What to Do if Your Basement Floods

If you left your hose connected to an outdoor faucet over the winter, you may be in for a nasty surprise now that the weather is warm! With the hose connected, water can’t drain out of the pipes properly and will likely freeze—especially given the particularly harsh winter we just got through. When water freezes, it expands and puts pressure on the walls of the pipes, eventually causing them to burst. You might not notice burst pipes leading to the outside right away, but the next time you turn on the hose to water your plants or hose off the driveway—watch out!

Who to Call When Your Basement Floods

When your basement floods, call the following people (in this order):

Your insurance company – they will be able to advise you on next steps, including clean-up and claims procedures.

Peninsula – our plumbers will find the source of your leak and repair it as quickly as possible.

Your local municipality – report your basement flood to City. They will document it and use the data to determine if the municipal infrastructure needs any work.

A clean-up or flood remediation company – 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.

What to Tell Your Insurance Company

Handling your insurance company properly is key to making sure you maximize your claim and get the most assistance.

  • Thoroughly document items in your home that have been damaged, being sure to take as many pictures as you think would be useful—you can never have too many!
  • Before you start shopping for new things, make sure you understand your claim so you know how much money you are entitled to.
  • Hang on to all receipts for new purchases 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.

If Your Basement Floods…

Because of a cracked pipe:

An easy way to tell if a burst pipe is causing your basement to flood is by looking at the water itself:

  • Is it clean or does it look dirty or muddy?
  • Is it coming directly into your house or pouring down from a higher level?

Water that is clean and coming down from upstairs is almost always coming from a pipe.

In this case, the first thing you should do if water is still gushing out of your pipes is close the main water supply valve, which should be located somewhere around the outside of your house. This will stop the flow of water and give you time to plan your next moves.

Because of a sewage backup:

If the water is dirty or you can’t tell where it’s coming from, do not flush the toilet or run any appliances with drains (washing machines, dishwashers, etc.). This will likely only increase the flooding.

Staying Safe After a Basement Flood

Flood water in the basement can be extremely dangerous to your health, so make sure you always treat it as contaminated and electrified and stay far away from it.

Specific hazards that can arise from flood water include:

  • Electric shock
  • Bacterial pollutants
  • Harmful chemicals
  • Structural damage to your home

Even if the water is only an inch deep, stay far away from it—rescuing a few possessions is not worth endangering your life!

How to Clean Up After a Basement Flood

  • If you decide to undertake the cleaning process yourself, make sure you are well prepared before you begin: Wear protective clothing, including coveralls, safety goggles, rubber boots and gloves, and a face mask.
  • Be extremely careful of electrical equipment and appliances that may have gotten wet or charged the water. Do not enter the water unless you have shut off the electricity to your home, and do not plug in any appliances that you think are not completely dry.
  • Ventilate the area as much as possible by opening windows and using fans. This will help get things dry and limit the spread of mold and mildew.

Now that you’re ready to start cleaning things up, start with these steps:

  • Salvage as much as you can from the flood zone, but be ready to trash anything that is completely ruined. The faster you can get things out of the water, the less likely they are to rot, warp, or develop mold and mildew problems.
  • Keep a running tally of everything you’re clearing out and decide what can be saved and what needs to be tossed. Your insurance company can help you out with this process.
  • Rugs and floor coverings are likely to take the most damage, so roll them up and move them outside to dry as soon as you can. Expect anything that may have absorbed fluids, like wood flooring, floor underlayers, etc., to be thrown out.
  • To limit or prevent the spread of mold and mildew, make sure all fixed-in-place features in your basement, including HVAC equipment, the foundation floor, and of course walls and stairwells are completely dried out and disinfected.
  • Use a wet-dry vac to remove as much of the water as possible. If necessary, supplement the vacuum with old rags or towels.
  • Have any carpets or rugs you were able to salvage professionally cleaned and dried.

Remodeling and Preventing Future Basement Floods

If the damage is extensive enough, you may need to think about remodeling your basement following a flood. One thing to consider is completely tearing out the exterior framing and drywall and checking for cracks in the floor and walls. These tend to develop in basements, but they can be hidden by drywall and you may not notice until it’s too late. Cracks in the floor and walls can lead to further flooding, so it’s definitely important that you have then taken care of.

Other steps you can take to prevent future flooding include storing items off the ground in plastic containers, upgrading your home’s drainage system and installing a sump pump or backflow preventer.

A flooded basement can be a major disaster, but knowing how to respond can do a lot to mitigate the damage and help you take appropriate action. Peninsula can help with any plumbing repairs you may need, so call us right away!

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