A flooded basement doesn’t just cause havoc to your house. It also poses a danger to you and your family’s health. All it takes is a small amount of water to cause damage to your floors, sub floors and walls, and you could be soon fighting mold and mildew. According to the EPA, wet and even damp areas can sprout mold and mildew which can lead to allergic reactions, asthma and other serious health problems.
In addition, water damage can hit your pocketbook too. Flooding can cause floors to buckle, carpets to smell and mildew, and permanent damage to clothing, furniture, and anything else that comes in contact with the unwanted water. If your basement floods, it's critical to act quickly to minimize any damage that may occur.
Flooded Basement Safety Hazards
Before proceeding, you should be aware that basement floods can lead to the following safety hazards:
- Electric Shock - Water and electricity is a dangerous combination. If there are any electrical appliances or sockets in your basement then there is the risk of electric shock. If you must enter your basement, turn off the breakers for your basement’s power first.
- Gas Leaks - Flooding may also cause gas leaks. If you smell gas leave the house and call the utility company or fire department right away.
- Sewage - The water in your basement may contain raw sewage, which can carry bacteria and transmit disease. If you must enter your basement wear protective clothing, including gloves, safety glasses, and a facemask. Thoroughly wash anything that comes in contact with raw sewage.
- Structural Damage - Although rare, a basement flood can jeopardize the structural integrity of your home. If you feel this has happened, stay out of your basement and call a professional contractor or building engineer.
What to Do When Your Basement Floods
If your basement floods, follow these steps:
Take Safety Precautions
Step 1 - Before moving forward, make sure you take the necessary safety precautions:
Outside Your Home
If the source of the flood was an outside water source.
- If the flood was due to a heavy rain or snowfall, wait until the water has receded.
- Check the area for any downed power lines and alert the city if you find any.
- Check the outside of your house for any gas leaks.
- Inspect your home for any structural damage.
Next, it's time to turn the gas and electricity off. If you have a flooded basement, there's a good chance that the water has come in contact with electrical sockets or appliances. Because of this, it is critical that you turn off the electricity to your home before entering your basement. , so you will want to turn off your house’s electricity before entering your basement.
Only attempt to turn off your electricity if you do not have to stand in water to do so.
Wood is a poor conductor of electricity, so find a stick or broom handle to open the door to your circuit breaker panel or fuse box. If it’s a circuit breaker panel, use the stick to turn the main switch and all additional switches to the OFF position. If it’s a fuse box, use the stick to switch the main lever to the OFF position. Once the main power is off you can unscrew and remove all the fuses.
Once you’ve taken all the necessary safety precautions you can begin your clean-up.
Ventilate Your Home
To help rid your home of any fumes or added moisture, open the doors and windows to ventilate the basement. In extreme cases you may need to use large fans or blowers to speed up the process.
Determine the Cause of the Flood
Step 2 - Determine what is causing the flooding, epecially if it's ongoing.
Your next step is to find where the water is coming from, and either stop it yourself or call the correct people to take care of the problem. There are several possible causes of a basement flood:
- Burst Water Supply Pipe - A burst water supply pipe in your home: If the water in your basement is clean and coming from an upper level of the house, the problem is likely a burst water pipe. Locate the main water shut-off valve and, if you can reach it safely, shut it off.
- Sewage Backup - A flood with dirty water and a strong odor is likely caused by a sewage backup. Do not flush the toilet, run a washing machine, dishwasher or any other appliance with a drain. If you do, the water used will likely end up in your basement and increase the flooding. Check the toilets, sinks and waste pipes for any blockages to rule out an internal plumbing problem.
- Outside Water - If water is entering your home from the outside, then it's likely the result of flooding due to heavy rain or snowfall, or a foundation drainage failure. If this is the case, make sure to inspect your house’s foundation for damage.
Call a Professional
Step 3 - Depending on the severity and type of flood, it may be time to call a professional to help resolve the situation.
- Minor Leak - Minor leaks typically result in small floods. Provided it wasn't caused by a sewage backup, the homeowner may be able to resolve the problem. If you are at all unsure of how to fix the leak and clean-up the flood, you should contact a professional.
- Burst Water Pipe - If you have a burst water pipe, then you need to shut off your water main and call a plumber.
- Sewage Backup - If you've ruled out a blockage in your sinks or toilets as the cause of the problem, call your municipality to come and determine what caused the sewage backup. City staff will come and inspect the flood. If the problem is in the city’s sewer line they'll be responsible for repairing it. However, if the problem lies in your home’s waste water drainage system you'll need to call a plumber.
- Outside Standing Water - If you have or had standing water outside, you should carefully inspect the exterior of your house. If you find any damage then call a building inspector. Do not enter your home if you suspect the structural integrity has been compromised.
- Electrical Appliances are Wet - Never touch anything if the water has reached your electrical appliances and household electrical sockets. Turn off the breakers if you can safely reach your circuit breaker panel and then call a professional electrician.
- Smell of Gas - If you smell gas, get out of your house immediately and call your utility company or fire department immediately.
Call Your Insurance Agent
Step 4 - Not only can your insurance agent find out if you are covered for this type of damage but they will likely give you advice on clean-up procedures and can answer a number of questions. Take plenty of pictures and make note of anything that's damaged. Throughout the clean-up and repair process make sure to keep all receipts from contractors, materials and other expenses.
Step 5 - Once you’ve found the cause of the flood and stopped the water from entering your basement it's time to clean up the mess. This is a three step process.
- First you must drain the water out of the basement.
- Then clean and sanitize the entire basement.
- Finally, dry the basement and remove any remaining moisture.
Assuming the correct safety precautions are taken, a homeowner is usually capable of cleaning up the mess left by a flooded basement. Click here for our complete guide on how to clean up a flooded basement.
However, if you're unsure of the proper steps to take or simply don't have the time or energy to take on the project, then there are flood clean-up services that can be hired to do the job for you. The advantage of hiring professionals is they are usually very effective in reducing the chance of mold or other contamination being left behind after the flood.
Whether you choose to clean-up the flood yourself or hire a professional will depend on the severity of the flood and comfort level in performing your own home repairs and maintenance.