Bounce Back Faster From Disaster - Build to Code; Protect Your Home from Floods and Tornadoes

Contact: Jeannie Vogel 517-373-9280
Agency: Licensing and Regulatory Affairs

May 14, 2015 - Protecting your family and property from water and wind damage due to flooding, tornadoes and severe storms is the focus during the second week of Building Safety Month. The Bureau of Construction Codes in the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs offers important and practical safety information.   

Sump pump failure causing basements to flood during times of heavy rainfall, the most common catastrophe in many Michigan homes. Just a few inches of water from flooding can cause tens of thousands of dollars in damage to your home and contents.

First, know the different types of sump pumps and purchase a pump that is best for protecting your home. Primary sump pumps, standard in most homes, pump up to several thousand gallons an hour of seepage water out of basements to prevent flooding. The two types of primary sump pumps are submersible pumps (put under water in the sump pump basin or pit); and pedestal pumps that are not submerged but rather sit above the sump pit.

Battery backup pumps and generators provide added insurance in case of a power outage; sump pumps will be useless as they are electric-powered. If the power goes out, the back-up system or generator will take over to rid the sump basin of water and keep your basement dry. Water-powered backup sump pump systems that do not rely on electrical power to operate are also available.

Do regular maintenance to help avoid future sump pump problems or failure. The average lifespan of a sump pump is about 10 years and they eventually wear out. Here are a few maintenance tips:

  • Unplug any electrical power leading to the unit before doing any sump pump maintenance.
  • Clean out the sump pit and keep it free of any debris or stray items in the pit that may hinder the float mechanism causing it to fail. Test the float itself as they can burn out over time. Fill the pit up with water to make sure it starts and stops the sump pump as designed. 
  • Inspect the "check" valve to ensure it is properly installed. Check valves are set up so that when the sump pump shuts off, no water will go back into the sump pump. The check valve's arrow should not be pointing toward the sump pump.
  • Eliminate typical odors in the sump pit from standing water by cleansing the basin with one part bleach to five parts water; fill the pit with water to engage the sump pump to run the water out. 

Also consider raising electrical system components, including fuse and circuit breaker boxes, meters, switches and outlets to help prevent potential damage from flood water or fires caused by short circuits in flooded systems. If having your electrical system raised, hire a licensed contractor to make modifications to ensure the work is done according to code. The contractor should check with the local power company about the maximum height allowable to raise the electric meter. 

For homes equipped with an old-style fuse box or low-amperage service, homeowners may want to consider upgrading to a modern circuit breaker system and higher-amperage service, especially if there are large appliances or other electrical equipment that draws a lot of power.

The Michigan Residential Code has minimal reference to building homes to withstand high winds because, unlike some parts of the country, Michigan is not considered to be in a high wind area. However, there is regular maintenance that homeowners can do to help reduce the amount of wind damage to their home in the event of a severe storm or tornado.

Regularly check the weather resistance features of your home. Preventive maintenance can minimize wind damage. Here are some things to look for:

  • Check eaves, fascia, siding, and shingles to be sure they are nailed securely.
  • Replace and securely fasten any missing shingles or siding.
  • Remove dead or decaying limbs from trees and shrubs that are near your home or power lines.
  • Anchor prefabricated sheds firmly to the ground. Sheds can take flight in high winds.
  • Make sure that all downspouts are diverting water away from your home's foundation.

LARA's Bureau of Construction Codes works to ensure that the built environment and the systems within are sound, safe, and sanitary; the public's health, safety, and welfare is protected; and that, through a coordinated program of code compliance, investigation and training, there is consistent application of standards. 

For more information, go to the Bureau of Construction Codes website at www.michigan.gov/bcc.

For more information about LARA, please visit www.michigan.gov/lara
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