Owning a home is a big investment. And being a homeowner means preparing for unforeseen events that may threaten your home – including a flooded basement. A flooded basement can be caused by a variety of events, like an unexpected pipe burst, a flooding event, or even heavy rain leaking through a window.
For any homeowner facing the aftermath of a basement flood, you’re likely asking many questions. When is it safe to enter the basement? How do you clean up a flooded basement? Who do you call when your basement floods? And does homeowners insurance cover flooding? To help make the restoration process that much easier, use these seven steps to clean up your basement and better protect your home against a future flood.
1) Make sure your basement is safe to enter
The first step after your basement has flooded is to make sure that it is safe to enter. You should never enter a flooded area while the power is still on. So make sure to shut off any power, including electricity and gas, before going into the flooded basement. If you’re unsure of how to turn off the power, contact your electrician to shut it off for you properly. After the power is off, take extra caution when entering the basement.
Watch out for large amounts of standing water, exposed electrical wires, or signs the ceiling has sustained water damage, such as sagging, cracks, or peeling paint. If the water appears to be over an inch deep, it may be best to wait until the water has been pumped out to enter the basement. Be aware that standing water may contain harmful bacteria, so take caution and wear protective gear like tall rain boots and gloves when entering the basement.
2) Find the source of the basement flood
There may be a variety of reasons why your basement has flooded. For example, if a natural disaster like a flood or heavy rainstorm has caused your basement to flood, it’s best to wait until the storm is over to begin drying out the space. On the other hand, if your basement has flooded due to a burst pipe or a plumbing issue, it’s important to locate the source of the flood immediately. That way, you can turn off the water source to prevent further flooding. If you are unsure of the reason for the flood, it’s best to call a professional to locate the water source.
3) Remove the water from your basement
Once you’ve determined the cause of the flood and ensured the basement is safe to enter, it’s important to begin the basement water removal process. Depending on the amount of water, you may be able to pump water out of the basement on your own. Consider using a sump pump, buckets, or even a pool pump to help drain the water out of your flooded basement. After most of the water has been removed, you can use mops, towels, or sponges to sop up any remaining water.
However, if the water is too deep for you or your household to safely remove, call your local basement waterproofing or water damage restoration specialist. They will have the proper tools and equipment to remove large amounts of water from your basement.
For insurance purposes, it’s important to document the extent of damage the flood has caused to your basement. Standard homeowner’s insurance policies may cover water damage from an unexpected event like a burst pipe. However, a common home insurance myth is that your policy will cover damage related to a flood. Typical homeowners insurance policies do not cover damage caused by a flood event.
If you live in an area that is prone to floods like Cape Coral, FL, or New Orleans, LA, it’s likely you already have a separate flood insurance policy. Some repairs may be included in your flood insurance coverage. However, it’s always best to check with your insurance agent to understand what repairs are covered versus those that are not.
4) Remove water-damaged items
After pumping the excess water from the flooded basement, you’ll need to remove any water-damaged items to dry them out. If possible, it’s best to let these items dry outside in a sunny place or another well-ventilated area of your home. Should these items remain damp after 48 hours have passed, it may be in your best interest to discard them. At this point, they may be more susceptible to mold and mildew if they are not fully dried out.
You should also consider ripping out any soaked carpet to let the floorboards underneath dry out. If your basement is carpeted, it may be at a greater risk of mold or bacteria growth if you do not remove the carpet in a timely manner. If you have electronics in the flooded basement, such as televisions, lamps, or gym equipment, do not touch them. Leave them in the basement to dry or contact an electrician to help you determine the extent of damage to these items.
5) Dry the flooded basement
To help dry out your flooded basement, open any windows or doors to let in as much fresh air as possible. It’s also a good idea to turn on any fans or heaters to help dry out the space. Make sure you’re using a dehumidifier to keep any moisture from staying trapped in corners of your basement.
Ensuring your carpets are properly cleaned or replaced can also help to prevent mold growth. Depending on the extent of the damage, you may be able to salvage area rugs and some carpets. For example, if part of the carpet or a rug has water damage, you can contact a professional carpet cleaning company for a deep clean.
6) Prevent mold before it grows
Once you’ve had your basement cleaned and dried, it’s important to check for any signs of mold. Mold, in addition to bacteria growth, may cause health issues in your home if they are not treated quickly. Mold spores typically begin growing within 24 to 48 hours after a flood, so immediacy is key. You can help prevent mold growth by using dehumidifiers to keep your basement’s humidity low. If it’s not rainy or excessively humid outside, you can open any egress windows or doors in your basement to let fresh air or sun in to help prevent mold growth.
However, contacting a professional who can assess your basement for signs of mold or bacteria growth may be the safest option for protecting your household. They will be able to determine whether mold has begun growing in your basement and the next steps if remediation is needed. Additionally, they can advise on the right precautions to take to prevent future mold growth.
7) Prevent future floods
There are several steps you can take to help protect your home from flooding. You can install a battery-powered sump pump to help remove excess water from your basement should a flood begin. While most sump pumps require electricity to operate, installing a battery-powered backup can help if the power goes out in your home. You can also seal basement walls with a waterproofing compound to prevent water from seeping through any cracks.
Installing flood sensors can help alert you to floods the moment they start. That way if a pipe bursts in your home, you can find out as soon as the flood begins. Automated shut-off valves and check valves are other steps you can take to help prevent future floods. An automated shutoff valve is located near the primary water inlet in your house and shuts off the main water supply when a flood sensor is activated. Check valves are placed in your home’s plumbing and help prevent water from backing up into the drains.
In the aftermath of a flooded basement, it’s important to make sure your home is in tip-top shape and prepared for future flooding. Speaking with a basement waterproofing specialist can help you determine the best course of action for preventing future floods. They will know about the right precautions to properly waterproof your basement depending on your geographic location or home’s characteristics.