Do you have a basement? Not to be the bearer of bad news, but there’s a chance your basement will flood. Not exactly the most reassuring words you’ll ever read, we know – but it’s something every homeowner needs to be aware of. So if you have a flooded basement, there are some things you need to know.
The truth is there are a variety of home issues, such as sewage backups and plumbing leaks, that can cause flooding in your basement. It doesn’t matter it’s three inches of water or three feet, flooding poses a serious risk to the health and safety of those that live in your home, so it has to be addressed as soon as possible.
Whether flooding is a nasty surprise or something you simply want to be prepared for, here’s what you can do in the event your basement floods.
Common Causes Of Basement Floods
Basements are notorious for flooding, but it’s not always because of the surprises Mother Nature likes to throw at you. In fact, many of the most common causes of basement flooding are leaks. Where do these leaks come from?
- Poor sealing – If your foundation walls and the flooring in your home aren’t properly sealed, then water can seep through. There are warning signs that you have issues with sealing such as water after heavy rainstorms. Be proactive if you notice this.
- Blocked gutters – If the manifold that connects your home to a public sewer system becomes clogged, then it can cause your property to flood.
- Poor drainage – If the drainage system in your home wasn’t installed properly, then it can lead to leaks. For example, downspouts that are within six feet of your basement walls can overload the weeping tile and flood your basement. Downspouts should always drain toward the backyard or street. If you have a French Drain, it could be clogged with debris.
- Broken appliances or supply lines – Your home’s water supply runs through the lower levels, so if a leak develops or a line breaks, you’ve got a flood on your hands. Keep an eye out on your water heaters, water softeners, washing machines, and any other appliance in your basement and watch for leaks.
- Clogged septic system – Probably the worst case scenario for a flooded basement is one caused by sewage backup, but it’s one you need to be aware of so it can be dealt with swiftly.
What To Do
When you discover your basement is flooded, you might wish you had a boat to sail away on instead of dealing with it. Totally normal reaction. But you still need to take action to get the problem fixed.
The very first thing you should do is resist the urge to wade into the water in your basement to figure out what the problem is. The water might be in contact with exposed electrical wire, putting you at risk of electrocution or have raw sewage in it that you don’t want to come in contact with.
Instead, disconnect the power to your home. Call an electrician to get the power turned off as soon as you can and to remove any electrical equipment for you that may be exposed to water.
If the flood is caused by a broken pipe, then shut off the water to your home. Your home should have a main water shut off valve. Locate it now, just in case your basement ever floods.
A few more hazards you should be aware of aside from electricity include:
- Gas leaks – Flooded basements can cause gas leaks, so make sure to contact your local fire department or utility company if you smell gas in your home. Get everyone out of the house and stay out until they arrive to turn off your gas.
- Structural damage – It’s unusual for the structural integrity of your home to be damaged by a flood, but it is a possibility. If you suspect structural damage has occurred, then call in a contractor to assess the damage.
- Sewage – If a basement floods due to rain, it’s not uncommon for raw sewage to be present in the water as well. Only enter your basement if you have protective clothing on that keeps your skin from coming into contact with the water. Also, wear a safety mask and goggles and wash anything that comes into contact with the water thoroughly.
As soon as you get the go-ahead from the electrician or plumber, then you can begin the cleanup process. The faster you can jump on this, then the less damage and repair you’ll have to address when you call in the professionals or attempt to tackle it yourself.
Steps To Counteract Flood Damage
If your basement is just partly flooded, then you may be able to remove any standing water with a wet-dry vacuum (never use a household vacuum!) or mop. If there’s too much water to do that, then you’ll need to call a disaster mitigation specialist or a plumber to clean up any standing water.
After the water is gone, then you can try to counteract some of the damage done by the flooding by doing these things as soon as possible:
Put On Protective Gear
Yes, we’ve already mentioned this, but it’s so important it bears repeating. Once a professional plumber or electrician has taken away most of the hazards and gotten the flood water out, you still need to gear up. You should make sure to have:
- Surgical mask
- Waterproof boots, rubber is best
- Thick gloves
If you have any windows in your basement, you should throw them open to help ventilate the space as you work. If you have access to a dehumidifier, then fire it up to help get the moisture out of the air. It’s also a good idea to open all the cabinets, closets, and drawers you can to speed up the drying process.
Remove Damaged Items
The water in your basement likely damaged things you had stored there, but it also may have ruined carpet and furniture – even drywall.
Any carpeted basement with a carpet pad is likely going to need to be completely ripped up and replaced. If you leave the wet carpet, then it can lead to mold growth and that can be a serious danger to your health.
It’s probably not a good idea to begin ripping up carpet off up yourself, though. Instead, wait for a professional. In the meantime, get any area rugs or floor coverings out of the basement. If you have drapes, loop them through a hanger on the curtain rod to keep them off the ground.
Drywall acts like a sponge. It soaks up water so it may need to be cut away and thrown out. You should be able to tell within 24 hours if the drywall is ruined. Also, any fabric furniture that was in your basement needs to be dried out so you can assess if it can be restored or if it’s a total loss.
Anything that was touched by water in your basement needs to be disinfected as soon as possible. You can use hot water with a detergent or bleach to scrub your floors and walls. This should prevent mold growth and kill most of the bacteria that may be present.
The process of cleaning up your basement and scrubbing every surface can take a lot of time and energy. If you want to hire a professional come in to do it all for you, then go for it.
Tip: If you want to try to file a claim of flood damage under your home insurance policy, document the damage to your basement with photographs or take video before you begin cleaning anything up. This will be important in the claims process to help your home insurance company understand the extent of the damage.
How Much Does A Flooded Basement Cost?
If you’re going to call someone in to help remediate the damage caused by a flood in your basement, you’re probably wondering how much it’s going to cost you. The answer: it depends. How much water flooded your basement? How quickly was the problem addressed and the water removed?
You can help to offset some of the cost by cleaning as much as you feel comfortable with yourself, but to get the job done right, you’ll probably need to call in the professionals, especially for jobs relating to the sewage system, electrical work, or drywall replacement.
All told, water damage in your basement can cost you anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000.
What About Homeowner’s Insurance?
Once you see that estimate for repairs, your mind probably turns to your home insurance. After all, this would be the perfect time to use it, right? Well, you really have to ask just one question: Do you have flood insurance as a part of your plan?
Not all general insurance policies will cover floods, which means they won’t cover the cost to replace items that were destroyed as a result. Call your insurance company to find out if you have coverage for flooding. If you do, then they should send out an adjuster to assess any damage, then set you up with a restoration/remediation company.
Who You Gonna Call?
If you can choose who to call for your water remediation and restoration, then you’ll have a lot of choices. There are a couple of companies that seem to stand out from the water damage crowd for us and you may not want to wait to call them if a basement flood occurs. The faster you can get help, the better off you (and your basement) will be.
This company can help with water damage you experience from:
- Flooded basements
- Sewage back-ups
- Burst and/or leaking pipes
- Appliance leaks and ruptures
- Firefighting damage
They also provide these services:
- Drying and dehumidification
- Content and document drying
- Carpet and furniture removal
What’s great about ServiceMaster is that they are available seven days a week, 365 days per year at any time. So, when you discover your basement is flooded at 3 a.m. you can get ahold of someone to start helping you right away.
They’re a leader in their industry, with over 60 years’ experience. They lead the industry in technology and methodology to get you the best result. ServiceMaster uses specialized drying systems with high-velocity air movers to help release the water that may be absorbed into your drywall and flooring for efficient drying. If mold is detected at any point, then they can help you deal with that as well.
As far as cost is concerned, the homeowner is responsible for payment and must sign off in order for work to begin. But Service Master often works with insurance companies to help get claims processed fast if their services are part of an insurance claim.
SERVPRO is a national company that specializes in, among other things, water damage repair and restoration. They have franchises all over the country that provide emergency services 24 hours per day, seven days per week. SERVPRO prides themselves on their fast response to water emergencies because they understand that a fast response can help minimize damage.
They have highly trained specialists to respond to your water damage. When you call them to your home after your basement has flooded, they will:
- Inspect and assess the water damage, then create an action plan
- Extract the water from the area with pumps and vacuums
- Dry and dehumidify once most of the water has been removed
- Clean and sanitize with antimicrobial treatments and air scrubbers to remove odors
- Restore your basement back to its pre-flood condition by replacing the drywall as needed as well as flooring
Every SERVPRO franchise works with insurance companies if you want to file a claim.
Don’t Let The Tide Pull You Under
A flooded basement is the last thing you want to deal with. While it can be a headache, it is also resolved with the right steps. If you follow our guide, you have a good chance of taking care of the issue correctly the first time.