Basement flooding isn’t something anybody wants, but being a homeowner means being prepared for all the unforeseen events that may affect your home. A variety of events can cause a basement to flood, and in Western Washington, unfortunately these items are common; a burst pipe, a flooding event, or even heavy rain leaking through a window.
There are many questions you may ask yourself after this event. When is it safe to re-enter my basement? How do you clean up a flooded basement? Who do you call when your basement floods? Does my homeowners insurance cover flooding? To make this restoration process easier and help prevent these issues in the future, take these next steps.
- Make sure your basement is safe to enter. You should never enter a flooded basement while the power is still on. Make sure you shut off electricity and gas before going into the basement. If you are unsure how to turn off the power, contact an electrician to turn it off properly. After it is off, take extra caution when entering. Be sure to watch out for large amounts of standing water, exposed electrical wires, or signs that the ceiling has sustained water damage such as sagging, cracks or peeling paint. If there is standing water over an inch, it may be best to wait until the water has been pumped out to enter. Beware that standing water may contain harmful bacteria, so take precaution and wear protective gear like tall rain boots and gloves.
- Find the source of the basement flood. There can 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, its best to wait until the storm is over to start trying to dry out the space. On the other hand, if the area flooded due to a burst pipe or plumbing issue, it is better to locate the source of the flood immediately. That way, you can turn off the source to prevent further flooding. If you are unsure of the reason for the flooding, it is best to call a professional to locate the source.
- Remove the water from your basement. Once you’ve determined the cause of the flood, ensured the basement to is safe to enter, you want to start the water removal process. Depending on the amount of water, you may be able to do it yourself using a sump pump, buckets or even a pool pump to help drain out the water. After most of the water has been removed you may be able to use mops, towels and sponges to get out the rest of the water. If the water is too deep for you to safely remove, call your local basement waterproofing or water damage restoration specialist. They have the proper tools and equipment to remove large amounts of water from your basement. For insurance purposes, it is important to document the extent of damage the flood has caused. Standard homeowner’s insurance policies may cover water damage from an unexpected event like a burst pipe. However, a common insurance myth is that your policy will cover damage related to a flood. Typical homeowner’s policies do not cover damage caused by a flood event. If you live in an area prone to flooding it is likely you will already have a separate flood insurance policy. Some repairs may be covered, however it is best to check with your insurance agent to understand what is covered versus what may not.
- Remove water damaged items. After pumping excess water from the basement, you’ll need to remove water damaged items to dry them out. If possible, let these items dry in an outside, sunny location or another well ventilated location. If these items are still damp 48 hours after, it may be in your best interest to discard them. These items 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 floor boards underneath dry out. If your basement is carpeted, you may be at bigger risk for mold or bacteria growth if you do not remove the carpet in a timely manner. If you have electronics in the basement such as lamps, televisions 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.
- 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 is also a good idea to turn on any fans or heaters to help dry out the space. Make sure you are using a dehumidifier to keep any moisture from staying trapped in the corners of your basement. Ensuring carpets are properly cleaned or replaced are important for preventing mold growth. Depending on the extent of the damage, you may be able to salvage area rugs and some carpets. For example, of only part of the rug had water damage, you may be able to call a professional carpet cleaning company for a deep clean.
- Prevent mold before it grows. Once you’ve had your basement cleaned and dried, it is important to check for signs of mold. In addition to bacteria growth, mold can cause also health issues if they are not treated correctly. Mold spores can grow typically within 24 – 48 hours so urgency is important. You can 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 in fresh air and or sun to help prevent mold growth. However, contacting a professional to help assess your home for damage or signs of mold or bacteria growth may be the safest option in protecting your household. They will be able to determine whether mold has begun to grow and what the next steps are in the remediation if it is needed. Additionally, they can advise on the right precautions to take for future mold growth.
- Prevent future floods. There are several steps to take to prevent future disasters. Installing a battery powered sump pump will help remove water should a flood begin. While many sump pumps require electricity to operate, installing a battery backup can be helpful if the power goes out in your home. You can also seal basement walls with waterproofing compound to prevent water seeping through any cracks. Installing flood sensors will help alert you to any issues from the moment they start. That way, if a pipe bursts, you will know right away and automated shut off valves and check valves can help prevent flooding also. If the flood sensor is activated, an automatic shut off valve, located near the primary water inlet to your house will shut off while the check valves will help prevent water from backing up into your drains.
In the aftermath of a flooded basement, it is important to be sure that your home is in good shape and you, and your home, are prepared for future flooding. Speaking with a basement waterproofing specialist can help you determine the best course of action for your home to prevent flooding based on your home’s characteristics and geographic location.
If you need help getting in touch with any of the specialists we mentioned, please reach out. We have plenty of professionals to refer you to and we want to be your real estate resource for life.