You can take many steps within your basement itself to deal with floods, leaks and other water intrusions. But the single best waterproofing measure is to keep water from getting near your basement in the first place.

Landscaping is your first and most effective line of defense against a flooded basement, and there are other important steps that can help, too.

1. Grade your lawn in the right direction

You want water flowing away from your house rather than toward it. If the slope of your lawn directs water toward your home, water will pool up around the foundation or basement. Eventually, that kind of water pressure finds a way in.

Professional landscapers can turn yard grading into an appealing visual feature. For instance, they might dig a dry creek in the yard and fill it with river rock or cobblestones. This bisects the yard and flows water around the house instead of toward it.

2. Pay attention to water paths in your yard

During heavy rain, watch closely to note where water floods or stands. Anywhere you can see water pooling up, you need to resolve. These pools can alert you to specific problems, such as a sump pump that doesn’t run far enough away or gutters that don’t drain properly.

3. Leave a gap between mulch and siding

The same qualities that make mulch so effective at protecting soil can also damage your home, especially with wood and vinyl siding. Moisture can wick up from the mulch and begin to rot any siding it’s in contact with. Allow a 6-inch gap between mulch and siding.

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4. Make sure your gutters work properly

Overflowing gutters are among the biggest culprits for basement flooding. They deposit large amounts of water right next to the edge and cause pooling. Be sure they are thoroughly cleaned out at least twice a year. Additionally, make sure your downspouts are directed away from the house so that water is dropped a good distance away from the home. Professionals recommend at least 4 to 6 feet. If you have room, farther is even better.

5. Use grass barriers to redirect floodwaters

This is the opposite of grading in a way — build up sections of your yard with grass or natural barriers in order to create a path for water to drain neatly from the yard. This is tricky work, so might consider having a landscaping expert help you figure out the best way to do it.

6. Inspect and repair foundation cracks

If you have cracks in your home’s foundation, they’re an open door for leaks and water damage. Visually inspect your exterior on a regular basis and fill cracks with epoxy.