Is Your Basement Flooding? Here’s What to Do Right Now

When the basement floods, you’re suddenly facing multiple problems. They all need attention right away, but there are so many things to consider.

How much water are you dealing with? Can you handle it by yourself? When does DIY basement cleanup become dangerous? How do you recover from a flooded basement?

As Chicago’s leading flooded basement cleaning and sanitizing service, we can answer these questions and more in this complete guide on what to do when the basement floods.

Let’s get started.

What Should I Do If My Basement Floods?

what to do during basement flooding

It can happen when the sump pump fails, frozen pipes burst or heavy rains flood the city. Follow these critical steps to address a flooded basement.

1. Put Personal Safety First

Electricity and standing water form a deadly combination, so it’s very important to make sure the electrical supply to your basement is shut down before you assess the damages.

If the water heater is located in the basement, you must also shut off the gas supply.

When you’re sure the area is safe, unplug appliances, including the sump pump. Don’t try to operate electrical equipment in the basement until you’ve removed the water with submersible pumps.

Plan on using LED battery flashlights to illuminate the work, and wear tall boots with rubber soles to secure your footing on slick, submerged flooring.

Power Tip: An LED headlamp frees up your hands and makes it easier to direct light exactly where it’s needed.

2. Contact Your Insurance Company

Call your insurance agent right away, and obtain a claim number. Give the agent as many details as possible, including:

  • How the basement flooding happened
  • How long ago it occurred
  • A general idea of overall damages

After securing the situation downstairs, take a look around the flooded basement.

Check floors, walls, appliances and any stored items. If it’s a finished basement, add paneling, carpeting and furniture to the damage assessment.

Take pictures of everything, and keep the documentation handy for insurance purposes.

Power Tip: Set items that can’t be salvaged outside, but don’t put them in the trash yet. You want the adjuster to see the full extent of your losses.

3. Be Prepared to Call for Help

Basement flooding can leave you with problems that need professional attention, so be ready to make additional calls. For example, if you’re worried about shutting off the gas supply, call the city’s utility services.

It’s always a good idea to be prepared for these types of emergencies in advance, so update your contact list with entries for a licensed electrician, a foundation contractor and our water damage restoration pros.

The next steps involve cleanup and sanitization.

How to Clean up Minor Basement Flooding (Less Than 2 inches of Water)

basement flooding what to do

This is a situation that most homeowners can handle. Always be sure to turn off the electricity coming into the basement. Follow the steps outlined below, but be patient. It’s a slow process.

4. Locate and Fix the Water Source

When water in the basement isn’t the result of heavy rain, it’s likely a plumbing problem or an appliance breakdown. Check all pipes and connections for signs of cracks or leaks. If basement flooding occurs during winter, be on the lookout for frozen burst pipes.

Once you’ve located the source, turn off your home’s main water supply. Fix small leaks with epoxy putty or a pipe repair kit. Wait an hour, and then double-check the water level in the basement. You want to be sure there aren’t any additional leaks that might have been overlooked.

Power Tip: Our teams are available 24/7 with pipe water damage restoration services.

5. Remove All Water

If flooding is several inches, remove the water with a submersible pump and hose setup that runs off a generator upstairs. Most models can be lowered into deep water with a nylon rope suspending the pump and its electrical connection from a ceiling joist.

A wet/dry vac is designed for use in areas where water is less than 1 inch deep. Keep in mind that the vac’s tank holds about 4 or 5 gallons, so you’ll have to make multiple trips upstairs to dump the water. This appliance works well for light flooding, but it doesn’t handle big extraction jobs as well as a pump setup.

Power Tip: If you use a submersible pump, make sure its drainage hose is positioned outside on a grade directed away from the house and toward the nearest drainage grates.

6. Clear Out Debris

As you extract water from the flooded basement, be ready to deal with debris left behind. Clear out small items scattered across the floor so that they don’t become tripping hazards. Storm floods often leave behind layers of mud, so you may need to shovel the mess off floors and stairs.

Power Tip: Check the sump pump and floor drains for clogs, making sure they’re clean and flowing freely.

7. Inspect the Damage

Once you’ve removed the water, inspect water-damaged items and start moving things out of the basement. Depending on how long materials were submerged, you might be able to salvage some belongings.

Soaked carpet or tile flooring must be pulled up and cleared out of the area so that the basement’s concrete floor surface can begin drying out. Check baseboards, door frames and sheet rock for signs of water damage, and inspect the sump pump to confirm its condition.

8. Salvage, Dry and Freeze

If the weather is nice, move water-damaged items that can be saved to an outside location. Give everything at least 48 hours to dry in the fresh air. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, move it all to an uncarpeted area, such as the laundry room or garage.

Take a look at this guide on how to salvage flood-damaged items.

Place valuable records, important documents and photographs in the freezer. This minimizes further water damage, discourages mold and increases the chances of successful salvage. We specialize in restoring water-damaged items, including papers, electronics and furnishings.

Power Tip: Try drying carpet outside for several days by tenting it over lawn chairs and tables.

9. Set Up Drying Equipment

basement drying equipment

After you’ve removed all the water and you’re sure it’s safe to restore power, run multiple fans to circulate basement air from floor to ceiling 24/7. Position them at different elevations to create cross-ventilation throughout the area. Consider renting industrial-sized models to speed up the drying process.

Dehumidifiers also help pull moisture out of the air, but their collection reservoirs fill up quickly, so keep a close eye on the equipment. Understand that it can take days to thoroughly dry out a flooded basement. You must be patient because the process is critical to discouraging mold growth.

Power Tip: Dehumidifying equipment operates more efficiently with basement windows closed.

10. Clean and Disinfect

After a basement floods, mold starts growing within 24 hours, so it’s very important to clean and disinfect all surfaces. Scrub hard surfaces with a bleach and water mixture, and treat porous materials with fungicidal cleaners formulated to prevent unhealthy mold growth.

Wet sheetrock and soaked carpets are perfect breeding grounds for mold. Be prepared to remove and dispose of heavily saturated materials.

You can treat smaller areas for mold with DIY techniques, but it’s best to call in our certified restoration teams to handle extensive water and mold damage.

How to Clean up Major Basement Flooding (More Than 2 inches of Water)

major basement flooding

If basement flooding is more than several inches deep, don’t take any chances.

Call in a restoration contractor like ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba if you’re in the Chicago area.

Our water damage pros quickly remove standing water, take care of all cleanup and disinfecting, and we can often salvage personal belongings.

Anytime a basement has been flooded for more than 24 hours, you’re facing the possibility of hidden structural problems and the onset of serious mold infestations.

We take care of both problems, and we even help you deal with your insurance company and your water damage claim.

DIY Flooded Basement Cleanup vs. Hiring a Professional

If it isn’t too extensive, taking care of a basement water damage can be a DIY project. It’s a big job, so be prepared for several days of hard work followed by additional time for everything to dry out.

It often makes more sense to hire a professional water damage restoration service. For example, our technicians are industry-certified in all areas of flooded basement cleanup, including sewage backups and natural flood events.

We want you to be comfortable about knowing when you need help, so keep these guidelines in mind.

professional flooded basement restoration

How Much Does It Cost to Fix a Flooded Basement?

Average basement cleaning and sanitizing costs vary, but expect to pay between $2,000 and $7,000. Typically, basement flood remediation, cleanup and restoration costs $4,000.

If the flooded area is small and water damage isn’t too severe, the cost can be as low as $1,000.

These are a few of the factors that affect the final cost.

  • Basement square footage
  • Depth of water in basement
  • Plumbing and electrical repairs
  • Content salvage, pack-out and storage
  • Mold removal and remediation
  • Category 3 water contamination

With the exception of storm flooding, homeowners insurance should cover the cost of cleaning and restoring the flooded basement. Our staff can help you with the paperwork and assist with filing your water damage claim.

What Causes Basements to Flood in the First Place?

Concrete basement walls are usually secure enough to withstand torrential rain. Most basements are built with drainage systems that typically act as lines of defense against rising water.

Still, a variety of problems can turn the downstairs into a soggy mess. If the sump pump fails or floor drains clog, it quickly gets worse.

These are a few examples of the most frequent causes of residential basement flooding.

  • Broken sump pump components
  • Hydrostatic pressure caused by water-saturated soil
  • Clogged floor drains
  • Appliance breakdowns
  • Plumbing leaks
  • Frozen burst pipes
  • Sewer or water line backups
  • Foundation cracks
  • Torrential rainfall and street flooding

How Do I Stop My Basement From Flooding? 10 Flood-Proofing Tips

sump pump failure

As the city’s leading water damage restoration service, we’re often asked how to prevent basement flooding.

The best answer is to minimize the chances of this disaster striking your home. These 10 flood-proofing tips make a big difference.

1. Pamper Your Pump

One of the surest ways to prevent basement flooding is to install a sump pump, but it needs regular attention to make sure it’s always ready to go to work.

If your pump is below grade, keep its well cleaned out. If you rely on a portable model, locate it in the lowest part of the basement, securely connected to a power source.

2. Generate Backup Power

When you lose power during a heavy rain, your sump pump can’t do its job. Investing in a generator or solar battery backup now can be a smart strategy for preventing future basement flooding.

Portable models are less expensive and keep the pump running, but a larger generator can power-up the whole house. They both have pros and cons, so consider your budget and your needs.

3. Keep Floor Drains Clear

Check the floor drains on a regular basis. This tip is a simple, cost-effective defense against basement flooding.

If a drain smells moldy or makes odd noises, clear it with a plumber’s snake, a plunger or baking soda and vinegar.

4. Grade Your Ground

Correct drainage problems in the yard by correcting its grade. You want the landscape’s slope to direct water away from the house and foundation on all sides. This can often be taken care of by building simple negative drainage. If grading isn’t enough, talk with a landscape professional about trenching options or French drains.

5. Don’t Crowd the Foundation

Garden beds against exterior walls can develop areas that puddle up with rainwater or channel around the house during a downpour. Mulch is a moisture-retaining culprit too.

Your home’s foundation and siding act like wicks when they’re constantly exposed to damp. The materials eventually crack and peel, and that leaves them vulnerable to the pressures of heavy rainstorms.

6. Watch Your Steps and Windows

If your basement has an outside stairway, keep the drain at the bottom of its steps free of clogs.

Otherwise, the stairwell can quickly flood and push water underneath the basement door. Check the door’s concrete threshold to make sure it hasn’t cracked or eroded over time. A little concrete subsill repair can keep out the few inches of rain that it takes to flood the basement.

The drain installations in below-grade basement windows channel rainfall to a weeping tile system and then to the basement’s sump pump or a street storm sewer.

Add an extra layer of defense with clear acrylic covers over the window wells. They protect the recessed areas from heavy downpours, and that eases the stress on system components that protect your basement.

7. Permanently Patch Cracks

Yes, cracks in the foundation will eventually lead to basement flooding. Yes, you can repair them yourself, but they need a permanent fix.

Hardware stores sell kits that turn you into a patching pro with DIY epoxy injection systems. Treat interior basement wall cracks with a masonry coating to seal the deal on foundation crack problems.

8. Hit the Gutters and Downspouts

No one enjoys cleaning out gutters and downspouts, but no one wants a flooded basement.

Think of climbing the ladder as more than just an attack on debris that clogs the roof’s drainage system. You’re protecting gutters from heavy rains that turn them into waterfalls washing down exterior walls and soaking your home’s foundation.

Make sure downspouts effectively channel heavy rain away from the house. Extend their reach with corrugated plastic pipe that directs rainfall at least 10 feet away from the foundation. Put that same distance between the basement and the sump pump with a discharge hose kit.

9. Inspect and Insulate Basement Plumbing

Regularly inspect basement pipes and connections for signs of leaks or corrosion. Make sure your outside water spigot hasn’t frozen. Consider insulating them too. This strategy has several advantages.

  • Insulating pipes in the basement protects them from freezing and bursting.
  • It reduces heat loss in hot water pipes, and that holds down energy costs.
  • Insulated cold water pipes don’t sweat, and that helps reduce basement humidity.

10. Keep Appliances in Good Shape

An average clothes washer holds between 40 and 45 gallons of water. A cracked washer tub can empty it all on your basement floor in a matter of minutes. A ruptured water heater tank can spill as much as 80 gallons just as quickly.

Routinely check appliances downstairs, including refrigerators, chest freezers and HVAC equipment. Make sure hoses are in good shape and connections are tight.

Has Your Basement in Chicago, IL or Suburbs Flooded? We’re Here to Help!

Dealing with basement flooding is never easy. It takes hard work and patience. Cleaning and disinfecting a flooded basement can be dangerous too. Always be careful, and know that we’re here to help. You don’t have to face it alone.

We’re on call 24/7, ready to make repairs, extract water, clean, disinfect and restore your basement to its pre-flood condition.

When Chicago homeowners need certified flooded basement cleanup, they trust us here at ServiceMaster by Zaba. You can too! Call: 773-647-1985