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Basement flooding with various things floating around.

Basement Flooding: What To Do And How To Fix It

Molly Grace6-Minute Read
March 02, 2020

Anyone who’s ever accidentally dropped their cellphone in a pool or toilet knows the pain of getting water on something that’s not meant to get wet. For homeowners, the pain of these situations is felt tenfold when it’s not just their cellphone but their entire basement that’s submerged in water.

If you’ve never dealt with a flooded basement before, you might be unsure of the best way to deal with it. Commandeer all your home’s linens to soak up the spill? Gather your friends and family and create a pass-the-bucket assembly line out of your basement, tackling the flood pail by pail?

What To Do When Your Basement Floods

How you handle a flooded basement depends on how much water you’re dealing with and the source of the flood. Here’s what you need to know.

Safety First

Before anything else, you need to know about basic basement flood safety. Never enter a flooded basement without first taking certain precautions.

Any time your basement floods, your first step should be to turn off the electricity in your home. Even a small amount of water can damage parts of your home’s electrical system and put you at danger of electrocution or fire.

You can turn the electricity off at your circuit breaker box if it’s not located in the basement. Otherwise, you should call an electrician, who can remove your home’s electrical meter from the socket.

Even after the electricity is disconnected, you should still avoid entering the basement until you know the source of the water. The water may harbor bacteria that could be harmful to your health.

Determine The Source

Sometimes, figuring out where the water is coming from is easy, such as if you have a burst pipe or your area has received a series of downpours recently. However, if you aren’t sure why your basement has turned itself into a makeshift swimming pool, here are some things to look for.

See if there are any spots outside your home where water could be getting in. Watch out for overflowing gutters or water pooling up against the house.

If you have a large amount of water, the flooding could be due to a sump pump failure or sewage backup.

If you aren’t sure of the source of the water, you’ll probably want to call in an expert, such as a plumber or a water restoration specialist, for help.

If the water is continuing to rise and seems to be coming from your home’s pipes, you’ll want to act quickly and use your home’s main water shutoff valve to cut off the flooding at the source.

Decide Whether To Call A Professional

Because flooding can be such a costly event for a homeowner, you may be inclined to deal with the problem yourself to try and save money. While this can be OK if the flooding is very minor, basement flooding is often best left to the professionals.

If the water contains sewage or is likely contaminated in some other way, you shouldn’t try to clean it up on your own. Additionally, if there’s a large amount of water, whether it’s clean or contaminated, removal may be difficult without professional-grade equipment.

Removing The Water

Whether you use a pro or DIY, you’ll need to get the water out of your house, ASAP. The longer the water remains, the more damage it can do.

Depending on the severity of the flooding and your ability to safely access your basement, you may want to prioritize getting your personal items out of the water and into a spot where they can dry out.

You may be able to tackle small amounts of water with a combination of towels, mopping, fans and a dehumidifier.

For small puddles or pools, you can use a wet vac to vacuum up the water. If you don’t own one, many home improvement stores will rent them to you for a fee. If you have a lot of water, you can also rent more heavy-duty equipment to help with water removal, such as a water pump and professional-grade dehumidifiers and fans.

Again, safety first: be sure you’re wearing the proper gear to deal with a basement flood, in case you come in contact with contaminated water. Rubber boots, rubber gloves and goggles are a must.

If you hire a professional, they’ll bring in their own equipment and do all this for you. While it may appear to be cheaper to do this yourself, you should seriously consider your ability to quickly and effectively remove the water and dry out your belongings. Flooding isn’t just a problem when it happens; it can cause problems months or even years down the road, especially if it isn’t properly dealt with right away. A professional water removal and restoration company will know exactly how to deal with your situation and avoid long-term damage to your home.

Basement Flood Damage Restoration

If the water contained raw sewage, you should have a professional come in to do the cleaning to ensure that the area is properly sanitized. Improper cleanup of a sewage backup can create a health hazard in your home.

For clean water flooding, once you’ve removed the excess water, you’ll want to begin drying the area out, fixing what can be salvaged and getting rid of what can’t.

To avoid mold growth, you should work to get rid of the moisture in your basement as quickly as possible. If you don’t hire a professional, you may want to rent a heavy-duty dehumidifier and run it until the area has dried, which could take several days or weeks. You want to get humidity levels below 50%.

Carpeting will likely need to be pulled up and thrown away. Wet drywall or paneling will probably need to be replaced, as will any wet insulation. Floors and walls should be scrubbed with a diluted bleach solution.

Everything moveable should be removed from the basement, cleaned and put somewhere to dry. Whether or not you’re able to preserve the majority of your personal belongings will depend on the severity of the flood and the length of time these items were exposed.

How To Stop Water From Coming Into Your Basement

Though basement floods aren’t always preventable, there are things you can do to reduce the likelihood of this happening again.

One simple and essential thing you can do is ensure that water isn’t pooling up against your home. When it rains, debris-filled gutters, poorly placed downspouts or land that slopes toward your home can cause water to pool against your home’s exterior, where it can easily leak into your home through small cracks in the foundation. Regularly cleaning your gutters or adding downspout extensions if your downspouts aren’t efficiently flushing water away from your home can help. For water that drains down toward your home, you may want to talk to a pro about having your yard leveled or look into installing a French drain.

If you have a sump pump, be sure you’re properly and regularly maintaining it and checking for issues.

Take care of plumbing problems right away, before small leaks become big problems. If your area gets a lot of cold weather and your pipes are at risk of freezing, take steps to prevent burst pipes, including turning up your thermostat during cold snaps, opening cabinet doors to allow warm air to flow around pipes and letting the faucet drip when weather drops below freezing.

Because the basement is the area that is most prone to flooding in most homes, it may be a good idea to store personal or irreplaceable items in a higher-up area of your home. And if your container of choice for storage items has always been cardboard boxes, you might consider switching to something more water resistant, like plastic bins with lids.

Basement Flooding Costs

Depending on the severity, a basement flood can be expensive to remedy.

According to Fixr.com, the national average for water damage restoration is around $2,700. On the low end, you could spend around $1,400 for a simple clean water removal and drying. On the high end, you could spend $7,500 or more for more extensive cleanup including sewage water removal, replacing drywall and carpeting and dealing with mold.

Don’t expect your homeowners insurance to cover the costs, as policies typically don’t include flood damage in their coverage.

While the threat of a potential basement flood (and the costs that come with it) can strike fear in the hearts of homeowners, it’s important to remember that there are things you can do to lower your risk of flooding in your home. Staying on top of your regular home maintenance, dealing with problems as soon as they come up and purchasing flood insurance if you’re in a flood-prone area can help give you peace of mind.

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    Molly Grace

    Molly Grace is a staff writer focusing on mortgages, personal finance and homeownership. She has a B.A. in journalism from Indiana University. You can follow her on Twitter @themollygrace.