So, you’ve come home to a flooded basement – or woken up to one – and you need to know what you can do right this minute to limit the damage. If there is water currently coming into your basement, exercise extreme caution before taking any action. Then, follow these steps to prevent further damage to your home and keep your family safe.
Step 1. Make Sure Your Basement is Safe to Enter
The first thing you need to do when your basement floods is assess how dangerous the situation is. When there is standing water in your basement, there is a risk of electric shock if the water is high enough to come in contact with an electrical outlet or wiring.
To see if your flooded basement is safe to enter, check:
- Water Depth: If the water is more than 2 inches deep throughout your entire basement, do not step into the water; you could get shocked. You may need to call in a professional plumber or water damage specialist to pump the water out as soon as possible. Whenever flooding occurs, regardless of the water level, if you can access your main electrical service panel without entering the basement, turn off power to the basement. If your panel is not accessible, contact an electrician to shut off the power.
- Submerged Appliances: If the water level in your flooded basement is approaching any gas-fired appliances, like your furnace or water heater, call the gas company and have them shut off the gas. Your pilot light could be out, and gas could be entering your basement. If you smell gas, exit the building.
Step 2: Find the Source of Your Basement Flood
Your next step is to determine why your basement is flooding and see if you can stop it quickly. Even if you can’t stop the flooding, if you’re able to figure out where the water is coming from, you can inform your plumber or contractor as soon as they arrive and save time.
How to Find the Source of a Water Leak in Your Basement
How do you find the source of your basement flood? Scan your basement and try to pinpoint how the water is getting in. If water is coming into your basement through:
- Walls, Floor, Foundation or Windows: This is likely the result of heavy rains and/or a too-high water table. You may have to wait for the weather to change before the water stops rising. If water depth allows for safety, shut off power to the basement in case the water continues to rise, and then start moving your belongings to higher ground.
- Floor Drain: This usually indicates that there’s a problem with your sump pump or home drainage system, or that there’s a backup in the city sewer lines. Your next step should be to find a plumber and get them on-site. If the plumber determines that the issue was caused by the municipal sewer system, call your city’s water and sewage department and notify them.
- Plumbing or Appliances: Are your pipes or the hoses connected to your washer or water heater spewing water? You’ve found your culprit. Immediately shut off water to the broken fixture. If you think broken plumbing is the source of the problem, but can’t determine which fixture is broken, shut off water to the entire house.
Once you’ve determined the source of the flooding, and have possibly stopped the leak, you can move on to saving items from the flooded basement.
Step 3: Dry Your Basement
Before you begin rescuing your belongings, move quickly through your flooded basement and unplug all of your electronics. This is an important safety measure to follow, especially if the water continues to rise.
The faster you can dry a wet basement and prevent mold after a flood, the less you have to worry about long-term damage to your home. Start by removing the standing water. If it’s relatively shallow, go to work with mops and buckets.
If the standing water is several inches deep, you have a few options:
- A Submersible Pump: You can rent or buy pumps at hardware or pool supply stores.
- A Wet/Dry Vac: A wet/dry vac might be a better option if you already own one, or if only a small area of your basement has deep standing water. These can also be rented at your local hardware store or Home Depot.
- Contact a Water Restoration Specialist: A water restoration company is your best bet if you don’t have access to any of the above tools. We have some great local companies that do water restoration.
Your basement will still be damp once the standing water is gone.
To help speed up the drying process:
- Open any basement windows (if the weather permits) to help the moisture escape.
- Set up fans throughout your basement and turn them on high to speed up evaporation. Position them so they’re blowing out of the basement, whether through windows or toward the stairs.
- Setup a Dehumidifier and set it on high & remember to drain the water frequently.
Step 4: Begin to Salvage Belongings
Once you’ve begun removed the water, start moving your belongings to higher ground. You won’t be able to move everything out of the basement, so prioritizing is key.
Prioritize items that are the most expensive or will be the hardest to replace, including:
- Important Documents: Titles, deeds, passports and financial records.
- Family Keepsakes: Heirlooms, photo albums, books and souvenirs.
- Electronics: TVs, desktop computers, laptops and other portable electronics.
Finally, work on getting as many of the remaining items as possible upstairs, or at least stored somewhere they’re off the ground in your basement.
Step 5: Begin Cleanup
The first priority in a basement flood cleanup is to get rid of any ruined belongings. You should not attempt to save:
- Electronics that were damaged by the water.
- Fabric items that are not washed and dried within 48 hours.
- Rugs, carpeting and drywall that have been submerged in flood water.
- Drenched upholstered furniture, unless cleaned by an expert.
If you have a lot to get rid of, consider a residential dumpster rental to dispose of your waste. If you’re questioning the safety of any item, call in an expert to make sure none of the items you are saving are at risk of growing mold or bacteria.
Tips to Prevent Mold Growth After Flooding
- Use warm water and bleach, or a cleaning product with a disinfectant, to thoroughly clean the walls and floors. Let dry, then repeat.
- Clean any furniture or fabric items that came in contact with the flood water with warm, soapy water.
- Allow wet items to air-dry, opening any doors and windows. Use fans and dehumidifiers, if possible, to speed up the process.
- Wipe down all exposed areas with a mold control product, or make plans to have a restoration specialist visit your home to prevent mold after the flood.
Does my insurance cover water damage?
First I would like to state that all coverage options are limited to your specific policy and you should consult your policy for more information.
Now we need to first touch on the types of insurance that may or may not have coverage for water damage.
A traditional homeowners policy specifically excludes water damage, however there are instances in which water damage may be covered with added endorsements.
Example 1: Damage caused by water of sewage that backs up through sewers or drains. With a specific endorsement, coverage can be applied, though it is limited.
Example 2: Damage caused by water that overflows from a sump pump system. If you have a sump pump and drain tile around the foundation of your home, you may have coverage if you have this added endorsement.
Example 3: Damage caused by water seeping through my foundation, windows, walls, etc. There is no available coverage for water seepage from outside surface water caused by rain, snow melt, flood, etc.
In most cases, you will find that water damage is only covered if the damage is sudden and accidental. For Instance: If a water pipe breaks in your home, there may be coverage from the resulting damage caused by water because it is a sudden & accidental loss. However, gradual damage is usually not covered.
Gradual damage water damage is not usually covered, so although your policy might have water damage coverages, if the reason for the damage is not sudden and accidental, then you may be denied in a claim.
In addition, you need to consult your policy deductible. Most water damage claims are small dollar amount claims, that may not be covered anyway. For instance, your deductible may be $1,500, but even if you hire a water damage restoration company, you may only have $1,100 in damage.
Your standard Homeowners policy doesn’t cover flood damage at all. Flood insurance is a good way to cover you from water damage, but it also has it’s own set of limitations. Here is a good resource to see what is covered by flood insurance.
In some cases, there is no way to gain coverage from either a flood insurance policy or your homeowners policy when it comes to water damage.
After Your Basement Floods, Have a Plan
Once you’ve taken these essential steps after a basement flood, you should be well on the way to a dry basement. Now it’s time to contact your insurance company and the professionals who can prevent your basement from flooding again, such as plumbers and contractors.
If you need to contact us, feel free to use the form below.