What To Do When Your Basement Floods - Before doing anything, think safety first!
Before & After
Specific dangers that come with a flooded basement include: Electrical Hazards & Contaminated Water
Most people recognize the real problem that fire and burglary pose on their homes. Surprisingly, water damage is even a bigger and more common problem.
Water damage may not sound serious, but it can be very dangerous.
I'm deadly serious here. Water and electricity have always been a dangerous combination. The voltage can potentially cause burns, shocks and electrocution, even death.
I'm not trying to alarm you, but most people never associate a flood in their basement as a potential electrical hazard and how severe a risk it might be.
During a basement flood after rain, a basement sewage flood or even a common burst pipe in the basement or even water leaking down from an upstairs break.
Water can hit electrical connections or seep into electronics and make the water in your basement "hot" or electrified.
You may have a TV, a radiant heater or something as familiar as leaving your phones power cord plugged into the wall socket and the other "live" end on the floor.
It can be submerged or merely touching the water, and that would be enough to transfer the electricity to all the water in the basement. Submerged appliances and electronics are common and potentially very dangerous.
If you’re stepping off your steps into the water or if your standing in a ¼ inch of water (or less) and it’s already electrified that could be trouble.
Water is an excellent conductor and, in this case, you can be in the path from the electricity to the ground and put yourself in danger without even knowing it.
Do not enter the water unless you have shut off the electricity to your home, and make sure not to plug in any electronics or “electrical anything” that you think is not completely dry. Turn the power off or disconnect the power.
Expect The Water To Be Contaminated
This hazard can be more common and indeed more expected.
Potential causes could include:
- Harmful chemicals
- Bacterial pollutants
- Groundwater that could seep in with fertilizer or pesticides
If you’re going to have a look before the professionals arrive get suited up
Step 1: Put on Protective Gear
Before or after your 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.
• Thick gloves
• Waterproof boots (preferably rubber)
• Mouth mask (surgical mask) and goggles
Here’s what to look for:
- Look for the source of the water.
- You need to identify the source of the water and stop the water from continuing to seep/pour into your basement.
How Basements Flood
1) Water Pipes 2) Ground Water 3) Sewage
Plumbing and Water Leaks
- It could be a leaking or burst pipe
- It could be a leaking sewage line or wastewater
- It could be the water hose to your washing machine is broken
- leaking water tank or water heater or merely a frozen pipe that's starting to thaw
Two easy ways to tell if a burst pipe is causing your basement to flood
Look at the clarity of the water:
- Is the water clean or does it look dirty or muddy? (groundwater or sewage)
- Is the water coming directly into your house or pouring down from a higher level? (broken water pipe or sewage)
Clean water coming from upstairs is almost always coming from a water pipe.
If it’s coming from a water pipe, here’s what you do:
Shutting off the water to a leaking pipe may be as simple as closing the pipes shut-off valve.
Shut-off valves can be buried in the ground. Special tools may be needed to turn them off.
If that is the case, or you can't get to or don't know the right shut off valve to the leaking pipe, the next best solution is to close the main water supply valve.
The shut-off valve should be located somewhere around the outside of your home or in the basement where the water main comes into your home.
When you shut off the main water supply, your goal is to turn off all the water coming into your home, and you can stop most of the damage by turning off your water via the main water shut-off valve.
In my opinion, it's the fastest and surest way to make sure all water getting to the broken pipe is stopped because all the water coming into your home has been shut off.
How to find the shut off valve
The valve is inside your home where the main water supply enters your home.
More complete details are in the video below:
In other cases, it may be outside in the street.
You can follow this link to know what to look for and how to shut off the water from the street
How to quickly drain the water
Some basements have floor drains, if you do, check to make sure it isn’t clogged.
Keeping it open and functioning will help drain the water.
If your basement does not have a floor drain, you’ll need specialized equipment to drain the water and other equipment to dry out your basement.
Both are critical and both need to be done fast before mold starts to grow. FYI mold can begin to develop within 24 hours.
That can be a real challenge. You can’t just find the shut-off valve and turn off Mother Nature.
If there's any good news: Groundwater flooding might not stink as badly as sewage.
Heavy rains in the New London area commonly cause the city to close streets for a few hours due to flooding.
Homes in the following areas historically are more susceptible to basement flooding than other areas of the Groton and New London area.
Streets include Eugene O'Neill and Governor Winthrop Boulevard, Water Street, Broad Street and Connecticut Avenue, Truman and Blackhall streets, Bank and Tilley streets, Pequot Avenue near Green Harbor Beach Park, and Garfield Avenue at Elm Street.
Stopping Ground Water
After you or a professional water remediation expert cleans up the water and the damage and makes it safe, you’ll need to find a way to stop that groundwater problem in the future.
Leaky basement foundation
Find a waterproofing pro or a structural engineer because you could have a foundation problem.
Leaky basement windows
If your window wells fill up water (from a flooded yard or clogged gutters) water may leak into the basement through and around the windows.
Excessive amounts of rain, poor yard drainage and sewer backups are common causes behind leaky windows or a cracked foundation.
FYI - rainwater is one of the most common reasons of basement flooding.
If the water is dirty or you can’t tell where it’s coming from, don't flush the toilet or run any appliances with drains like washing machines or dishwashers.
Because if one of those items is causing the problem, you'll only increase the flooding.
Sewage leaks are caused by a septic tank backup or clogged sewer line.
You should start the cleanup process as soon as possible because this can get messy and could easily magnify the problem if not handled quickly and correctly.
Sewage leaks can turn into such hazards if not treated successfully and rapidly based on the potential germs and dangers; it’s best to contact the professionals. Pro’s are trained for this type of situation,
- If you have a backed-up septic tank, you’ll need a septic tank specialist to handle the situation.
- You may find that the leak comes from an outside city sewer service, you'd need to call your local sewage department. (Your local sewage authority may help with pumping services, or you can submit a reimbursement claim.)
The city of New London had a lawsuit filed back in 2017 when a Vauxhall Street homeowner over a sewage back up.
“In this particular case, Gills said, it was determined that an illegal floor drain connected to the sewer system was the point of entry for the sewage into the basement.
The suit, claims the backup was due to negligence and carelessness of the city and Veolia for not properly maintaining the wastewater system.
The suit also alleges the city was aware that sewage backups are persistent at commercial and residential properties in the Vauxhall Street area. “https://www.theday.com/article/20170707/NWS01/170709472
It does happen, so take photos and videos just in case you find yourself in a similar situation.
NOW is not the time to drag your feet
The faster you get started on taking care of this mess, the less amount of damage and repair costs you’ll have to deal with in the future.
Faster is better in this situation.
So immediately stop flushing toilets and running faucets, the water moving through the system and the sewage will only continue to build up and create an even more significant problem.
If you have a septic system, your only alternative is to call the septic company to have your tank pumped ASAP to stop the problem from growing.
After you have identified the problem and stopped the issue at the source
- Call a clean-up ora basement flood recovery, or a remediation company like us, and we can walk you through everything, including dealing with the insurance company
- Call your insurance company – they will be able to advise you on next steps, including clean-up and claims procedures.
- If you're on city sewer, report your basement sewage issue to the City / Town. They will use the information to help determine if the city/town's infrastructure needs any work.
Why a restoration company to clean debris and remove the water?
There are certain parts of the clean-up process you can handle yourself, but for things like mold remediation and drying the basement, it’s best to call a professional.
- When Drywall gets wet, it acts like a sponge. So it will need to be cut out and tossed out.
Plaster walls may be able to be saved, but they need significant air movement behind the wall to dry the studs.
- If mold grows, you will need an anti-microbial application to kill it.
- Rescue as much as you can, but toss anything that is ruined.
You need to get things out of the water asap, the longer they stay wet, the greater tendency they will rot, warp, or develop mold and mildew problems.
- Keep an inventory of everything you’re clearing out. You can't trust that your insurance company will take your word for damaged items that you didn't document the day of the event.
- If your carpets have padding, they will probably be soaked, and you’re going to have to rip them up and replace them. Leaving wet carpeting may lead to mold growth, and that can quickly turn into a long-term problem.
Preparing To Talk to Your Insurance Company
Surprisingly, insurance companies do not always have your best interest in mind. Let us help you make sure you maximize your claim and get the most assistance.
- Thoroughly document damaged items in your home, take as many pictures as you can—video too. They will come in very handy!
- You may not get everything that you expect from your insurance company, so make sure to go over your claim, so you know how much money to expect.
- Keep all your receipts for anything you buy as well as any repair work.
- Your insurance company may be more willing to help you if you have a plan in place to prevent future flooding, find out if you need to do any work on your plumbing system.
Salvage what you can
The faster you get items out of water’s way, the more likely you’ll be able to save them.
- Move all electrical items first. Remember, turn off your power leading into the affected area, especially if water rises above electrical outlets.
Make sure to get all damaged items to a dry spot in a well-ventilated area to help them dry out.
Don't try to dry things in the basement, not only will it not dry thoroughly (if at all) it will add more moisture into the air, and you will do more harm to the basement.
We need to dry the basement out asap so make sure to take all wet and damp items out of the area.
Depending on the moisture content and the temperature of the surrounding air, it takes quite some time for all the items to dry. Most things will dry in about 48 hours.
Although even at the 48-hour dry time mold growth can occur. That’s why in most cases an antimicrobial spray is used to prevent mold growth.
If they remain wet, they may need to be thrown away to avoid mold and mildew.
- The best advice is to scrutinize things after the 48-hour period and decide the best course of action.
Don’t try to save wet cardboard boxes, they suck up water and are readily susceptible to bacterial growth.
- Salvage the contents, throw the boxes away.
Freeze your assets
If valuable documents have gotten wet, you can put them in the freezer. Freezing may stop the mildew growth and deterioration of the paper.
Remember, keep an inventory
As each item is removed from your basement and treated for water damage, add it to an inventory list.
That includes all estimates and receipts from any restoration or repair procedures.
These documents will become incredibly important when you start to prepare your insurance claim.
Get rid of the water
If you don’t have power, a mop and bucket will work too.
Use a wet/dry vacuum. Note: be very careful to only plug it into outlets that are safe and dry.
Don’t use an extension cord that could fall into the water or get wet from resting on a wet surface.
It's a hazard, and you run a real risk because the connection could short out and give you a shock or worse.
Water and electricity do not mix.
Moving the water out of your basement is only part of the problem
What happens next could wreak havoc on your house for years to come.
Getting rid of the water is undoubtedly the 1st step, but actively drying out the basement is important to do because dampness breeds mold.
Fact is, if you only get rid of the water and don't sufficiently dry out and add anti-microbial solution where needed you are opening up your entire home to mold growth
Dry your ENTIRE basement area
(use professional Air Movers and Dehumidifiers)
- Mold starts to grow within 24 hours, sometimes sooner based on how wet and warm it is.
Dry out the basement as fast as you can to reduce mold growth.
- If the drywall were affected, you'd probably have to cut away the areas that were touched by water because the drywall will crumble and that paper backing you see on the drywall? It's a good source of food for mold.
- Point air movers at porous objects like drywall and other spots that have become saturated with water.
Air movement will speed up the drying process.
- Run a dehumidifier to absorb the water in the air of your basement.
Professional remediation Companies use professional equipment built for just this type of situation and their plus they are exceptionally safe to have in your home too.
- Cut and remove the bottom of the wall that's been exposed to water. Remember that drywall will suck up that water like a sponge. So even though the actual water didn't get that high, once it touches the drywall, it will "wick" the water up.
- That's why in even the smallest basement flood, in many cases you are forced to remove the 1st 12 inches of the wall.
We remove the mold-susceptible lower section of your wood-framed basement wall.
Moisture-damaged fiberglass insulation is removed. Existing electrical wall outlets can usually remain in place.
After mopping up all the water, air movers and a dehumidifier are needed to help dry out the area.
Dry out the entire area as soon as possible
Dispose of damaged property correctly
Dispose of damaged items responsibly: you’ll be tempted to throw everything into a dumpster and send it all away and out of site.
- If you have baseboard trim, take it up first
If it’s the baseboard (or any wood like material) is pressboard, it will probably have to be tossed.
If the material is real wood, you might be able to save it.
- Organize damaged goods into piles and take what you can to recycling centers, it can be a lot of work up front but makes it easier when you’re at the landfill dumping all the debris.
Visit your city or town’s waste management site to learn where to take and recycle any spoiled electronics from cell phones to TVs and computers, furniture, old paints, stains, adhesives and other toxic liquids, even drywall.
Check the web to find other recycling centers closer to your neighborhood.
Disinfect Every Surface
Every single thing that was touched by water needs to be evaluated.
Use a mixture of hot water, heavy-duty cleaner (like a safe and robust anti-microbial) and a hearty scrub brush on your walls and flooring, if you have never done it before, or you don't know what to look for you may not be able to kill all of the bacteria and prevent continued mold growth in your basement.
If you go through the process make sure you are hyper-vigilant when you are going through this disinfecting stage.
One of the worse things that could happen is that you spend all your effort, time and money and miss something.
It may not sound like much, but mold multiplies fast, and if you have not killed it all and left moisture, it will continue to breed and eat, it will overtake of the back of your wall.
Sadly you may not notice until you smell the odor and look to investigate.
If behind the wall, the mold has grown you will have to tear down that section again (probably more of it at this point) and not only clean it all out again you may have to replace some of the studs in that area too.
Just a heads up, by the time you smell the mold behind the wall, in most cases you facing a rather substantial mold infestation.
The process of removing water-damaged items, getting the water remediated and surface cleaning correctly can be a lot of work.
If you’d rather have a certified and fully insured professional handle the damage, call a licensed water remediation/restoration service (like us) that can do all this work for you.
A Heads Up
Some companies show up with one person in a truck with a high-powered fan and think, that’s good enough to dry a basement, but don't be fooled.
For example, improper technique, (like not allowing the home to dry for long enough or to fail to treat drywall properly) puts your home at risk for mold or mildew in addition to the flooding damage.
- Rugs and floor coverings usually take the most damage, so move them outside to dry as soon as you can.
- Get the wet carpeting out of the basement as soon as possible.
Not taking the carpeting out can stop the floor underneath from drying quickly and mold can start, or it can create more damage.
So get those carpets out ASAP.
Although it can be difficult to dry out these materials adequately, sometimes wet carpeting can be saved.
Consult a restoration specialist or a carpet cleaning contractor for recommendations.
If the carpet isn’t dried properly, it can also harbor mold and mildew.
- Expect anything that may have absorbed fluids, like wood flooring, floor underlayers, etc., to be thrown out.
- Wet-dry vacs can get lot’s of the water out. If necessary, supplement the vacuum with old rags or towels.
- Remove any wet or damaged drywall and insulation to prevent the spreading of mold.
- An industrial dehumidifier is incredibly valuable for this type of situation.
- Get as much ventilation as possible, as soon as possible. Open windows, open doors and put fans around the area for air circulation and to speed drying time.
- Wash down floors and walls to remove any dirt left behind by the water.
- Once the floor and walls dry, use an anti-microbial spray to discourage mold and mildew from developing.
- In many cases, basements need a few days of drying time.
Mold and mildew grow fast, so don’t forget to clean, any HVAC equipment, the foundation floor, or any walls and stairwells, so they are completely dried out and disinfected.
Sometimes you can’t take everything out so make sure to clean those items that are bolted in, think HVAC, furnaces, or other equipment that can’t be moved.
Have any carpets or rugs you were able to salvage professionally cleaned and dried.
If you don’t want the hassle and the responsibility for disposal, potential health issues and a steep learning curve you can call SERVPRO, we offer a free quote, and we will help you with your insurance company too.
Our contact info is: SERVPRO of New London
239 Williams St Unit #6
New London, CT 06320
Phone: (860) 736-3200