Water, water everywhere!! And now my basement is wrecked…

Mass Department of Environmental Protection   

It certainly seems like this has been quite a year for flooding.  The Northeast was pummeled last spring and the Midwest was hit hard this autumn.  I’ve been told again and again by homeowners that had never had a drop of water in their basements that this year that all changed.

So what can you do if your basement is flooded?  First of all, act quickly: you don’t want to let that water linger in your basement because the longer it sits, the more damage it will do.

Cut Off Power to Your Basement

There is always the chance that there is electricity coursing through the water.  If your breakers are not in the basement, just switch them off.  If they are in the basement, you will have to get the power to your entire house shut off so you can reach the breakers without getting zapped.  You will probably have to call the electric company for that or you may have to call an electrician.

Get Rid of the Water

There are so many ways to do this, ranging from the time-consuming method of using a bucket, using a shop vac or sump pump or hiring a Disaster Restoration Company.   Some basement water-proofing companies have emergency services and can also be hired to remove the water.  If you do decide to do it yourself, one important thing to remember is that it must be done slowly; done too quickly and you may cause the soil and foundation to shift, resulting in collapsed basement walls, floors or foundation.   You must never pump more than three feet of water every 24 hours.

FEMA  recommends the following steps:

  • Begin pumping when floodwaters are no longer covering the ground outside.
  • Pump out one foot of water. Mark the water level and wait overnight.
  • Check the water level the next day. If the level went back up (covered your mark) it is still too early to drain your basement.
  • Wait 24 hours, and then pump the water down one foot again. Check the level the next day.
  • When the water in the basement stops returning to your mark, pump out two to three feet and wait overnight.
  • Repeat daily until all the water is out of the basement.

Mass Department of Environmental Protection   

Dry It Out

Open all the windows and doors, set up fans and get as much air circulation into your basement as possible.  The more air movement you have, the faster the basement will dry.

Sort Through the Wreckage

Now you can start deciding what you can keep and what you must throw away.  Handy Homeowners suggests the following steps:

1.  First move out the furniture and carpets/rugs and clean and dry what you can save.  Remember, if there was any sewage in the water, you must get rid of everything.  Then, sort through all the smaller items.

2.  After everything has been removed, clean the basement floors and walls using bleach and water.  All that ventilation you set up earlier will help here to keep you from getting sick due to fumes from chemical cleaners.  You can also use bleach to wash any clothes or rugs.

Now that you’ve cleaned and sanitized, give it time to fully dry.  When it’s dry you can start moving furniture and other items back in.

Protect Your Home From the Next Great Flood

You don’t want to go through that again, so what can you do to prevent it?  The easiest thing to do is to get a sump pump system with a battery operated backup pump.  If you want to go even further, there are basement waterproofing companies that will install sub-floor drainage systems.

Even if you water-proof your basement, you may still get seepage through the concrete or water from a plumbing leak.  That’s why you should also think about using flooring that is water-proof.  Carpet will get ruined and most hard flooring surfaces that use adhesives will fail because of moisture.

Having a basement full of water can be downright heartbreaking.  Knowing what to do when it happens and how to prevent it from happening again can help you deal with whatever deluge Mother Nature may throw at you!