The Ultimate Guide: Prevent Basement Flooding in Colorado

The Ultimate Guide: Prevent Basement Flooding in Colorado - Image 1

In 2023, Colorado had a lot of rain and snow, making it the wettest year we've seen since 1999. We got 18.94 inches of rain and melted snow, soaking the ground and causing many basements to get wet, something many of us aren't used to dealing with.

You might be wondering why this happened, if it can happen again, and what you can do to keep your basement dry in the future. This blog is here to help answer those questions. We'll look into why basements get wet, what's special about Colorado that affects basements, and how you can protect your home. Let's jump in.

Colorado's soil and weather: What you need to know

There are two big things that play a role in whether your basement might get wet: the landscape and the weather.

High elevations & runoff

colorado town surrounded by mountains

Colorado is known for its beautiful mountains, but they can sometimes cause challenges with water runoff.

Colorado is a state with lots of ups and downs because of the mountains. This makes water flow and settle in different ways. Being higher up usually means less chance of flooding because water runs off better and doesn't pool. But, when snow from the mountains melts, it finds its way to the rivers, and the rivers bring the water into the lower elevation cities, and sometimes, into your home.

Here's what that means for your basement:

  1. More water running off: Near the mountains, when snow melts, it can make a lot of water run off quickly. If there's too much water, it can get into basements.
  2. Chance of flooding can change quickly: In Colorado, whether your basement might flood can change a lot just based on where your house is. If your house is lower down or on a slope, water can run down towards it and possibly cause flooding.

Snow and your basement

snowy house

Snow always melts, and if it's a lot, that water is at risk of seeping into your basement.

We get a lot of snow in Colorado, especially in the mountains. When it starts to warm up, and the snow melts, this can affect basements by:

  1. Snow piling up: If snow piles up against your house, it can melt and seep into your basement, especially if the ground is still hard and frozen.
  2. Snow melting fast: Sometimes, it gets warm really quickly, and all the snow melts at once. If there's too much water too fast, it can be too much for drains to handle, and you might end up with a wet basement.

High plains and desert areas

Colorado plains

A lot of Colorado looks like this.

In the eastern and southern parts of the state, the land is mainly high plains and desert area.

These places face some specific problems:

  • Flash flooding: Colorado is considered an arid and semi-arid region, which means it doesn’t rain much. But when it does, it pours very hard and fast. This can cause sudden floods because the ground can’t soak up water quickly enough. This increases the risk of basement flooding.
  • Low humidity: It’s pretty dry here, which means the air doesn’t hold much moisture. This dryness can affect basements, making it important to keep an eye on moisture levels to avoid issues like mold or damp spots.

Water Table Levels

Being close to rivers, lakes, or where there's naturally occurring underground water can also affect basements:

If the ground water level (or water table) is high, basements are more likely to get flooded. This is especially true when there's a lot of rain or when snow melts quickly, causing the water table to rise and potentially flood basements.

water table graphic

The water table is like an invisible line underground where the soil goes from being just damp to completely soaked with water.

Soil composition

soil exerting pressure on the wall

When soil gets saturated, water exerts pressure against your basement walls and pushes its way through into your home.

Some areas in Colorado have a lot of clay in the soil. This kind of soil gets bigger when it's wet and shrinks when it dries out. This changing size of the soil can cause problems for the bottom parts of houses and basements in two main ways:

  1. Pushing against walls: When the clay soil gets bigger because it's wet, it pushes against the walls of basements. This pressure can make cracks in the walls, and water can leak through these cracks.
  2. Messing up water flow: The soil that gets bigger and smaller can also make it hard for water to flow away from the house properly. This might lead to water collecting around the house and eventually getting into the basement.

In fact, if you want to know more about Colorado’s soil and how it affects your home, we wrote this comprehensive blog about it. 

How basements get wet

Now that we've talked about what Colorado's ground and weather are like, let's look at how water can actually get into a basement.

clay bowl effect graphic

The clay bowl effect occurs when loose soil soaks up more water than soil that hasn't been disturbed.

Most of the time, basements get wet because the house doesn't drain water away well. This can be because of problems with gutters, downspouts, grading, sump pumps, and windows that aren't sealed right. We also talked a bit about up there how the soil around your house can swell up and push against your basement walls, which is another way water can get in.

There's another important thing called the "clay bowl effect." Think about when your house was first built. The builders dug a big hole, kind of like a bowl, to put in the foundation and basement walls.

When they filled the hole back in, the soil they put back was looser and not as packed as the original soil, so it holds more water. This makes a sort of moat of water around your house that can seep into your basement.

We've got a detailed blog post about all the ways basements can end up wet, how to figure out where the water is coming from, and what you can do to fix it.

How to flood-proof your home

No matter the type of home or basement you have, nobody wants to walk downstairs to find a puddle or smell mold. Here are some tips to help keep your home dry:

downspout extensions

Invest in downspout extensions to direct water away from your foundation.

    1. Move rainwater away: One of the easiest and most effective ways to protect your home is to manage rainwater properly. Make your downspouts longer so that they release water at least ten feet away from your house.
    2. Keep gutters clean: Before another big storm hits, check your gutters. Your gutters are your first line of defense against water damage. Make sure they're free of leaves, twigs, and any other debris. A clean gutter means water can flow freely away from your home, reducing the risk of leaks and puddles where you don’t want them.
    3. Proper soil grading: The dirt around your house should slope away from your foundation. This way, rainwater flows away from your home, not towards it. The goal is to create a slope that drops at least 6 inches within the first 10 feet away from your foundation. Add topsoil or fill dirt in areas where you need to build up the slope. Spread the soil evenly, starting from the foundation and tapering off to your desired slope. If the area is too high, you’ll need to remove soil to achieve the downward slope away from your foundation. Compact the soil as you go to prevent it from settling too much later. Walking over the area or using a hand tamper can help compact the soil in small areas. 
    4. sump pump and vapor barrier

      A sump pump and vapor barrier we installed.

      Consider basement waterproofing: Sometimes, despite our best efforts, water finds its way in. That’s where basement waterproofing comes in. If you’ve had water issues before, consider investing in a waterproofing system. This might include a drainage pipe system to catch water, a sump pump to eject water out and away from your home, a vapor barrier to block moisture, and a French drain system to redirect water away from your foundation. These systems work together to keep your basement dry and your home safe from water damage.
    5. Regular maintenance checks: Regularly check for cracks in your foundation, ensure your sump pump is working, and keep an eye on your basement after heavy rains. Catching issues early can save you a lot of time and money down the road. Here at Thrasher, we perform annual maintenance checks on your foundation and home drainage systems.

Preventing water damage is key

Nobody wants to walk in their basement and find water. That's why it's so important to 1. grasp how Colorado's unique soil and weather can impact your home, and 2. know the steps to protect your home against potential heavy rains. Putting these measures into place will help your home direct water away from your foundation, rather than towards it.  

The Ultimate Guide to Prevent Basement Flooding in Colorado - Image 7

And hey, nice to meet you! We didn't introduce ourselves earlier, but we're Thrasher Foundation Repair, a foundation and basement contractor with almost 50 years of experience. When it comes to foundations and basements, we know what to do.

If you happen to be in Colorado or in our service area, we’re here to help with any basement questions, water drainage issues, or even just chatting about life – we’re up for that, too. You can reach out to us by calling us at [1-800-827-0702], filling out this form, or starting a chat in the bottom right-hand corner. 

Article Categories:

Related resources

Is It Better To Waterproof Your Basement From The Inside Or Outside?

May 11th, 2023

Is It Better To Waterproof Your Basement From The Inside Or Outside?

There are two ways to waterproof your basement: inside or outside the home. It can get confusing what they both...

Read more
Why Does My Basement Get Wet After It Rains?

April 5th, 2023

Why Does My Basement Get Wet After It Rains?

Learn about the common causes of a wet basement after rain and how to prevent water damage to your home....

Read more
Flood Prevention: How to Troubleshoot Your Sump Pump

January 1st, 2023

Flood Prevention: How to Troubleshoot Your Sump Pump

If you're experiencing trouble with your sump pump system, check out these useful at-home troubleshooting techniques before calling the pros.

Read more
What is Hydrostatic Pressure?

January 1st, 2023

What is Hydrostatic Pressure?

Have you heard of hydrostatic pressure? See how it can impact the environment around your home and what it means...

Read more