We are into the thick of winter which means everything is wet. Snow and ice have invaded our appropriately mitten-shaped state and it looks like both are here to stay for a while yet. And even when the winter wetness is gone, more moisture is quickly ushered in with the arrival of Spring. Snow is replaced by rain, and puddles form where patches of ice once resided. All that to say, homeowners are going to have to deal with excess water for the next few months and if your home has a basement, you're automatically at risk for basement flooding. Don't panic yet, though. We've got you covered. Here's what you need to know:
1) Get to know your basement before disaster strikes.
As soon as you're done reading this blog, go explore your basement a bit. See if you can find a floor drain somewhere. Knowing whether or not you have a floor drain and where it is could save you a lot of trouble. Check it regularly to make sure it remains unclogged. If flooding does occur, you can can start your de-flooding mission by checking this drain.
2) It might not be as bad as you think.
If you find a flood in your basement, don't press the panic button right away. Sometimes flooding looks much more dramatic than it actually is, so focus first on making the situation safe to assess rather than jumping to conclusions. Turn off all of the power sources in and around your basement (gas, electrical, etc.) before taking further steps. DO NOT enter a flooded area when the power is on. After that's taken care of you can gear up with some tall rubber boots, gloves, and a mask to protect yourself from anything in the water. Again, don't enter until you're fully protected.
3) Source matters.
Some types of floods require more immediate action than others. Determine the source of the water. If the flood is caused by rain water, give it some time to subside before moving forward. You should be quick to react if a storm is not the cause of your flood though.
4) Get that water out of there!
If you've ruled out rain water as the source or have given your storm-flooded basement a little time to drain, you're all set to get to work. The technique you remove water with will depend on how much there is. Small amounts of water merely require a wet/dry vac or a mop and bucket. If your issue is more intense, go for a sump pump or pool pump as your weapon of choice. After the majority of the water is out you can tidy up with old towels or sponges.
5) Take inventory
With the water out of the way you can start looking into the damage that was done. Remove all non-electrical belongings out of the basement and into a place where they can dry (spots with sun exposure are ideal). Give them about two days to dry. After that you can decide if things need to be tossed. Get rid of anything that remains damp after the 48 hour time frame to avoid mildew and bacteria growth.
DO immediately throw away cardboard, carpeting and other porous materials that are prone to bacterial infestation. If you're worried about the cost of a new carpet, assess the damage carefully. Sometimes carpets can be saved, but they need to be dried completely. If mildew starts to rear its ugly head, get rid of your carpet immediately.
DO NOT try to move electronics out of the basement. Leave them where they are and don't attempt to touch them. Even with the power off they can be dangerous. Give them some time to dry in place and then have an electrician estimate the damage. However big the screen, no T.V. is worth getting hurt over.
6) Give your basement presidential treatment.
With everything out of the way you can set your basement up for success by opening windows, turning on fans, and even renting a dehumidifier if you can. These measures will give your basement the best chance at drying your basement completely. Just set everything up and let your basement be until it's moisture-free.
7) Finish the process.
Once dry, check your basement walls for wet drywall and insulation damage. Remove the wet bits and replace them. When you're done, use a sponge to clean off any dirt left behind on the walls by the flood. Finish everything off with some anti-mildew spray.
If you have flood/home insurance, now is the time to call your people. The insurance company can tell you what to do from there.
Well, as unpleasant as it is to think about, you now have a basement flood "playbook". Hopefully you'll never have to deal with this particular tragedy, but if you do you'll know what to do.
**Please Note: When in doubt, call a professional. Electricians, flooring contractors, and insurance specialists will be able to make the whole ordeal as stress-free and safe as possible.