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.
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.
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.