plumber with S.A.S. Services, (248)-546-2345,, a floor drain backwater valve or mainline backwater valve prevents water and sewage from backing up into your basement, and installing two of them can run from $2,200 to $2,800 depending on the drain situation.

If you had serious flooding problems last year in your basement, now is the time to do some proper prior planning by updating your insurance coverage and improving your storage solutions and plumbing issues.

If you would like to suggest a question for this column, email If you want to talk to Glenn Haege, call his “Handyman Show” on WJR-AM (760) at (866) ASK GLENN, (866) 275-4536 between noon and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. “The Handyman Show” can be heard on more than 130 radio stations.