What to do if your basement floods.
Some things in life are just not meant to go together. Water and electricity, drinking and driving, oil and water and a thoughtful list could go on ad infinitum. A sewer backup and a basement is also one of those remarkably unpleasant combinations some have stumbled upon in their home, that do not go well together. When flooded basements happen it is common to panic on an unimaginable scale and not know what to do if your basement floods.
Even the most industrious and clever will have a difficult time managing a completely flooded basement because it requires the ability to see beyond what the naked eye alone can see. Hidden moisture easily becomes trapped in dry wall, paneling, flooring and cabinets. Removing water from the carpet or hard surface flooring will definitely be a start, but never a finish. The right finish will assure there is no possibility of mold. A poor finish will open your valued property to mold and germ infestation on a grand scale.
What to do if your basement floods and you are renting?
A recent report indicates that more people are renting their home than in the last 50 years. If you are a renter and are living in a flooded rental property than the responsibility of the cleanup and repairs is on your landlord. Do not allow your landlord to dissuade you from expecting a professional cleaning process or convince you that you are responsible for the cleanup and repairs. The property is not yours and state law makes it clear that the landlord is responsible for providing a property that is safe and suitable for occupancy. If the landlord is completely unreasonable and forces you to pay someone for the cleanup there is a suitable solution.
Explain to them that you will Call the city and inform them of the condition of the home. You can even explain to them that you are considering contacting an environmental hygienist to test the home and you will be turning over the results to the city as well as an attorney. This may be harsh but the idea is to get them motivated to do the right thing. The cavalier disregarding of the hazardous condition of the home is a dereliction of their duty.
Does my flooded basement need a professional restoration company?
Resourceful people can do astonishing things and may see the cleanup and sanitizing of a flooded basement an exercise in self-reliance. If however, the basement is finished with wet dry wall, base moldings, flooring and cabinets a bit of experience and moisture detection equipment would be of help. If the water is over 4” it is recommended to seek the assistance of a professional before trying it yourself. Most local restoration companies offer a free evaluation of your property. This will allow you to see just how bad or not so bad the flood damage is.
Be aware of the flooded basement hazards.
If the basement is completely flooded above 2-4” there are some potential hazards you need to be aware of. Electricity is something you will need to consider when you contemplate a strategy for what to do if your basement floods. Plugged in extension cords may be lying in standing water, lamps with electrical cords running in at the base could electrocute you. Natural gas supplying hot water heaters and furnaces will need to be evaluated to make sure there is no gas infiltrating the air. Raw sewage has up to 81 viruses that can cause illness and e-coli bacteria is a known health hazard. Slipping hazards are to be considered, asbestos tile and insulation concerns and of course when you have water there are going to be mold, mildew and smell concerns.
The water removal process needs to start as soon as possible but never at the expense of safety. When basements are over 1’ deep with water it is often advisable to shut down the electrical in the home till the water is removed. If the water is under an inch or two than here are several tips on what to do if your basement floods.
Step 1 Correct or repair the reason why water entered the basement
Many post on the internet start with water removal as the first step. If however the reason why water came up through the drain is because of a clogged drain or a failed sump pump, with each gallon of water you remove another one enters through the drain. Having a plumber clear the drain by snaking it will allow the water table around the home to go down allowing water removal without re-entry into the home. If the sump pump failed than the water table around your home could be higher than your drain. Water will continue to come into the basement through the floor drain as you attempt to remove it.
If the source of your flooded basement is from outside like melting snow or heavy rain coming in through the foundation or rod holes, water needs to recede or be channeled away first for water removal to be effective. Otherwise it will continue to inundate the basement as it is removed.
Step 2 Water removal
As long as the presence of water is in your basement there is a destructive energy doing damage with each hour it is allowed to remain. If you have a shop vac, than start extracting the water. If the amount of water in the basement is heavy, be prepared to empty the tank multiple times as most shop vacs hold less than 5 gallons of water. Towels, wet mops, buckets and squeegee’s are items that can assist as well with the water removal process.
If the water in your basement is sewage than be sure to wear protective clothing. Gloves face mask, goggles, boots and even a body suit easily purchased from a local hardware store will reduce the chance of exposure to germs and contagions that can threaten health and safety.
Step 3 Cleanup
Often when water enters the basement it brings in with it, mud, dirt and solids that are need to be removed completely from the floor before they dries and becomes hard. While moist they will come up easily with a clean wet mop or a bucket with towels. This step of cleaning up the basement flooring is essential as the dirts are a food source for mold and keep the property at risk.
Step 4 Contents evaluation
It is one of the most unfortunate consequences of a flooded basement that your personal property and valued contents will have gotten wet. If any are in wet boxes these boxes need to be completely removed from the indoor environment. Boxes and paper are cellulose making them the number one food source for mold, so toss them out.
Most people who experience a flooded basement may not know what to do if your basement floods, but they do know what personal items are of value they want to save. These items should be addressed first and cleaned and dried. Wet contents need to be wiped clean with sanitizing agents to kill germs and microorganisms.
Here is a list of items to be removed from the home if the water is ground water.
Carpet pad, wet insulation, mattresses, pillows, cushions, children’s stuffed animals, paper products, furniture made of particleboard and fruits and vegetables.
The list is the same but with these extras if the water is sewage.
Carpet, base molding, dry wall, paneling, laminate, vinyl and VCT tile flooring and furniture.
Step 5 Disinfecting to kill germs
Everything in your basement that was wet needs to be thoroughly cleaned with sanitizing agents to kill germs and microorganisms. This includes all the flooring and several inches of the walls as well. Do not use bleach as this is dangerous and gives off fumes that can be rather dangerous. Most hardware stores sell safe disinfectants for in home use that kill 99.9% of germs.
Step 6 Drying all structures that are wet.
Wet building materials can produce mold in as little as 48 – 72 hours unless a drying cycle is begun. Wet dry wall, wood base, cabinets, paneling and concrete basement floors need to be dried with air movement and dehumidification. Hardware stores or local flood restoration companies will be more than happy to rent their air movers and dehumidifiers. Be prepared to let the equipment run for 3 days to fully remove all moisture and assure a safe, dry and sanitary environment. The single most important answer to the question of “what to do if your basement floods?” is “dry it“. Moisture removal after a flooded basement is the most essential step of preventing germs and mold.
If you are not up for a do it yourself remedy.
It is always a good job to contact a professional flood restoration company if your basement is finished and had several inches of water. Professionals see flooded basements many times each year and have the skill, equipment and know how to facilitate a thorough and efficient restoration. If you have homeowners insurance for basement flood cleanup than contact a local restoration company that is well rated on google, yelp and yellow pages.
No matter what type of water has flooded your basement, think twice before using the recommended vendor the insurance company suggests. Typically they are recommended because they are looking out for the best interest of the insurance company and not you. Take time to look at reviews on the internet when making your selection.
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