First Steps to Take When Cleaning up a Flooded Basement

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For most people, uninvited water in their basement is more like a disaster than an inconvenience. And a mess like a flooded basement seems to happen at the worst possible time, usually when another of life’s curve-balls is being thrown.

Whatever the cause, flooded basements are a major issue to the health, safety and structural integrity of your home. Immediate intervention to a flooded basement is paramount in salvaging your property and preventing further damage.

Preparing for a flood is not on most people’s priorities, but when it happens, a quick list of what to do is invaluable. Here are the first steps to take when cleaning up a flooded basement.

1. Address Health and Safety issues

Keep children and animals out of the basement and away from standing water and any aerosol effects from stagnant water. Depending on the source, water might be polluted with fecal matter or dangerous chemicals. Wear protective clothing like boots, coveralls, gloves, goggles or even a respirator when entering your flooded basement.

2. Deactivate Services

Before entering your basement, ensure all services are deactivated. This includes electricity that should be shut off at the main breaker panel and the gas valve being closed at the outside meter. Domestic water might have to be turned off at the street to stop a running water tank or burst line. Don’t guess at how to terminate services. If in doubt, ask for help from neighbors or service authorities.

3. Stop the Flood Source

The flood source may not be apparent, especially if the flood has been occurring for some time and a great deal of water has built up. Start with shutting off domestic water and then work towards unblocking drains.

4. Ventilate

Let nature help you clear the air and begin evaporation. Open the windows and doors and get a cross-flow of fresh air blowing through your soaking basement. Use fans if you have them or invest in renting some. Air movement is by far the most effective drying source, regardless of whether the air is cool or warm.

5. Extract the Water

This may be more difficult than it sounds and might require mechanical help like a pump or a wet vacuum. Perhaps you have a sump pump that failed and needs replacing or a passive drain that’s clogged and requires auguring.  Ensure where you’re disposing of water is safe and not able to return.

6. Remove Wet Items

It’s impossible to do flood damage remediation while soaked materials remain in the basement. This might be items you’ve had stored or materials that are part of the finished area like carpet, drywall or insulation. These should be taken out and dried in a separate location or even discarded.

7. Disinfect

Dry and disinfect the entire area. Complete and thorough drying is vital to safeguard your structure and prevent the growth of harmful mold, spores and bacteria. These potentially dangerous pathogens are ever-present in basements and will quickly multiply in damp, dark and warm spaces.

8. Contact Your Insurance Company

Don’t forget your insurance company. If you have all-perils insurance that includes flood coverage, ensure you report the flood damage to your provider as early as possible. Your insurance may look after all flooded basement costs and may pay for a contractor to provide most of these difficult and crucial steps.

Once you’ve taken these important first steps in cleaning up a flooded basement, be sure to contact a certified water damage restoration professional.

Author:Water Damage Advisor
Water Damage Advisor

The Water Damage Advisor content team is made up of multiple contributors, writers, and editors. We are your resource hub for anything related to water damage, mold and restoration needs that you may be challenged with facing.

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  2. LDR Construction Services, Inc. Cleaning & Restoration. (2013) 5 First Steps to Cleaning Up a Flooded Basement. Retrieved from:
  3. Quicken Loans. Cleaning Up After a Basement Flood. (2011) Retrieved from:
  4. Can-Restore. (2014) How to Tackle Flooded basement Cleanup in 6 Easy Steps. Retrieved from:
  5. Aquamaster. (2016) Follow These Steps To Survive A Flooded Basement. Retrieve from:

6 Responses

  1. Thanks for explaining what to do if your basement floods. My basement started flooding last night, and I want to try and avoid any serious water damage. It makes sense that you would want to open windows to get the air moving. You also make a good point about extracting the water with a wet vacuum or pump. Hopefully, I can find a restoration company that has the right equipment to use.

  2. I just barely moved to a new area that I’m told is particularly susceptible to flooding during certain times of the year. That being said, I think it’s important for me to make sure I have the proper coverage in my insurance first and foremost. Since the article mentions that an insurance company may be able to pay the costs for a contractor to come take care of the damage, it would be worth it to me.

  3. Ventilation is probably the best first step you can take. Great tips here for everything you should try when cleaning your flooded basement.

  4. I think the first thing to do is a get a professional restoration company to help you. They have the tools and expertise to get the job done right and save as much of your belongings as possible. I like that you mentioned ventilating after this process to get any excess moisture out and any smells as well.

  5. Flood damage can be some of the most devastating forces on a home. Taking the proper precautions when clearing out a flooded basement is so important to avoid contracting dangerous illnesses, but some are unaware of just how dirty flood water is. Thanks for these tips!

  6. Thanks for sharing article. If your basement or other flooded area is overwhelming and you have power, consider renting (if available) a sump pump from your local Rent-all or hardware stores. Getting rid of all the water and drying out the area is the most important thing you can do to prevent mold growth. Dry out the affected area.

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