Guide to dealing with a flooded basement
Let’s not sugarcoat it; dealing with a flooded basement can be a veritable nightmare. If you are faced with such a situation, take solace in knowing that you are not alone. In fact, almost all (98%) of basements experience at least some sort of water damage. In the U.S. alone, more than 14 million homes have a risk of flooding, and nationwide water damage reaches up to $20 billion in any given year. This is why many homeowners turn to some of the most popular home warranty companies to minimize the cost of dealing with floods in their homes. While a home warranty may not specifically protect you from water damage, it will help you address the most common causes, such as a burst pipe. But if you do end up with a flooded basement, you will need to deal with it on your own.
Dealing with a flooded basement 101
Before you start doing any work in the basement, the very first thing that you may want to do is contact your home insurance company and check for coverage, claim procedures, and deduction limit. One of the common mistakes first-time home buyers make is that they are unaware of exactly what their home insurance (and home warranty) entails. Do not make this mistake, as it may be a very costly one. With that in mind, here’s what you will need to do when dealing with a flooded basement:
- Wear protective gear
- Shut off power and gas
- Determine the source of the flooding
- Check the floor drain for any clogging
- Remove the water from the basement
- Remove carpeting
- Relocate any damaged items
- Ventilate the basement
- Prevent the mold from spreading
Most of the time, you can do all the necessary work on your own. However, you may need to contact a professional in some instances, such as not being able to identify the source of the flood. You should still do all of the home repairs that you can do yourself to minimize the cost, but if you are stumped at any point, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Doing so might save you a lot of money in the long run.
The importance of protective gear
Dealing with a flooded basement usually involves numerous risks. Protective gear will minimize these risks and allow you to work without fear of injury. Boots and gloves are mandatory, but you may also want to include a protective mask and hip/chest waders. Be extra careful when you move around the flooded area, even when adequately protected. The basement floor will most likely be very slippery.
Shut off power and gas before anything else
Before you start doing any work in the basement, make sure that all the electricity and gas in the area are turned off. This is usually an easy proposition as the valves and breakers are elsewhere. If you are current on your spring home maintenance checklist, you will already know where to look for them. But if it so happens that you need to go inside the basement to shut off the power and gas or that you don’t know where the breakers and valves are located, you may want to call in a professional electrician.
Dealing with a flooded basement – Determining the source of the flood
Once inside the basement, the first course of action is to determine what caused the flood. Most of the time, the cause will be a burst pipe. If that happens, you will need to shut off the water to the basement before proceeding to deal with the situation. Storms are another common source of basement flooding, and you will want to wait for them to pass before you start assessing the damage. However, the best thing to do is to be proactive in protecting your home from water damage. That way, you will minimize the chances of a flood and may only need to deal with small amounts of water. As mentioned previously, if you simply can’t identify the source of the flood, it is best to contact a professional.
Depending on the situation, you may need to get in touch with several specialists, including plumbers, disaster restoration specialists, or even a waterproofing company. Your home insurance company will likely have a specialized vendor for these cases. Incidentally, this is one of the main reasons we recommend contacting your home insurance provider as your primary recourse.
Checking the floor drain
Most basements have a floor drain of some sort. These drains tend to get clogged over time, especially if you forget to maintain them properly. If your basement has such a drain, you will want to check for any clogs. At times, all that is needed to remove the water from the basement is to simply unclog the floor drain. Most of the time, however, you will need to remove most of the water on your own.
Removing the water
The best approach to removing the water from your basement depends on the amount of water inside. If your basement is heavily flooded, you may need to utilize a pump of some sort, such as a pool pump or a sump pump. If your basement is already equipped with a sump pump, you will usually find it in the lowest part of the basement. For more minor floods, simply utilizing a wet vacuum will do. And if there is only a little water, all you may need is a tried-and-true mop and bucket.
After removing most of the water, you can use sponges or cloth to soak up anything left. This can be a tedious task, so you might want to enlist some of your friends or family members to help you out.
Removing the carpeting from the basement
Once you have cleared most of the water and can approach the carpets, you should remove them as soon as possible. You want to do it instantly because wet carpeting will prevent the floor underneath from properly drying. You don’t want to have to budget for home improvements and repairs that you don’t have to perform, after all. Most of the time, you must throw away the flooded carpets. However, if you have a specialized piece, you may want to consult a carpet cleaning professional and see what can be done.
Relocating damaged items
Any items inside the basement affected by the flood need to be relocated. Do a quick “triage” and see which items you need to throw away and which can still be saved. You will want to relocate the items to a well-ventilated area and let them dry. What you don’t want to do is let them dry inside the basement, as the whole area will be damp for quite a while. Ideally, you will place the items in a sunny place for around 48 hours. Alternatively, appoint a room in your home to be the “dryer” and leave the items there for a bit longer than 48 hours.
Note that your home warranty will not protect you from water damage to your appliances. Even if you have an extended kitchen appliance warranty, it will be void if water is the cause of the malfunction. But if you act quickly enough and dry the appliances properly, you may prevent them from breaking down.
Dealing with a flooded basement – Ventilation
While you may be eager to do some basement repairs immediately, you might want to wait a while. Before you can start, it is essential to properly ventilate the basement. Give it some time to dry off, at least a few days. During that time, you will want to open doors and windows and place a few fans inside the basement for added air circulation and shorter drying time. Alternatively, consider renting a dehumidifier if you want to ventilate the basement as soon as possible. You can usually rent a dehumidifier from your local home improvement center. The cost of doing so is around $60 a day, or about $200 a week for low-capacity models, with larger-capacity models costing a bit more.
Preventing the mold from spreading
Lastly, once all the water is out of the basement, you must ensure that mold does not spread to the rest of your home. You will want to remove any drywall that is still wet or damaged first. Next, you will want to thoroughly wash the basement walls and floors. Once that is over, apply an anti-mildew spray to your walls and floors.
As you can see, dealing with a flooded basement requires a lot of work. But knowing what to do in advance makes everything easier.
If you want to find out more about home repairs, home maintenance, and home warranties, you can always refer to the Customer Opinion Guide. Our expert staff is there to help you figure out a solution to almost any problem!