Basement Flood Clean Up 101: Tips and Tricks

Flooding of any kind is a homeowner’s nightmare, but it’s even worse when it happens in your basement! Fortunately, there are some basement flood clean up tips that can make the process more comfortable, even if by a little bit.

When your basement floods, you might think you’re in a huge trouble – and for a good reason. Getting rid of all that excess water is not an easy task. Still, you might not need to call for professional help just yet. There are a few things you might be able to do on your own.

If you’d like to know how you can do a whole basement flood clean up by yourself, you’re in the right place! We’ll give you several tips and tricks on how to complete this task, while also explaining why it is so important to act quickly.

Basement Flood Clean up: Can You Do It?

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Many homeowners think that basement flood clean up has to be conducted by professionals. This is true, in a way. Many floods cannot be fixed without professional equipment, especially when they happen in the bottom floor or the basement. The water has nowhere to go and it seems as if you’re stuck.

Still, you can fix many minor floods even if you don’t have experience with such tasks. All it takes is knowing some necessary steps, as well as acting quickly.

Even if you have a severe flood, you don’t need to sit quietly and wait for a professional to rescue you. There are a few things you can do on your own to prevent greater damage.

According to the National Flood Insurance Program, floods have been the number one home disaster in the U.S. What makes things worse is that many homeowners don’t know how to react. Some hope that the water will go away on its own. Others panic and wait for professional help instead of acting on their own.

This can result in great losses. Sure, professionals can save your property and you can replace the flooring, but what about many valuables you might keep in your basement? By acting quickly and making some precautionary steps you can make a whole difference!

Of course, this only works in such occasions when the situation is safe. If you fear there might be a danger of electrocution or of property damage, contact a professional immediately.

The First Steps

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Once your basement floods, the worst thing you can do is panic or sit idle and wait for help. You need to get to work and make sure to prevent the situation from escalating.

For example, it can take no more 24 to 48 hours for dangerous mold to appear on any damp fabric! This can result in some health problems, especially in people with severe allergies or asthma. [1]

As such, it’s much better to act fast, especially if you want to avoid the costs becoming too expensive.

Here is what you need to do before you get to the clean-up:

Turn off the Electricity

If you notice there is a flood in your basement, don’t even attempt to get in without turning off the power. Bad things can happen if you combine electricity with water.

Even if you don’t think your power source has been endangered, don’t risk it. You likely won’t notice anything is wrong until it’s too late.

If you cannot access the circuit breaker, don’t risk it by going into the water on your own. Call a qualified electrician who knows how to deal with such situations.

Wear Protection

‘It’s just water’ is the most dangerous thought you can have when dealing with a flooded basement. It’s never just water. You’re potentially dealing with not just raw sewage but also pollutants and chemicals.

The water you’re dealing with might be coming from various sources – many of which can harm you.

As such, we are recommending to wear protective equipment, such as:

  • Rubber or plastic gloves.
  • Waterproof boots.
  • Protective clothing.

Also, check out whether there is mold in your basement. If it is, then you need to step up your game. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends using additional equipment, such as goggles, gloves, and even an N100 or N95 face mask! This is especially the case if you have sensitive skin or lungs.

Luckily, you can find this gear at most local hardware stores.

Identify the Source

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Sometimes, it’s easy to guess what caused the flooding. For example, if you’ve experienced heavy rains, chances are this contributed to the water accumulation. Still, you’ll need to try to find the exact location of the leak.

Maybe your basement window is leaking, or you have a broken pipe connector. Either way, if it’s raining, it’s better to wait for the bad weather to stop before you can make any additional steps. On the other hand, if you have a leaky pipe, you need to turn off the water outlet, as well. This will keep the water from seeping into the basement.

Keep in mind that most of these issues can only be dealt with by a professional. However, you’ll likely be able to deal with the basement flood clean up on your own.

The Clean Up Process

Once you’ve turned the power off and put on your protective gear, it’s time to get to the real job – the basement flood clean up!

Once again, if you’re dealing with major flooding and deep water, it might be the best to call a professional who can help you. However, if you feel like saving some money and doing everything on your own – we’ve got your back!

Here’s what you need to do:

Dry Out the Basement

First things first – you need to know how to dry out a flooded basement. As long as there’s water, you’re not going to be able to deal with the damage and to clean everything up.

Your best option would be to use a sump pump. While some people prefer French drains over sump pumps, there is no denying that a sump pump will usually work better for an indoor basement. Not to mention that there are some great backup sump pumps with Wi-Fi that can help you get rid of the water even if you’re outside of your home.

Another good idea is to use a wet/dry vacuum. Keep in mind that this can take longer, as you’ll need to go out several times to get empty the canister. As such, getting rid of even the small amount of water can take a very long time. Still, it’s better than nothing.

Once you’ve removed all the standing water, you need to dry the place out. There are several items you can use for this step. For example, you can buy a basement dehumidifier. This item can help you get rid of any additional moisture, which will also prevent mold from building up.

If you don’t want to invest money in such an item – especially if you hope the flood won’t happen again any time soon – it’s enough to use several large fans. Place them in the basement and turn them on. The air circulation will help get rid of any excessive moisture.

Remove All Wet Items

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Wet items won’t dry that easily inside the already wet basement. In fact, leaving them in can only make it harder to dry everything out! Having bunch of wet items inside the room will increase moisture, and this is not something you’d like.

Not just that, but mold and mildew loves fabrics you can find on furniture and carpets. As such, it is the best to take out any furniture or rugs and leave them in a well-ventilated area to dry. Not to mention that leaving carpets on will prevent the floor from drying out! You likely don’t want to deal with having to remove all the flooring next to fixing all the remaining water damage.

Another thing you should get out of the basement includes anything with electrical wiring. This is further enforced by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), which claims this should be one of the first steps you take. Try to remove any outlets, as well.

This is yet another reason why it’s essential you’ve turned off the power beforehand. You don’t want to touch wet power outlets while the electricity is on!

Clean All Surfaces

Now that all of the wet items are out of the way, it’s time to clean the floor, walls, and any other surface. This will not just ensure everything is properly dried, but also help get rid of all the dirt and the debris.

Wipe the floor and walls with a cloth or a proper tool. To ensure you don’t get mold, the Environmental Protection Agency’s mold cleanup guidelines suggest you clean everything with water and detergent.

If the humidity levels are too high or if there’s already an extensive amount of mold, you might consider hiring a mold remediation professional. They can make sure you are mold-free so you don’t risk your health.

Take Prevention Measures

Let’s face it: Even the best basement can experience flooding. Floods can happen out of reasons that you have no effect on, and you can never be entirely certain that it won’t happen to you. Still, there are some prevention measures you can take.

If you are aware that you live in an area where the risk of floods is great, consider installing ICC-ES certified flood vents. These vents can protect your homes from hydrostatic pressure buildup that can be so powerful to destroy your property’s foundation.

Inspect the landscaping outside of your house. If there is a slope, you want it to slope away from your property. It is recommended to keep plants at least a foot from your house, as the roots might damage the foundation. Trees should be several feet away, if not even more! Their roots can cause extensive damage to the pipes.

Make sure the rain spouts are directing water far away from your house – five feet at least! Anything less than that might cause the water to pool around the home’s edges.

Use waterproof paint for walls and floors. While they won’t prevent floods, they can help reduce moisture.

While there are rumors that you shouldn’t buy or rent houses with sump pumps, these devices are your best protection against floods. Of course, while getting the best battery for your sump pump can help keep the floods away, even this can occasionally backfire. Still, it will reduce your risks of having water seepage in basement after rain by a mile.

You can also invest in a perimeter drainage system in your basement. These usually include automatic sump pumps but also additional features that can keep you safe in case of a power outage and a flood.

Basement Cleanup Cost

Unfortunately, basement flood clean up is an expensive task. In fact, some damages, especially if left unfixed for a while, can become irreparable. More so, you’ll be liable not just for the clean up, but also for possible basement disinfecting, repairs and renovations, sometimes even for changing your entire plumbing system!

The average basement cleanup costs are between $3,000 and $10,000. Most people end up paying around $4,000. This is based on the facts that the average basement size is around 500 ft. and that most floods result in the water that is two feet deep.

If there is less water and you’ve noticed it quickly, you can expect to pay less. However, if the water amount is greater or if everything happened while you were on a vacation and you didn’t notice the damage until weeks later, the costs can skyrocket.

Also, the costs can depend on the cause of the flood – something we’ll get in depth a bit later. For example, if the water came from a sewage backup, you usually won’t deal with contamination. However, the costs of dealing with ‘black water’ flood can end up being rather extensive.

Does Homeowner’s Insurance Cover the Damages?

Many people wonder does homeowner’s insurance cover the water damage. The answer might disappoint you.

Most homeowner insurance policies will cover sudden water damages. For example, if you have a burst pipe, you can sleep calmly knowing you won’t have to pay out of pocket. This is great news for some.

However, if it is determined that the damage happened gradually or that you could’ve noticed and prevented the signs of a future water damage, you’re on your own. Even most premium plumbing insurances will exclude any gradual damage! This includes events such as a slow leak, but also regional flooding.

It might be smart to check with your insurance company to see the details of your policy and just how much coverage you have.

What Can Cause a Basement Flood?

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There are many potential causes of a flooded basement. Most floods happen to older properties with old pipes and home structures, as the damages to the pipes are more likely to happen there.

If you’ve recently added a basement to an existing house with a crawl space but you’ve noticed flooding not too much time later, chances are there was some mistake during the construction work.

Also, some homes are located near natural water sources. This can increase not just moisture in basement, but also the chances of floods. Heavy rainfalls can be especially harmful for such properties.

In general, the most common causes of a basement flood include:

  • Cracks in foundation.
  • Heavy rainfall.
  • Rapid snowmelt.
  • Problems with the sump pump.
  • Problems with the sewer system.
  • Window wells not draining properly.
  • Burst or leaky pipes.
  • Rain gutters overflowing.
  • Appliance leaks.
  • Improper locations of the downspout.
  • Basement walls that are not properly sealed.
  • Nearby water source.
  • House that’s located on the slope’s bottom.
  • Weeping tile blockage.
  • Overflowing bathtub or toilet.
  • Failure of the water heater.
  • Failure of the drainage system.

 

Who Do You Call to Help with Basement Flood Clean Up?

Another issue many people run into is not knowing who to call when they have a flooded basement. Not all problems can be dealt with on your own, and sometimes you’ll need a professional help. But who exactly this professional is?

In general, it takes more than one phone call to deal with the basement flood clean up. Here are several companies you’ll need to work with:

Insurance Company

We’ve already mentioned that certain water damages might be covered by the insurance company. You need to contact your insurance agent and let them know what happened. Even if you don’t think they’ll cover you, it’s better to try it out than to risk missing the opportunity.

Most of the time, the insurer will arrange an inspection to make sure what caused the flooding. This is also a great opportunity to ask them about any recommendations if you’re in need of professional help.

Water Damage Restoration Company

If you don’t want to deal with the basement clean up on your own, you should call a certified water damage restoration company. These companies can handle most tasks, such as:

  • Removing the water from your basement.
  • Sanitizing the area.
  • Removal, disposal, or salvage of any items the water has damaged.
  • Reconstruction services.
  • Mold and mildew removal.

Foundation Contractor

The foundation contractor is the person to call if you’re not certain where the water is coming from. They can inspect your property for any foundation faults such as cracks to make sure what’s the cause of flooding.

This is especially useful if you live inside a fairly old house. Aging construction or faulty design can lead to water damage, so this is certainly something you’d want to check out.

Plumber

Contrary to popular belief, plumbers cannot help you with the basement flood clean up. However, if the flooding is caused by pipe damage, this is a job for a plumber.

Plumbers can deal with faulty plumbing or leaky pipes that are among the main causes of flooded basements. While they cannot help you deal with the damage, they can help fix the issue that caused it and help prevent future floods.

Electrician

If you suspect any damage to the power outlets or power sources in your basement, you should contact a licensed electrician. You should never deal with electricity on your own, as you’re risking electrocution that can be deadly.

This is especially the case if your circuit breakers are located inside the basement. Never attempt to reach them on your own.

In fact, even if you don’t think there has been any damage to the power outlets, it might be a good idea to contact an electrician just to be sure. The water can travel through the walls, creating damage on locations you don’t expect.

Gutter Repair Company

Gutter repair companies can help you deal with damaged gutter components. This is a common occurrence after the snowmelt or rain. The gutter repair company will then help you with replacing critical parts, such as downspout elbows, drop outlets, and end caps.

Sometimes, your entire system might need replacing. This is usually the case when gutters are what caused the basement flooding in the first place. While such replacements are expensive, they can help by increasing your home value and helping you have a dryer bathroom.

Best Way to Clean Up a Flooded Basement

Unfortunately, there isn’t a single best way for a basement flood clean up. All houses are different and they might require different methods.

Of course, the best way to make sure everything is squeaky clean and dealt with is to contact a professional, but this isn’t always possible. Not just that, but some people don’t feel like spending that amount of money. While we have to note that it might cost you more if you don’t deal with the water damage in the right way, it’s still important to know how to deal with certain issues on your own.

As long as you make sure everything is dried out and that you’ve completed certain mold-prevention measures, you should be fine as far as the cleaning goes. Still, if you suspect there has been contamination, it might be smart to contact local disinfection services that can help you out.

The Bottom Line

While bathroom flooding is a nuisance no one wants to deal with, sometimes it is inevitable. While dealing with water damage is inevitable, basement flood clean up can sometimes be a DIY project – as long as you know how to do it the right way.

Unfortunately, many of these damages can end up being too much to handle and often calling a professional for help is inevitable. Still, there are some things you can do to prevent the damage from spreading while awaiting help.

Don’t risk your safety. If you suspect damage to any electrical cords or power outlets, call a professional immediately. Once such danger is eliminated, you can proceed to clean everything up in peace.