Clean gutters play a vital role in protecting your foundation and basement. (Photo: Dreamstime/TNS).

You can take many steps within your basement itself to deal with floods, leaks and other water intrusions. But the single best basement 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. Consider these steps to ease up the water pressure. A landscaping professional can help you sort out your options and recommend the best steps.

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 towards 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.

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.

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.

Make sure your gutters work properly
Hire a gutter cleaner at least twice a year to keep gutters clean. Overflowing gutters are among the biggest culprits for basement flooding. They deposit large amounts of water right next to the edge and cause pooling. 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, longer is even better.

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 rely on a landscaping expert to help you figure out the best way to do it.

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. If you find a more serious problem, or if that doesn’t work, call expert help.

By Paul F. P. Pogue. Paul¬† is a reporter for Angie’s List, a trusted provider of local consumer reviews and an online marketplace of services from top-rated providers. Visit AngiesList.com.