Recovering from a Basement Flood

April 27th, 2012
One day, you go down in the basement after a heavy rain and find it under water. Your possessions soaking or drifting in the pool it now became.

You look at the picture with a mix of disbelief and dismay. It might take a minute before you become overwhelmed by worry, contemplating cleanup costs, losses, damages, the hard work ahead, the mess.

Will the furnace still work? How about the water heater?


You decide you need to do something, but you don’t know what or where to start. You need to call for help but doesn’t know who to call.

This article will give you a step-by-step guide to recovering from basement flood and taking all the necessary steps to prevent that from happening again.

1 – Turn off power.

Do not enter the basement or touch the flood water without turning off power.

2 – Call your insurance company.

Regular homeowner policies usually don’t cover water damage, which is why FEMA recommends Flood Insurance even if you don’t live in a flood plain. About a quarter of all the flood claims filed every year, are for homes in areas with low to moderate flood risk.

However, even if you do have Flood Insurance, you might find out that there are coverage limits when it comes to basements, and that it will only pay for the damages in there is a qualified flood: which means there is either two acres of flooded land around your property, or a few of your neighbors were affected as well.

3 – Get the water out.

If your basement is flooded, chances are you don’t have a sump pump, or the one you have isn’t working properly. That means you will need to remove the water by other means. There are basically four ways to do that:

  • Call a Basement Waterproofing company. Some basement waterproofing companies, like Quality 1st Basement Systems of New York City or Frank’s Mr. Plumber, offer emergency services and will pump out the water for you. You can then schedule with them the installation of a drainage and sump pump system that will prevent future floods as well.
  • If there is a lot of water and a lot of damage, for example, in a finished basement, your best choice is to call a Disaster Restoration Company. They will bring in industrial equipment to suck out the water as quick as possible.
  • In extreme flooding situations, the Fire Department will help get the water out. However keep in mind that, when flood disaster strikes, they might be overwhelmed by requests.
  • If there isn’t a lot of water and damage or you can’t get any of the above to help you, you can try to buy or rent a “floor sucker” : a shop vac or a hardware store bought sump pump. Keep in mind that there sump pumps are usually of a lower quality and should only be used as a temporary solution.

4 – Get rid of soaked organic materials that can’t be completely dried out in 48 hours.

48 hours is how long it takes for mold to start growing in porous, organic and absorbent surfaces. And according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Center for Disease Control, once the mold settles in such materials (wood, fabric, carpets, mattress and upholstery, drywall and fiberglass insulation) there is no 100% effective or safe way to completely remove it. They need to be removed and discarded.

If your basement is finished with carpet and drywall, you will have to strip out every inch that came in contact with water and everything in the surroundings that feels damp, because the water infiltrates these materials through capillary action. Of course, if you hired a Disaster Restoration Company, they will do that for you.

5 – Dehumidify the basement.

You got rid of the water, but if your basement was flooded because of the weather, chances are that the ground around the basement is still very wet, that water will keep seeping through the concrete. And it will happen again every time it rains making your basement damp and mold prone. If your basement flooded because of a plumbing accident, that moisture too infiltrated the concrete.

Do yourself a favor to prevent mold now and in the future: get a good basement dehumidifier. Program it to keep the basement RH levels at or below 60% and you won’t have to worry about mold.

7 – Waterproof and Flood Protect Your Basement

After dealing with a basement flood for the first time, the last thing you want is to see it happening again. Even if your basement never flooded before, consider all the visible climate changes: record rain falls, wild storms. Let’s face it: the weather isn’t getting any better. Are you willing to risk another basement flood, knowing that there are technologies that will help prevent it?  Call a waterproofing company and get them to install an internal drain tile, and a good sump pump system with a battery operated backup pump. This will prevent future floods from happening. Good basement flood prevention systems are backed with a Transferable Lifetime Warranty, which makes it a great investment even if you are going to sell the house in the future.

8 – Consider finishes that will not get ruined by water.

After cleaning and waterproofing the basement, if you plan to refinish it, consider using products that will not get ruined by water. An internal drainage system with sump pump will keep ground water from coming in and will take care of the water from internal plumbing accidents, but fiberglass insulation against the concrete will still soak up ground water and a carpet will get wet by a plumbing leak for example. Save yourself some future headaches by choosing flooring and basement wall solutions that are 100% waterproof, inorganic and non-absorbent.

The bottom line is: basements are prone to flood and water damage, and the cost of restoring and replacing damaged property can be very high, even if you only use the basement to house appliances, laundry and storage.  Yet, basement floods are also preventable, and for a fraction of the cost of cleaning up the flood mess!

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