Your Flooded Basement…A Pain to Clean
They had chuckled at last night’s news flash and gaffed off the early morning weather report. It wasn’t until the journey home through torrential winds and blinding rain that they realized just how serious the predicted storm was. Only 20 minutes from work, the hour long drive home had been horrendous, not to mention the near miss incidents that happened several times along the way.
Now, finally in the sanctity of their home, there was one more thing to worry about; did their “work in progress” basement survive. Half way down the basement steps, the brand new ottoman and tufted rug floating across the room answered their question. All the water…all the mess…what were they to do?
What are Causes of Basement Flooding?
Whether it is a finished or unfinished basement, for various reasons they are subject to flooding. One culprit is clogged or damaged downspouts and gutters. Rather than water flowing to the corners and away from the house, water flows over them and down to the perimeter.
In many cases, the water table is located high in the ground. Once the ground becomes saturated from rain or excessive water from any source it needs to find somewhere to go. Normally it will overflow to the surface of the lawn and if there are any cracks in the foundation of your home, the water is going to find its way in. In most cases that entry way is through the basement.
The First Step to Cleaning Up
The first step to cleaning up a flooded basement, is a logical one, remove the water. If it’s just slight flooding then mops and towels will suffice in the cleanup. If the water is like the one described in the introduction, then you will need to bring out the heavy artillery for this job. Hopefully a wet shop vacuum will do the trick but if not the next step is a portable sump pump.
If indeed you are beyond the wet vacuum stage and a sump pump is needed, you will need to investigate the best outlet in which to pump the water. Keep in mind that you are dealing with a flooded basement making the standard basement drains impossible use. A long hose attached to the existing pump outlet pipe extended as far from the house as possible will be your best, and probably, your only recourse.
A Method to That Step One
The area that is going to sustain the most damage from water damage is likely the best place to begin pumping. The second option is to begin on the highest section of the room where the water is the lowest, if there is such an area in your basement. From there you can work your way back to the larger pools or the higher sections of water.
As a special precaution, flood water that is several feet deep should be removed at a slow rate. If water is pumped out too fast, low pressure would build on the inside of your basement causing the basement walls to crack and possibly fall in from the higher pressure on the outside.
Be sure to check the basement for live electricity prior to beginning the pumping process.As a precaution do not stand in the water while using the sump pump or even mopping. Make sure your boots are made of rubber and have an idea of what's actually running in your basement. The safest thing would be to simply shut off the circuit breaker to that part of the house.
Are There Safety Issues?
As a special note, anyone cleaning a flooded basement should also keep in the mind the sources from which the water might have come. Dependent upon the amount of rain, even rain water could have caused the sewer drains to overflow into your yard. It may be very possible that the water that has seeped into your basement is contaminated with bacteria and various germs. PROTECT YOURSELF.
Even if you feel there is no contamination, nothing would be lost by wearing waterproof boots and gloves as well as a long-sleeved shirt and pants. In addition, wearing a mask would ensure that possible mold spores are NOT inhaled into your nose and lungs. Remember also to wash your hands with antibacterial soap and clean water as often as possible while cleaning your basement.
I have Removed the Water…What Next?
Now that the water has been removed, and your basement is safe to walk in, it is time to clean and salvage as much of your personal items, furniture, rugs, and electronics as possible. First open all windows and doors to both expedite drying out the basement as well as provide ventilation while using cleaning products and household bleach.
While still wearing protective clothing, mix up a strong solution of household bleach and hot water in a bucket. You will need to thoroughly scrub the floor and any part of the wall that water came into contact with. If the flood water was actually contaminated you will need to discard any rugs, mats, carpet, and anything else that is made with material that cannot be safely cleaned.
Caution should be taken with electronic items that were submerged in the flood water, or even just got water on them. If it is a very valuable item such as a flat screen TV, or maybe a stereo, you would be well advised to have those items by a professional before they are plugged in again. Paper products such as photos, books, and magazines usually can’t be saved once they are water damaged.
Is There Anything I Can Do to Avoid Basement Flooding?
Eavestroughs and Downspouts: Make sure downspouts extend at least 6 ft. from your basement wall. They should drain away from your house toward the street, rear yard, or back lane. Disconnect any downspouts that are connected to your home’s sewer system.
Lot Grading: If the land around your home slopes in toward the foundation, rainwater around the basement can overload your foundation’s drainage system and seep into your basement Land settles over time and slopes in toward the foundation. If this is your case, you may want to fill in and grade the lot so that for at least 6 ft. out the land slopes away from around the foundation.
Flood proofing Devices: If your home drainage system fails, you may still be able to prevent water and sewage from backing up into your basement by installing one or more flood proofing devices such as sump pumps or back flow valves. Every installation is unique and may require a plumbing permit.
Unfortunately, basement flooding is a common occurrence no matter how hard you try. Above and beyond the inconvenience, basement flooding is now being recognized as a potentially serious problem. The many negative consequences associated with basement flooding include respiratory problems, long-term damage to the building and equipment, and depreciation of property value. There can be many circumstances that can result in basement flooding and homeowners should take inventory of the causes and take action. If you have experienced floods then learn more about it and reduce the chance of it happening again.