The basement is flooded. The sump pump isn’t working, and your things are starting to float. Whether you’re dealing with burst pipes or torrential rainfall, a flooded basement is a soggy nightmare.
Where do you start? What do you do?
We’ve put together this guide based on our field experiences as Chicago’s leader in flooded basement cleanup. When you’re facing basement flooding and you’re determined to handle it yourself, these five DIY steps can get you on the road to recovery.
1. Put Personal Safety First
Electricity and standing water form a deadly combination, so it’s very important to make sure that the electrical supply to your basement is shut down before you start any work. If the water heater is located in the basement, you must also shut off the gas supply.
Unplug appliances including sump pumps that failed to work during the flood. Don’t operate electrical equipment in the basement until you’ve removed the water with submersible pumps. Use LED battery flashlights to illuminate your 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 you need it.
2. Remove All Water
If flooding is more than an inch deep, 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.
Power Tip: Make sure that the pump’s drainage hose is positioned outside on a grade directed away from the house and toward the nearest drainage grates.
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 can’t do the heavy work of a pump setup.
3. Inspect the Damage
Once you’ve removed the water, clear everything out of the basement. Depending on how long materials were submerged, you might be able to salvage some items, but expect to throw away most of your 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 see if it’s still operational.
Power Tip: Try drying carpet outside for several days by tenting it over lawn chairs and tables.
4. Set Up Drying Equipment
After you’ve removed all the water and you’re sure that 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 much more efficiently with basement windows closed.
5. 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 mold growth.
Power Tip: Conquer cleaning by dividing the basement into small grids and carefully disinfecting each area.
Wet sheetrock and soaked carpets are perfect breeding grounds for mold. Be prepared to remove and dispose of all heavily saturated materials. You can treat smaller areas for mold with DIY techniques, but it’s best to call in a professional restoration service to handle extensive water and mold damage.
Know When You Need Help
If basement flooding is more than several inches deep, think about your personal safety, and call in a restoration contractor. Teams of certified technicians quickly remove standing water and address all cleanup, and they can often salvage flooring and personal belongings.
Anytime a basement has been flooded for more than 24 hours, you’re facing the possibility of hidden structural damage and the onset of serious mold infestations. In this kind of situation, you should contact a restoration company that takes care of both problems and helps you deal with your insurance company. You can also take steps to prevent basement flooding next time.
Your Water Damage Specialists
If you ever find yourself dealing with basement flooding, we hope that this guide helps you with the cleanup process. We invite your feedback and questions about dealing with basement flooding through our comments section.
Every year we cleanup many flooded basements in Chicago homes and business, so just give us a call if your flooded basement turns out to be more than you can handle. You don’t have to face a flooded basement alone.