How to Clean Up and Repair a Flooded Basement
By Lynda Lyday
Keep Your Cool, but Think Fast
You have water in the basement. What do you do first?
First, take photos—capture any damage to your clothing, furniture, flooring, fixtures, etc. You will need these for your insurance (hopefully, you were able to get flood insurance in your area).
Next, if you have any valuables that you’d like to remove to higher ground, shut down the power to your house before you walk through standing water. Remember, water is a great conduit for electricity, and a flooded basement could become a lethal trap.
Pump Up the Volume
Once the storm has passed, it’s time for cleanup. Hopefully, you have a sump pump to remove the water. If you don’t, use a wet vac. If your sump pump has failed and you have a lot of standing water, use a garden hose to siphon the water until it starts to flow out—but this works only if the exit is lower than the standing water height.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, it is important to remove just one-third of the water each day because the soaked ground can cause structural problems and possible collapsing of the basement walls if it is removed all at once.
FEMA also suggests hosing down walls and using a disinfectant on the walls and shelves. Remember to wear protective clothing and rubber gloves and boots to protect you from bacteria. Remove any silt when it’s wet, so dust doesn’t get in your lungs and create health problems.
Dry Everything You Can
After the water has been removed, dry everything as quickly as possible. Aside from the damage to your valuables, mold produces the biggest risk and problem to your health and your wallet. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, most people can tackle 10 square feet of mold damage, but anything bigger may mean you will need to hire a contractor. Time is critical when it comes to mold, so work as quickly as you can. Open doors and windows and use fans to dry the area. Remove and clean rugs and furniture.
Get the Tools You Need
A bad flood may mean the end of your furniture and wall-to-wall carpet. You may have to buy or rent a dehumidifier and/or a portable heater. If you live in a humid area, you may have to remove the interior walls to get rid of the growing mold.
If you do need to remove interior walls, consider raising the height of all electrical outlets in case of future flooding. In worse case scenarios, wood floors may also need to be removed if there is mold under the floor joists, or the floors buckle from water damage.
After you have cleaned and repaired the damage to your flooded basement, fortify it against future flooding. Make sure your sump pump is working and you have a battery-operated backup. If you don’t have a sump pump, now is the time to purchase one. You also may want to get an alarm to alert you when water is entering.
Prepare Yourself for Future Flooding
Once you have survived a flooded basement, you have gained a lot of valuable information for the future.
Make sure your home’s drainage flows away from the structure. You may need to install an exterior waterproofing membrane. That means you’ll need to grab a shovel and start digging, or grab a phone and get a crew. Also, don’t forget to keep your gutters and downspouts clear of debris and leaves to help divert water away from your home.
It is wise to get flood insurance, and the good news is that an increasing number of insurance companies are offering it. For more information, see the National Flood Insurance Program.
Lynda Lyday is the author of Lynda Lyday’s Do It Yourself and A Homeowner’s Manual. She is a Master Carpenter and Contractor learning her trade at The United Brotherhood of Carpenters in New York City ol. Lyday has been seen on 350 home improvement shows on Discovery Channel’s Gimme Shelter, HGTV’s The Fix and DIY Network’s Talk2 DIY. Currently, Lyday can be seen on the Home Shopping Network demonstrating products in the Home Solutions Category.