Basements flood. It’s a hazard of living in a home with a subterranean level. Cleaning up after a flood is a hassle, but if you know the steps to take you’ll be able to get your house back to normal quickly. If you have a basement, print out or bookmark this blog for future reference.

Shut Off Power
Since electricity and water are a deadly combination, never go into the flooded area until you are certain you have turned off all power. If you’re not sure how to turn off power to the flooded area, call a pro. This isn’t something you can afford to be unsure about.

Tip: Everyone in your household who is old enough should learn how to shut off the electricity, gas, and water.

Call Your Insurance Company
If you have flood insurance, or if the damage was caused in a way that would be covered by a homeowner’s policy such as a burst pipe, notify your agent right away. You’ll want an adjuster to look at the damage as soon as possible.

Tip: If you’re not sure what caused the flooding, have an adjuster come out. You won’t lose anything if it’s not covered.

Remove Items
Move items that got wet to a place where they can dry out. Keep these tips in mind:

  • Even if there is a dry spot in your basement, don’t attempt to dry the items there. Instead, move them to a place where there is better ventilation.
  • Generally speaking, if an item isn’t dry within a couple of days you may have to toss it. Items that are wet for longer than that may grow mold and mildew. If it’s a valuable or sentimental item, enlist the help of a professional to see if it can be salvaged.
  • Remove anything stored in cardboard boxes and toss the boxes. It’s not worth trying to dry them out. Instead, dry out the contents and place them in new boxes or plastic bins.
  • If electrical items, such as televisions, were impacted, do not move them. Instead, let them dry where they are and have a professional look at electronics to determine whether or not they can be repaired.

Water Removal and Cleanup
There are two options for water removal and cleanup: 1) Do it yourself. 2) Call in a pro. Whether you need to call for backup depends on the extent of the flooding and how comfortable you are dealing with it on your own. In many cases, the water can be pumped out easily using a sump pump, pool pump, or a wet/dry vacuum. For very minimal flooding, an old-fashioned mop and some elbow grease might be all you need. Once the water is out the cleanup can begin.

  • Remove all carpeting. This should be one of the first things you do. If the carpet remains, the floor underneath will not dry.
  • Provide as much ventilation to the area as possible. Open windows, turn on fans, and consider renting a dehumidifier to speed up the drying process.
  • Once dry, thoroughly wash floors and walls (up to the level of flooding) to remove bacteria and dirt left behind.
  • If there is drywall in your basement, you’ll have to take it out if it got wet. Water damaged drywall can harbor mold, so it’s always best to replace it.

What Can a Professional Do?
If you decide to call in a professional, they will offer various services depending on the level of flooding. These include:

  • Water extraction
  • Mold remediation
  • Drying and dehumidification
  • Demolition and reconstruction

Tip: Learn about local companies that offer water damage remediation now, so that you’ll have the information when you need it. Note that many of these companies are available 24/7, but others are not. Having this information ahead of time will be helpful if flooding occurs.

Before a Flood

Here are a few things you can do before your basement takes on water.

If you use your basement for storage, buy or build shelves that elevate stored items a few feet off the ground.

Tip: Find another place to store photographs, your kids’ artwork, and other irreplaceable items. Even in normal conditions, the basement isn’t the best place for such treasures due to the dampness.

Sump Pump
Having a sump pump in place can prevent flooding in some instances. The pump should be placed in the area of your basement closest to where the water comes in. The type of pump you need would depend on how much water comes in and other factors. Talk to a plumber to see if a sump pump is a good investment for your home.

Know what type of water damage is covered by your homeowner’s insurance. For example, if a pipe bursts and floods your basement that would probably be covered. Flooding from water rising during a storm would not be covered unless you purchased a flood policy. If, however, a basement window is blown out during a storm and that causes the basement to take on water, that might be covered. Talk to your insurance agent to be sure you understand what is and what is not covered.

Tip: If you’re in a flood zone, flood insurance is generally required. If you’re not in a flood zone, the policies are very inexpensive, so it’s a good idea to have this extra layer of protection.

Having a plan in place can help you not to panic if your basement floods. Whether you decide to clean up yourself or call in a professional, these steps will help you salvage as much as you can—without the need for alarm.