How To Cleanup After A Basement Flood
Ask 100 Michigan homeowners, “What’s the best thing to wake up to?” and you will hear things like, “fresh brewed coffee, a family breakfast, birds singing with a beautiful sunrise”. What you can bet you will not hear is, “a flooded basement”. Basement flooding in Michigan is not an experience one would naturally want and for those who have awoke to this unwanted distraction, information on how to cleanup after a basement flood is what they would really appreciate.
Even those who were convinced they had made choices to insure decreased chances of a basement flood have learned the hard way, “any basement can flood”. Mr. Smith avoided purchasing the house of his dreams because it was in a known flood zone, so he buys instead in a city that seldom floods but is soon discouraged when he walks down one morning to his finished basement, to only discover the worst, the basement has flooded. Mrs. Cooke spends a small fortune on a backup sump pump system feeling her basement is now safe from flooding but is soon shocked to find after a heavy rain it is several inches under water.
Why any Basement Can Flood
Water always seeks the lowest point in any home and because basements occupy the lowest space water is sure to be discovered there when drains backup, sump pumps fail or water comes in through cracks in the floor or wall. Even the best thought out plans will be found incapable of protecting your home if weather and power failures combine their efforts against you. There exist a plethora of information from handy men, home service organizations and plumbers on the web and if you manage to put into practice everything they recommend, you may still one day need to know how to cleanup after a basement flood.
Their recommendations are capable of reducing your chances but Charles Bingham owner of Action Extraction Inc. a flood damage restoration company in Macomb MI says water always wins. His company has seen flooded basements in homes with 3 separate sump pumps, all floor cracks sealed with hydraulic cement and in homes sitting high on top of a hill. While any step of precaution is responsible, water always win when one or more of our preventative measures fails. This of course will introduce many shocked homeowners to a flooded basement and they will need to know how to cleanup after a basement flood.
Various types and degrees of basement flooding
A flooded basement can be anything from a small area of wet carpet by a crack in the wall to several inches or feet of standing water from a failed sump pump. The source of the water can vary from a broken water supply line to a sewer drain backup and the cleanup process as to how to cleanup after a basement flood is equally diverse. It is the similarities we are going to cover next as these steps will always need to be crucial to the cleanup of the flooded basement regardless of the type of water.
Safety is important when it comes to water in your basement so before we address how to cleanup after a basement flood, lets first explain the importance of several vital concerns. There are electrical concerns, temperature concerns if the hot water heater has ruptured as well as slipping concerns, so be careful. The type of water also heightens the risks especially if the water is from a sewer backup. This water is thriving with germs, bacteria and potentially up to 81 different viruses that are capable of introducing illness. E-Coli, Salmonella, Hepatitis and other microbes can easily get on your skin so where protective gloves, clothes and rubber boots.
Step one is determine the cause of the flood. If the flood is a result of a broken pipe, you will hear the sound of running water or see it coming from the broken pipe. If an appliance is malfunctioning like a dishwasher or washing machine will undoubtedly notice such a scene. Turning the water main shut off to the closed position should immediately stop the water from continuing to flood your basement. If the water is from a backed up sewer drain the fix is a bit more involved. Unless you possess a snake that is capable of cleaning out a clogged sewer drain system, you will need a plumber. Most will also camera the drain to discover why it backed up and ensure they fix it. How to cleanup after a basement flood is important but so is making sure you fix the problem so it doesn’t happen again soon.
Step 2 is evaluating the environment for electrical dangers. If you have less than an inch of water in your basement than in most instances wearing rubber boots to walk around will be safe. Look around to see if there are plugged in extension cords or small electrical devices lying in the water. If there are then shut off the power and use a flashlight to see before unplugging the cords or devices. If you have 6” or more water it is best to call a professional to see if the water is electrified. Knowing how to cleanup after a basement flood is irrelevant if you walk directly into electrified water and get shocked or even worse. Electrified water may look safe, but electricity is not detectable to the naked eye, but certainly is to the touch. It is worth spending a few dollars to be safe.
Step 3 is ensuring air quality. If the water is from a fresh source like a broken water pipe your air will be fine if caught right away. Sewer or ground water backups are a different matter and a window or several should be opened to allow some fresh air in. Air quality control is an important step in how to cleanup after a basement flood.
Step 4 is getting the water out by any water removal means necessary. Shop vac, buckets or getting a clogged drain open can begin the process. In most cases, however the professional flood restoration company is your quickest bet. They will have large truck-mount extraction systems that can quickly remove water from your basement.
Step 5 is applied germ and microbe killing agents. The best ones are going to be environmentally safe plant based anti-microbial agents. If you call a professional be sure to ask for the natural kinds as they are the safest and worth the additional cost if there is any.
Step 6 is removing the destroyed or contaminated materials. Fresh water caught early will not require many items to be removed from the home and can typically be disinfected and dried. Water that has contaminates in it such as long standing water that has sat for several days or sewer drain backup water will need much more material removal. Carpet, pad, drywall and absorbent materials like mattresses and stuffed animals need immediate removal.
Step 7 is drying and moisture control. This will require dehumidification with a dehumidifier and air movement with industrial fans. These drying devices can be rented from your local hardware store in some instances or a local flood restoration company will be glad to rent them to you. The one good thing about getting them from a professional flood damage restoration provider is that they will monitor and move them around for you. Even if you know all the step on how to cleanup after a basement flood, if you neglect drying and removing moisture you will be at high risk for get mold.
What about wet carpet, can it be saved?
Carpeting that gets wet is not a difficult material to dry once the standing water has been removed. The padding is another thing as it is sometimes less expensive to rip out and replace than to attempt to dry. The carpet will in most situations be capable of being restored and cleaned unless the water has contamination from an extreme source like a sewer backup. Some wet carpet in the basement is glued down without the padding and should be easy to dry and made safe again after disinfecting and steam cleaning. Again however, if the water was from a sewer backup, it has to go. Saving carpet is great because it will save you money and saving money is part of how to cleanup after a basement flood
I have wet drywall, can it be saved?
The standards that govern how to cleanup after a basement flood determine the whether the wet drywall can be saved or not. Interestingly this material we call drywall, dries very well when air movement and dehumidification are employed in the wet environment. The base molding may have to be temporarily removed and holes placed at the base of the walls to facilitate drying, but the repairs are nominal. Wet drywall from sewer water is a no no when it comes to saving. The material is beyond the scope of ever being safe and complete removal of as much of it is wet an essential need.
Drywall is a food source for mold and should be evaluated by a professional that is equipped to make the right call and utilizes moisture detection devices that are very accurate. Avoiding mold is actually very easy to the trained flood damage expert and is why such an industry exist today. If you already have mold that is noticeable than it is important to have it all removed and surfaces treated. Some information on the web suggests using bleach and water to kill mold and this is absolutely incorrect. While bleach and water mixtures are acceptable on hard surfaces like desk, flooring and toys it is not ideal with absorbent drywall.
Drywall is made of cellulite the favorite food of mold and it thrives from that material. Getting it wetter with the water and bleach mixture a false remedy and will do more harm than good. Remove it completely or after having anti-microbial agents applied to it, dry it and seal it with an oil base paint.
What if I have mold in my basement?
When mold pops its ugly head out you need to be serious about removing it. Because it is a traveling spore it is recommended that a professional be contacted to analyze the situation and determine if air testing should be considered. If they feel it is superficial and can be easily removed from your home that will be an welcomed control method as widespread mold presence can be very costly to re-mediate. Insurance companies are not willing in most cases to assume such cleaning cost.
What things should I remove from my flooded basement?
There are several web sources that discuss how to cleanup after a basement flood that have very loose standards as well as questionable approaches to the cleanup. Some of them recommend saving items that are just not worth saving unless you have a deep sentimental value placed on it. For instance a saturated mattress in any type of water should just be discarded. The core materials could stay wet for weeks and smells and mold could develop and who wants to be sleeping on an old germ bucket?
Wet boxes of all types should not be given a second thought, just toss them. The same with books, paper and cardboard games, just trash them. Stuffed animals that are wringing wet, why save them and let your children be holding and even having face to face contact with breathing in their germs? Clothes are a little bit more forgiving because of the ease of washing machines. If a child slips in dogie dodo and comes in with it on their clothes, you may well just spray them with shout and clean them in hot water. Clothes that are only wet, but free from sewer concerns are easy to cleanup and make salvageable with bleach, soap and water.
Blankets and towels are easily as well at cleaning up just like clothes, but remember sewer water changes everything and not worth fooling with. It is recommended as well if you have contaminated laundry to use a laundromat because they have bigger units and who wants to put that stuff in their own machine when an acceptable alternative is available that can save your system from the germs.
Remember that you only have so much time in a day to cleanup the mess so it is important to save what you can but not waste time on saving what you can’t or shouldn’t.
How to cleanup after a basement flood
The information presented in this article is intended to help increase the possibility to safely drying out your wet basement if it has flooded. While there are very good and practical guidelines here it is always recommended that a professional flood damage repair specialist be called out for an evaluation. Most flood damage restoration companies offer free estimates and evaluations. If you are impressed with their company than at least get the free quote as often times they are affordable or you may have the necessary insurance for the cleanup after a flooded basement nightmare.
Flooded basement cleanup is offered throughout all the metro Detroit cities and older cities such as Grosse Pointe, Saint Clair Shores, Warren, Harrison Twp., Berkley, Birmingham and Huntington Woods.