Flooded Basement? Here’s What to Know About Flooded Basement Cleanup

A flooded basement is a homeowner’s nightmare. Here’s how to tackle flooded basement cleanup and when to call in a pro.

By Brie Greenhalgh | Published Nov 3, 2021 11:36 AM

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A flooded basement is one of the most dreaded home maintenance problems. Seeing an inch or a foot of water standing in your basement can bring on a sinking feeling coupled with complete overwhelm about what to do next. Fortunately, flood damage restoration companies are experienced at dealing with flooded basements since floods are the number one disaster in America, according to the National Flood Insurance Program. Whether the flood occurred due to a burst pipe, a leaking foundation, or a natural disaster, it is possible to get a flooded basement cleaned up. Valuables like books or photo albums might be damaged irreparably from the accidental drowning, but flooring can be replaced, and furniture can be saved in many cases. Flooded basement cleanup requires safety precautions, patience, hard work, and often professional help—but success is possible.

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Who Do You Call to Clean Up a Flooded Basement? 

Depending on the severity of the flood, you might need to call a few professionals to stop the leak, make sure the basement is safe, and reclaim your living space. If you only have an inch or two of water in your basement, your biggest concern will be finding where the leak is and getting it repaired. This will require the help of a plumber if it’s a broken pipe or overflowing sewage. A leaky foundation, windows, or low-lying entry point near a water source will require construction assistance to repair and prevent future flooding.

flooded basement cleanup

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If the water has risen enough to reach electrical wiring or outlets, it’s critical that you turn off your power before entering the water to avoid the risk of an electrical shock. Call an electrician if you’re unsure how to do that. If the water has snuffed out any pilot lights to your appliances, you’ll want to call the gas company to turn off the gas.

If you have significant water damage to any carpets or walls from water that’s been sitting there for an extended period, then a water damage restoration service is the best option to help remove the water and repair the damage since they’re experienced at flooded basement cleanup. While surveying the damage and trying to remove the water yourself can be overwhelming, leaving it to a pro alleviates the stress and strain of doing a difficult  job yourself. It can be especially taxing since it can involve ruined items that have sentimental value.

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Cost of Flooded Basement Cleanup 

It doesn’t take long for damage to become irreparable after basement flooding happens, making water cleanup a frustrating and costly expense. You can expect to pay for the cost of water damage cleanup plus any repairs that you might need. On average, flooded basement cleanup costs between $3,000 and $10,000 with an average of $4,000, which generally includes flood remediation and cleanup for about 500 square feet that’s buried in 2 feet of water. If you only have a couple of inches of clean water flooding, the average cost will be closer to $2,000 since there is less water damage service needed.

It’s cheaper to clean up a flood that’s not caused by a sewage backup or disaster floodwaters since there’s no concern about bacteria or viruses. Contaminated floods require extra precautions and disinfectants to ensure the basement is safe to live in again, so extensive damage from a “black water” flood can exceed $10,000.

Causes of a Flooded Basement 

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There are several reasons you could experience basement flooding. Most commonly, older homes tend to have a higher risk of flooding if they have older pipes, and homes near natural water sources are also at risk when there is heavy rainfall. Here are several causes for flooding in basements:

  • Heavy rainfall or rapid snowmelt
  • Foundation cracks
  • Broken basement windows
  • Poor-draining window wells
  • Sewer system problems
  • Sump pump problems
  • Improperly sealed basement walls
  • House located at the bottom of a slope
  • House located near a natural water source
  • Burst or leaking pipes
  • Weeping tile blockage
  • Overflowing rain gutters
  • Improper downspout locations
  • Appliance leaks
  • Overflowing toilet or bathtub
  • Drainage system failure
  • Water heater failure

In many of these cases, proper home maintenance can help to prevent flooding problems. For instance, keeping rain gutters free of debris and in good repair prevents water from dripping down the walls constantly and pooling along the foundation. If the foundation isn’t sealed well, that tenacious water will find its way into the crack and the house as it searches for the lowest point. Additionally, old pipes should be updated by a qualified plumber to help prevent leaking or broken pipes due to age. And if your home sits on a slope, be sure to add landscaping or drainage pits to help reroute any excess water.

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Steps to Take After a Basement Floods

After the initial shock of a flooded basement has worn off, it’s time to get to work. Dangerous mold can set in as little as 2 days on wet or damp fabric. That mold becomes a musty smell that poses health risks that can cause long-term challenges. If the thought of tackling a flood restoration is too much to handle, or if you’re not physically capable of doing the work, then take comfort in calling a water damage restoration company to help you get your basement back to normal. There are several steps for homeowners and pros to follow after a basement is flooded.

flooded basement cleanup

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  • Safety first: Assess how deep the water is before getting in. If the water has reached any outlets or electrical wiring, turn off all electrical power to the house before entering the water. This reduces your risk of a dangerous electrical shock. If the water could have put out the pilot lights to your appliances, then call the gas company to shut off your gas.
  • Locate the leak. Next, you need to identify the source of the leak. It could be a forgotten bathtub that’s overflowing, a toilet that a child played with repeatedly, a broken washer or water heater, or a window leaking after heavy rain. If the leak is from heavy rains and flooding, you’ll need to wait until the storm has passed before beginning the cleanup process.
  • Call a pro. If you can’t identify the leak, then you’ll need to call a plumber or a disaster restoration company who will know how to locate the problem. The cleanup company can also get right to work on cleaning up the mess.
  • Call your insurance company. Alert your insurance company to the type of flooding you’re experiencing to see what they cover and what you’ll be liable for.
  • Pump out the water. Use a pool pump or wet vacuum, or rent a gas-powered water pump to pull out all the excess water in your basement.
  • Dehumidify the area. The extra water in the enclosed area will increase the overall humidity. Getting rid of that excess moisture is critical for drying out the space before everything begins to grow mold. Use fans or bring in a dehumidifier to speed up the process.
  • Remove all porous materials. Porous materials include rugs, carpets, books, clothing, furniture, and even drywall if the damage is significant. Drywall can grow mold on the inside if it’s been exposed to water too long.
  • Throw away contaminated items. If your basement is flooded with raw sewage or floodwaters, your items are contaminated with harmful bacteria. Some things can’t be salvaged. If it was not a contaminated flood, items that smell mildewy might be saved if taken to a professional cleaner. It is possible to save some furniture depending on the damage and if it can dry within a couple of days. Don’t bother keeping any soaked cardboard boxes, as they don’t dry well.
  • Wash any walls or floors that were flooded. Even if your flood was a clean flood, it’s still a good idea to sanitize and deodorize any area that was flooded.
  • Repair any broken pipes or foundation. Whatever caused the leak needs to be repaired by a professional. It’s essential to make sure your basement walls are waterproofed and your foundation is sealed properly.
  • Replace flooring or walls. If you have to tear up flooring of any kind, you’ll need to replace it along with any damaged walls.
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DIY vs. Hiring a Professional for Flooded Basement Cleanup

Flooded basement cleanup is an unexpected and expensive cost that any homeowner dreads dealing with. It’s common for homeowners to tackle some of the cleanup themselves—if they have the time and energy. However, it can be a difficult and even dangerous process, so be sure to get all the power and gas turned off before attempting any cleanup. Most of all, DIY flood cleanup can be emotionally draining as you see your valuables in such damaged condition. Your best bet is to use a water damage cleanup company to make the process easier and ensure your belongings are safe to use again.

flooded basement cleanup

Photo: depositphotos.com

These companies are qualified to locate leaks of all kinds and won’t hesitate to get right into a mess of floodwaters. They’re also the best option to call if you need to clean up a basement after a raw sewage leak since they have all the safety equipment necessary to work in a toxic environment. You’ll be surprised at how quickly they can get the water out of your basement and assess which of your valuables can be salvaged. They also have the right experience to evaluate whether your drywall or hardwood floors will need to be removed or if they can dry out sufficiently to avoid mold growth.

No matter what, the most important step is to start getting your items out of the basement as soon as possible. The sooner you can get them started drying out, the better your chance of preventing mold.

Flooded basement after a storm?
A pro can help with the cleanup. Get free, no-commitment estimates from experts near you.
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How to Find a Reputable Professional

You might not have time to do as much due diligence researching for the best flooded basement cleanup company in an emergency. It’s worth doing some work ahead of time to have their number on an emergency list. Most importantly, you need a company that’s licensed to do business in your area, is insured, and has any necessary certifications for dealing with toxic waste. If you need a plumber, make sure the company is also licensed, insured, and certified to work on plumbing. In both cases, make sure the companies have been in business for a while.

flooded basement cleanup_1

Photo: depositphotos.com

For water damage restoration:

  • Ask for references.
  • Check online reviews.
  • See if they offer 24/7 assistance.
  • Get a detailed estimate and timeline.
  • Call more than one company for a quote.
  • Ask about their pack-out process for damaged and undamaged items. (They should create a detailed inventory list with damage notes.)
  • Check if they can assist with your insurance claim.
  • Avoid scammers: If they request payment up front, seem too cheap, or show up after a natural disaster without asking, keep shopping.
  • Check if they’re listed on the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification website. (Most licensed companies will be.)

For plumbers:

  • Ask for references from friends and neighbors who might have hired one recently.
  • Check online reviews.
  • See if they offer 24/7 assistance.
  • Get a detailed estimate and timeline.
  • Make sure you’re getting a master plumber or journeyman qualified to work on plumbing problems more serious than just a clogged pipe.
  • Call more than one company for a quote.
  • Ask how quickly they can come or if they have to wait until the water level is lower.
  • Ask if they expect any serious construction work will be required to repair the problem. (This could be the case if it’s a problem with the main line.)

If you live in an apartment complex, you might need to contact your leasing office first to let them coordinate with a plumber or restoration company that they’re familiar with. It’s possible that other units also experienced flooding, so they might be responsible for repairing the damage. It’s also a good idea to talk with your insurance company ahead of time to see what kind of coverage you have for flooding, especially if you live in an area that’s prone to flooding.

Flooded basement after a storm?
A pro can help with the cleanup. Get free, no-commitment estimates from experts near you.
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Investing in Basement Waterproofing

Basements are inherently at risk of taking on water since they’re the lowest point of a house. When they’re built, builders take precautions to prevent leaks, but over time, homes settle, earthquakes shift the ground, sinkholes appear, and water can pool around the foundation. Your basement walls should be waterproofed at the time of construction, but water can still seep in and create a humid environment.

flooded basement cleanup

Photo: depositphotos.com

It’s a good idea to hire a foundation contractor to come in and waterproof your walls and reseal your foundation if you see any traces of water on your basement walls or along the edges of doors or windows. Window wells are another common source of leaks if the drainage system isn’t sufficient to keep water away from the edge of the windows. Having a contractor seal and waterproof your basement is a good investment against some less obvious leaks that happen over time. This is also key since many insurance policies won’t cover ground seepage that causes basement flooding.

FAQs

Still wondering about flooded basement cleanup? Check out the answers to these frequently asked questions.

Q. How much does it cost to clean up a flooded basement?

It depends on the severity of the flood and the level of contamination. The average range is between $3,000 and $10,000. A simple flood that is only a few inches deep could cost an average of $2,000 to clean up. Extensive floods with contaminated ground or wastewater can exceed $10,000 to clean up.

Q. How long does it take for a basement to dry out completely? 

Some of this depends on how saturated the basement was and how well you facilitate the drying-out process. The faster you dehumidify the area, increase ventilation, and use fans, the faster it will dry out. Mold can grow within 2 days, so it’s important to get started on drying out the basement quickly. It’s not uncommon for it to take a few days to get the basement fully dried out, especially if the water was deep.

Q. How do I clean up my flooded basement?

You need to safely turn off gas and power, remove the water using a pump, remove porous items, decrease moisture using fans, sanitize and deodorize, then replace any damaged materials and repair any leaks.

Q. Does homeowners insurance cover flooded basement cleanup?

Yes, in many cases. Policies differ from one house and region to the next, so you need to speak to your agent to know exactly what will be covered under your plan. Standard home insurance often covers flooding from a broken appliance, overflowing bathtub, and sometimes even frozen pipes that burst. Coverage for flooding caused by a natural disaster usually needs to be added to your insurance policy. That’s why if you live in an area prone to flooding or are near a water source, you should ask about getting that kind of protective flood insurance before disaster strikes.

Sources: Fixr

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