It’s every homeowner’s nightmare: checking your basement after a heavy rainstorm and discovering water has invaded your home. There’s no sugarcoating that water damage is a real headache to repair, but it’s important to keep a level head and act quickly in order to minimize the potential for long term damage. In the chaos and urgency of dealing with a flooded basement, it can be difficult to know exactly what to do first. In this article, we will look into the best steps to remedying a flooded basement. We will also touch on some common mistakes homeowners make when dealing with basement floods. Finally, I’ll provide some tips to help prevent basement floods from happening in the first place!
What NOT to Do During a Basement Flood
A flooded basement may not seem particularly dangerous, but remember that the potential damage isn’t just a soggy carpet or some wet furniture. Depending on the severity of the flood, the water in your home can pose a serious threat to you and your family. Houses are filled with wiring and electric appliances, and I shouldn’t have to tell you that water and electricity simply do not mix. If you find water in your basement, switching off your circuit breaker should be the very first thing you do. As long as the power is on in your home, the flood water has deadly potential. Do not enter a flooded basement without first shutting the power off.
Many DIY homeowners would rather replace the carpet and drywall themselves before paying for a restoration company, and more power to you! While it’s easy for homeowners with a can-do attitude to want to take care of the repairs on their own, please don’t push yourself if you don’t have electrical experience. Any time you are dealing with potential electric issues—and especially when you’re dealing with a flood—it is much better to call a licensed electrician rather than take any risk of hurting yourself.
Basement Water Removal
Once you’ve shut off the power and ensured you can safely enter the basement, the next order of business is to get that water out of there! Before you can start the arduous process of assessing and repairing any water damage, use a sump pump to start siphoning the water out. If you already have an active sump pump, flooding is a likely sign that it has failed and that you may need to purchase a replacement. Depending on the severity of the flood, a wet/dry vacuum or even a mop may be enough to clear up most of the water. Sponges and rags will help you get the last bits of moisture off any surfaces, and you are finally ready to assess the damage.
Water has the uncanny ability to exact irreversible damage on many household items. Take everything you can out of the basement and put it somewhere like a garage where it can dry for a couple days. To avoid issues with mold and bacterial growth, anything that isn’t dry after two or three days may need to be thrown out. Unfortunately, you will also likely need to completely replace your carpet, along with any drywall that was exposed.
Once the basement is cleared, it’s time to let it dry completely. That means opening any and every window as well as placing as many fans as you can spare to get maximum air circulation. A dehumidifier, if you have one, will also help speed up the process of water renewal. Remember, any extant moisture can lead to mold, so you’ll want to get your basement dry as fast as possible. Even with all of these measures in place, however, the process will still likely take several days. When your basement is fully dry, you can begin reinstalling any carpeting and drywall that was damaged.
Dealing With Insurance
There are a lot of moving parts to repairing a flooded basement. Even if you do most of the repairs yourself, the cost of replacing your carpet and other household items can quickly stack up. On top of this, professionals will still have to be called for inspections and things like mold testing. Therefore, it’s vital for you to understand your homeowners insurance policy. Every policy is different, of course, but generally speaking, flooded basements are only covered in certain circumstances. If the flooding was caused by a fault in your home, such as a damaged pipe, then most insurance plans will help cover the cost of repairs as well as the cost of replacing damaging household items.
Unfortunately, most insurance plans do not cover flood damage resulting from natural causes like heavy rain or groundwater. If your homeowners insurance doesn’t cover damage from natural flooding, you may want to consider purchasing special flood insurance. Regardless of what plans you decide to have, the most important thing is to understand exactly what they will and won’t cover.
Basement Flooding Preventative Measures
Even if you have great insurance coverage, I’m sure we would all immensely prefer not to have to use it. While some instances of bad luck—such as a busted pipe—are unpredictable, there are several steps you can take to minimize the chance of a flooded basement. If your basement is susceptible to flooding when it rains, the culprit is likely in your interior or exterior drainage system. Upgrading your drainage system can be as simple as installing gutter downspout extensions or as intensive as reshaping the landscape of your yard to redirect rainwater.
The cheapest and easiest solution is often simply keeping your gutters clean and ensuring they work effectively and drain as intended. A longer downspout can be installed in minutes, but it alone may not be enough to protect your home from flooding. There are, of course, options that are much more thoroughly effective, but they are also more expensive and potentially invasive.
Installing an interior perimeter drain system is an effective way to remove water from your home on a steady basis, but the process of laying the drainage pipe involves chipping into the concrete floor. As a result, this strategy really is best for folks with unfinished basements. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that an interior drain system only works to remove water in your home: it doesn’t do anything to keep water from entering your basement in the first place.
Unlike an interior perimeter drain, a French drain is actually installed outside in your yard. It works wonders in redirecting rainwater away from your home, preventing excess water from reaching your basement. A French drain system doesn’t force you to tear up your basement, but it usually means digging several trenches in your yard. Regardless of which drain system you use, either or both will go a long way toward preventing flooding from natural events like heavy rain.