What to do if Your Basement Floods
If your basement has flooded, there are some really important things you should know. When in doubt, don’t enter the flooded area until you are told it is safe by a professional qualified to do so.
First and foremost, consider your family’s health and safety.
Entering a wet basement could be hazardous! Before you enter your basement, consider the following:
- Electrical Shock – When your basement is wet, there is a legitimate risk of electrical shock. If you are positive that you can safely do so, turn off your home’s power at the main breaker switches.
- Gas leaks – Protect yourself against gas leaks. If you smell gas, leave the house right away and then contact your service provider.
- Pollutants – Sewage can contain bacteria and transmit disease and the floodwater in your basement may have originated from the sanitary sewer and contain raw sewage. Wear protective items including gloves, safety glasses, a face mask and be sure to wash thoroughly after any contact with sewage or items touched by sewage.
- Chemicals – Cleaning may expose you to a wide range of contaminants, including those from the cleaning agents being used, as well as those that may have entered from flood waters. When you get to the cleaning stage, be sure to ventilate well and limit your exposure to contact and exposure as best you can.
- Structural damage – While this is not that common, a flood with certain conditions may weaken walls or even ceiling structures. If there is any concern that structural integrity has been compromised, or you simply don’t know, leave the area and call in the experts.
Call a plumber immediately.
Depending of the nature of the flooding, also consider…
- If the flooding is due to a burst water supply pipe in your home, and if you are safely able to do so, shut off the main incoming water valve as this could help minimize the damage. You will probably know this is the case because the water will be clean, and likely coming down through the house from an upper level. In the future, make note of where this shut-off is and keep access clear.
- If the flooding is due to a sewage backup (or you are not sure), do not flush the toilet, run a washing machine, dishwasher or any other feature with a drain since this is likely to increase the flooding.
Call your insurance company
They will immediately advise you on any standard clean-up procedures, contractors to call, and claim procedures. In general:
- Make sure to take lots of photos and document items that have been damaged or need to be replaced. Before you head out and start buying new stuff, make sure you are familiar with the coverage you have with your insurer. Keep any and all receipts for emergency work done, purchases, and/or repairs.
- Based on your insurance, you may be covered for such an occurrence. Even if you have insurance coverage, the homeowner is responsible for the clean-up, repairs and replacement of lost property.
- An insurer is more likely to look favorably on homeowners wanting to undertake work on their own to reduce the likelihood of future flooding. Repeat claims with no efforts to reduce future risk may be sufficient for an insurance company to drop that form of coverage in the future.
Report your backup to the municipality
Let the City know that flooding has occurred. Documentation of flood locations helps municipal staff determine if any work is required on the municipal infrastructure.
This data is used by the municipality to track basement floods to assist in directing inspections and maintenance on the municipal infrastructure.
- Wear protective clothing, included disposable overalls, protective eye-wear, gloves and a face mask.
- Beware of electrical equipment and outlets. Shut off the electrical if possible. Make sure any appliances are completely dry before plugging in again.
- Provide as much ventilation as you can, with open windows if the weather permits, and fans. This will help to get things dry.
- Salvage your belongings and remove as much as you can out of the flood zone. The quicker items are removed, the more likely rot, mildew, moulds and warping can be avoided.
- Keep an itemized list of what you are pulling out and organize by what can be salvaged and what needs to be discarded. Your insurer may help you or be involved with this process.
- Remove rugs, or roll them back out of the wet area. Any form of flooring that could have absorbed fluids needs to be removed and likely discarded, including wood flooring, underlayers, and so on.
- Completely dry and disinfect fixed-in-place features such as the foundation floor, walls, furnace, and any other objects.
- Eliminate excess water using old rags, towels, and other things. A wet/dry vacuum may also help with this.
- Carpets and furniture that can be salvaged may need to be professionally cleaned and dried.
- Some minor items may be suitable for placing in regular garbage pickup, but in all likelihood, a trip or two to the dump may be required.
Future Planning – Protecting Your Home
- Before you start with the rehabilitation, think about what you want to do in the basement in the future. Are you ready to commit to refinishing it the same way? Are you going to do any extra work to protect yourself from flooding in the future? Take a look at “How to Protect Your Home from Basement Flooding” before you begin any construction in the affected area.
- Consider fully tearing out exterior framing and dry-wall (if the damage is bad enough). One of the big problems about finished basements is that you develop cracks in your floor or walls and not even know it. So, for example, you may have just flooded by a sewage backup, but cracks developing in the foundation floor or walls might mean that another flood is just around the corner.Renovation time is the best time and possibly the only time to find for these sorts of problems and fix them.
- Consider storing items in watertight containers, and keeping things raised off the floor.
- Consider changing or upgrading your foundation drainage system.
- Consider a sump pump and/or a backwater sanitary valve.
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