Any basement can flood. Not the reassuring words you were looking for in an article about basement flooding. However, some homeowners assume that just because they don’t live in a high-risk flood area, or perhaps live in a state that doesn’t experience a ton of rainfall, that their basement is safe from flooding.
The truth is basement flooding can be caused by a variety of home issues, such as plumbing and sewage leaks. And whether its two inches or two feet, flooding can pose serious health and safety hazards for you and those in your home, if not addressed as soon as possible.
Whether you’ve stumbled into an in-ground pool you don’t remember building in your basement or you simply want to learn how to prepare for future flooding possibilities, we’ve got tips on what you should do after a basement flood.
According to Basement Systems, the first thing you should do when your basement floods is actually more of a what-not-to-do, which is walk into the standing water in your basement.
Not only can the water contain harmful bacteria – for example, if the cause of the flood was a sewage leak – but also if there’s any exposed electrical wiring, you could be at risk of shock or electrocution. Instead, it’s a best practice to call an electrician as soon as possible to turn off or remove any electrical equipment that may have been exposed to water.
Depending on what caused the flood, there are a few different people you may have to call after the electrician. Let’s discuss who they are and why you might need to call them.
There’s no universal answer for what causes a basement to flood. Plumbing leaks, excessive rainfall, melting snow, leaky windows or even a basement foundation leak could be contributing to the water in your basement.
Because water always run from high to low ground, water is prone to entering even the smallest cracks and flaws that lead into the lowest level of your house: your basement.
Let’s look at the three most common causes of basement leaks and whom you should call.
Plumbing leaks are caused by a burst or leaking pipe, waste line, washing machine supply hose or water tank or heater. Before you call a professional, you can stop most of the damage by turning off your water via the water shut-off valve. If your valve is buried in the ground, you might have to call a professional plumber with specific tools to turn it off.
A plumber will also have access to a high-capacity pump that will be able to get all the water out of your basement before it sits too long and starts to soak into your drywall or carpeting.
Sewage leaks are caused by a septic tank backup or clogged sewer line. You’ll want to start the cleanup process as soon as possible by first turning off your faucets and not flushing your toilets until the leak is addressed. However, most of the real cleanup should be left to the professionals, as sewage leaks can be hazards if not handled quickly and correctly.
If you have a backed-up septic tank, you’ll need a septic specialist; if the leak came from an outside city sewer service, you’ll need to call your local sewage department to check the sewages in your neighborhood for clogs.
Basement foundation leaks are caused by excessive amounts of rain, poor yard drainage and sewer backups, seeping water into your basement from faults in the foundation. In this case, you’ll need to call a foundation contractor to inspect your basement, find the cause of the flood and suggest a solution to sealing your foundation from future leaks.
Depending on the cause of the flood, and the professional you’ll need to hire to address the flood, the cost of cleaning up your basement can vary. However, let’s discuss what you can expect, cost-wise.
Cost will vary based on how much water entered your basement and how quickly the water was addressed and removed.
According to Angie’s List, a minor flood with several inches of water could cost $10,000 to repair, while a severe flood could cost anywhere between $25,000 – $50,000.
However, there are ways you can cut costs by taking care of most of the cleanup yourself, DIY-style. While some aspects of a basement cleanup and repair – like electrical work and toxic septic waste – should be left to the professionals, removing carpet and drywall can be done fairly easily.
But first, let’s discuss whether or not a flooded basement would be covered under your homeowners insurance.
The most important indicator if your basement flood is covered by homeowners insurance is if you have flood insurance.
Once your electrician or professional plumber gives you the OK to enter your basement, make sure you take plenty of photos or videos of the damage – you’ll want to document everything for insurances purposes.
According to Angie’s List, some general home insurance companies may not automatically cover floods as part of your insurance policy and, consequently, won’t cover any water-damaged items. It’s important to call your insurance company and confirm whether you have flood insurance on your home.
If you do, and your basement floods, your insurance company should send out an adjuster to assess the damage and then contact and coordinate an on-site visit with a water remediation/restoration company.
The best way to handle a basement flooding is to act as soon as you get the go-ahead from an electrician or professional plumber. The faster you act, the less amount of damage and repair costs you’ll have to address in the aftermath.
Let’s go over the steps of what you can do to counteract most of the damage of a basement flood.
Even though your professional plumber or contractor may have removed most of the hazards from your basement, it’s still a safety best practice to suit up with protective gear before venturing into the basement.
In addition, open up any and all windows located in your basement to allow most of the fumes to air out while you’re working. If you have a dehumidifier, this can also help get most of the moisture and leftover water out of the air.
Whether it’s two inches or two feet, standing water in your basement can cause damage to not only any possessions you might have stored, but also to the walls and carpeting.
If you have carpet with padding, chances are you’re going to have to rip it up and replace it. Leaving wet carpeting might lead to mold growth in your basement.
Drywall acts like a sponge when it’s wet, so it’s best to rip it out and throw it out. Plaster walls can be saved, but you need to get some air behind the wall to the dry the studs. If mold grows, most resources tell you that you can use a combination of bleach and water to kill it.
Every single thing that was touched by water needs to be addressed immediately.
By using a mixture of hot water, heavy-duty cleaner (like bleach or detergent) and a scrub brush on your walls and flooring, you’ll be able to kill most of the bacteria and prevent mold growth in your basement.
Of course, the process of removing water-damaged items and surface cleaning can be taxing. If you’d rather have a professional address the damage in your home, you can either get a recommendation from your homeowners insurance company or call a water remediation/restoration service that can do the cleaning for you. However, should you take this route, be prepared to spend a pretty penny: between $1,139 – $4,270, according to Home Advisor.