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Flooded Basement: What Should You Do?

What to Do When Your Basement Floods

A flooded basement doesn’t just cause damage 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. Furthermore, 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. These are just some of the problems associated with basement flooding, so it’s important to act quickly to minimize any damage that might occur.

Flooded Basement Safety Tips

Before proceeding with any further steps 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 a 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.


Step 1: Safety Precautions

Make sure to take all the necessary safety precaution before moving forward.

Outside of 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.

Inside of your home

  • Turn off the gas to your home
  • Turn off the electricity

How to turn off the electricity safely

If you have a flooded basement there is a good chance that water has come in contact with electrical sockets or appliances, 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.

Step 2: Determine the Cause of the Flood

Before you do anything you will want to determine what the cause of the flood is, especially if it’s ongoing. You need to find where the water is coming from and either stop it yourself or call the correct people to take care of it. There are several possible causes of a basement flood:

  • 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 feature with a drain, as any 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 is 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 any damage.

Step 3: Call A Professional If Necessary

Depending on the severity and type of the flood, your next step should be to call a professional to help resolve the problem.

  • A small flood caused by a minor leak: A small flood (not caused by a sewage backup) may be dealt with by a homeowner, assuming they know the proper steps to take. If you are at all unsure how to resolve the leak and clean up the flood make sure to call a professional to take care of the problem.
  • A Burst Water Pipe: If you have a burst water pipe then you will need to call a plumber to fix the leak.
  • Sewage Backup: If you have 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 will be responsible for repairing it. However, if the problem lies in your home’s waste water drainage system you will have to call a plumber.
  • There is or was standing water outside your home: Inspect the outside of your home. If you find any damage then call a building inspector. Do not enter your home if you suspect the structural integrity has been compromised.
  • Water Has Reached Electrical Appliances and Sockets: Do not touch anything. Turn off the corresponding breakers if you can safely reach your circuit breaker panel and then call a professional electrician.
  • You smell gas: Get out of your house immediately and call a utility company or fire department right away.

Step 4: Call Your Insurance Agent

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, contractors you should call and can answer a number of questions you’ll have. Take lots of pictures and make note of anything that is damaged. Throughout the clean-up and repair process make sure to keep all receipts from contractors, materials and other expenses.

Step 5: Clean-Up

Once you’ve found the cause of the flood and stopped any more 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, and then 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 are unsure of the proper steps to take or simply don`t have the time or energy to take on this kind of project then there are many flood clean-up services that can be hired to do the job for you. The advantage of hiring professionals is that 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.

For more information on basement flooding, watch the following video. Although it was produced for Canadian citizens, the information should to most homeowners.