Reduce the risk of basement flooding...

Glossary of water damage-related terms

Backwater valve (sometimes referred to as a backflow valve): A valve that is placed in the sewer lateral that helps to prevent water from backing up from the municipal sewer into the basement.

Catch basin: Catch basins direct surface stormwater to the underground storm or combined sewer system.

Cleanout port: Cleanout ports allow for access to the home’s sewer laterals for cleaning and maintenance purposes. Cleanout ports may be located either in the basement, close to where the sanitary sewer lateral enters the basement, or outside of the home, usually somewhere close to the foundation or between the home and the street.

Combined sewer: A sewer that has been designed to convey both sanitary sewage and storm sewage. This type of sewer often services older areas of Canadian communities.

Combined sewer overflow (CSO): Combined sewers are designed to automatically bypass treatment facilities and re-route excess, untreated sewage to local surface water bodies when they become overwhelmed with excess sanitary and storm sewage. This automatic bypassing is called a combined sewer overflow.


Exfiltrate: Exfiltration occurs when high pressure water or sewage is forced out of sewer pipes or sewer laterals through cracks or loose joints in the pipes.


Foundation drain: See "Weeping tile."

Groundwater: Water that is contained within soil and between rocks below the earth’s surface.

Infiltration and inflow: Infiltration occurs when groundwater infiltrates into the sanitary sewer system (for example, through cracks in pipes and loose pipe joints). Inflow occurs when excess stormwater enters the sanitary system directly, for example, through downspout connections, leaky manholes, and cross-connections where parts of the storm sewer system have been accidentally or illegally connected into the sanitary sewer system.

Infiltration flooding: Flooding that enters the home through cracks in the basement floors and walls. This water "infiltrates" through the ground and into the basement. One in five year storm: A storm that has a 1 in 5 chance of occurring in any given year.

One in one hundred year storm: A storm that has a 1 in 100 chance of occurring in any given year.

One in two year storm: A storm that has a 1 in 2 chance of occurring in any given year.

Overland flooding: Water that flows over the surface of public and private property, and can enter homes and buildings through doors, windows, vents, and other above-ground openings.

Overland flow route: A pre-determined route that is designed to direct overland rainwater and snow-melt flow in a controlled manner. Overland flow routes may include streets with heightened curbs or ditches, and often direct flows to nearby lakes, streams or rivers or to underground storm sewer systems.

Permeable and impermeable: Permeable surfaces, including grassy yards, have the ability to absorb a limited amount of rainfall. Impermeable surfaces, including paved driveways and roofs, have no ability to absorb rainwater. Soil may also be permeable or impermeable. For example, the backfill area around a home may be composed of more pervious soils, and undisturbed soils may be less pervious.

Sanitary sewage: Sewage that is created by use of a building’s plumbing (for example, sinks, toilets, dishwashers, laundry machines) and is considered a highly contaminated health hazard.

Sanitary sewer: An underground sewer-pipe that is designed to convey only sanitary sewage.

Sanitary sewer lateral: An underground pipe that connects a home’s plumbing to the municipal sanitary or combined sewer system.


Sewer backup: Sewage that is forced back through storm and sanitary sewer laterals from sanitary, storm or combined sewers. Sewage flooding typically enters lower levels of a home through plumbing fixtures, including floor drains, sewer cleanouts and basement toilets, sinks and showers.

Storm sewage: Storm sewage is created directly by rainfall and snowmelt. This water is cleaner than sanitary sewage, but can be contaminated with chemicals and debris.

Storm sewer: An underground sewer-pipe that is designed to convey only stormwater flows.

Storm sewer lateral: An underground pipe that connects a home to the underground, municipal storm sewer system.

Stormwater management: The practice of managing overland and underground water flows created by rainfall and snow-melt. Stormwater management is commonly the responsibility of the municipal government.

Sump-pit: A sump-pit collects water from the home’s weeping tiles.

Sump-pump: A sump-pump is a device that is placed into the sump-pit to pump weeping tile discharge out of the basement.

Surcharge: The technical term for water backup in a sewer pipe due to insufficient capacity from overloading or blockage. See "Sewer backup."

Swale: A grassy, shallow ditch-like depression used to direct stormwater flows.

Urban flooding: Urban flooding occurs in urban areas, where there is a high concentration of buildings and impermeable surfaces, such as roadways, parking lots and roofs. This type of flooding can result from heavy rainfall, snowmelt or surcharging sewer systems. Urban flooding can occur in areas that are not at risk of flooding from rivers or other natural surface water bodies.

Weeping tile: A series of tiles or a perforated pipe located along the bottom of a building’s foundation that is used to collect and drain groundwater away from the building.