Figuring out what to do when your basement floods can be stressful. In addition to destroyed personal items, the damage done to the home and the cost, time and effort it takes to fix it makes basement floods one of the most dreaded events for homeowners.
So, whether you’ve never had a basement flood, are currently dealing with one or have dealt with one in the past, it pays to be prepared! That’s why we’ve compiled a complete 2023 guide with key info about what to do if your basement floods, why it happens, and how to keep your basement from flooding again.
How serious is it when your basement floods?
In addition to the headache of dealing with damaged possessions and a basement that’s a wet mess needing costly repair, basement floods can lead to serious health issues if not dealt with promptly and remediated properly.
Here are some of the common things to watch out for when dealing with a flooded basement:
One of the biggest risks to your health comes from the water itself, as ground and wastewater that floods your basement can be contaminated with bacteria, viruses, pesticides, gasoline, sewage and more. Accidentally ingesting or being exposed to this water can have dangerous effects on your and your family’s health, especially for those with weakened immune systems or pre-existing conditions.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
When a basement floods, it can often short out electrical supplies to outlets and appliances. This results in homeowners grabbing a generator to make power. While that’s all well and good, you need to be mindful of the carbon monoxide that’s created by the generator, which can induce symptoms like headaches, disorientation and dizziness. Always keep your generator outside, and install a carbon monoxide detector in your home since the gas is both odourless and colourless.
Bacteria thrive in damp environments, which makes a flooded basement a perfect place for bacteria to grow. While it’s great for bacteria, it’s harmful to us humans. Breathing in bacteria can cause serious health problems like infections and illnesses.
When you have water sitting in an area for any period of time, it soaks everything it touches. Even when the water is removed, if those areas still contain moisture, you will get mold growth, and that can seriously affect your health.
Extended exposure to mold can lead to breathing issues, skin conditions and asthma attacks and can have further long-term effects on your brain and body. That’s why you must remove all moisture and mold immediately following a basement flood.
As you can tell, most of these health issues come from the water itself and the moisture it leaves behind. This is why it’s important to have equipment on hand to help you completely dry the area, removing the opportunity for mold and bacteria to grow.
What to do when your basement floods, and who do you call?
It’s easy to fly into a panic when you see that your basement has flooded, but try to remain calm; after all, you don’t want to do anything that can put you, your family or your property in danger.
A large dehumidifier and two mid-sized fans sit on a dry basement floor as a black leather couch is stood on its side. A foot of drywall is removed around the bottom of the basement.
When your basement floods, follow these steps:
1. Cut the Power
As we all know, water and electricity don’t mix. Outlets with a power source that come into contact with water can create a live current in the water that’s capable of causing serious injury if you come into contact with it. So the first thing you want to do is cut the power supply at the electrical panel.
Only try to access the panel if it’s safe, and always wear rubber boots if coming into contact with water. If you aren’t able to safely access the panel, call in a licensed electrician or your local utility company to help.
2. Start Taking Out the Water
Once it’s safe to enter the basement and the area is free from a live current, you can start taking out the floodwater. But you first want to determine if it’s sewage water you’re dealing with – if it is, you’ll need to take extra precautions or call in a professional since sewage is particularly hazardous.
If the water is relatively clean and you can handle the cleanup yourself, you’ll need a pump, garbage bags, some towels, mops and buckets if the water level isn’t too high. If you have a sump pump that’s working, you can use it to help pump out the water as well.
If the water level is over two feet, you’ll likely need to call in a professional to help drain out the water. Either way, do your best to have the water removed as soon as possible to stave off mold and bacteria growth, as well as to reduce the amount of damage to your home and personal items. Drying your items and the basement within 48 hours will make it less likely for mold and bacteria to grow.
3. Take Out Anything Wet and Assess the Damage
Now that you’ve got all the standing water out of the way, you’ll want to remove and discard any wet items, including boxes and furniture, to ensure there are no damp items promoting mold and bacteria growth. From here, assess the damage and consider whether you can make a claim to your insurance provider to cover the damage from the flood and the cost of fixing your basement.
4. Place an Order With Drying Equipment To Start Drying Your Basement
This step is crucial if you’re to avoid further damage and health risks after a basement flood. Drying the area will involve key pieces of equipment that will remove water from both the air and surfaces. Dehumidifiers, fans and carpet extractors will remove any leftover water and moisture, effectively drying your basement and making it inhabitable for bacteria and mold. Dehumidifiers are also particularly effective at controlling mold growth.
Thankfully, Drying Equipment is your one-stop shop for everything you need to dry a flooded basement in the GTA and Winnipeg. Our friendly and knowledgeable staff drops off, sets up and picks up the equipment. We can even have your order over to you in as little as two hours. And don’t worry if you’re unsure about working the equipment, we will show you how!
5. Monitor for Mold
Once your basement is dry, clean the area with soap and water. You will then want to keep a keen eye out for any mold growth. If you see any still lingering, have it professionally removed or carefully remove it yourself.
Be mindful that you may have to take out drywall, flooring or carpet if the mold cannot be removed. You will also want to ensure that the air is clean if there’s been any mold or bacteria growth – you and your family don’t want to be breathing it in! We recommend renting an air scrubber or purifier to get the job done.
So, your basement flooded and you’ve managed to recover. But why did it happen in the first place, and, more importantly, how do you make sure it doesn’t happen again? Let’s find out!
Why are basements prone to flooding?
Location and Gravity
While you can experience flooding in almost any area of a home, basements are particularly prone because of their location below ground level.
As we know, our good friend gravity will always work its magic to move water from higher locations to lower ones, meaning even if the primary location of the water leak isn’t the basement itself, you can bet it’s going to end up there.
Groundwater and Sewer Lines
Again, because basements are located underground, they can be affected by the groundwater in the surrounding area. Oftentimes, groundwater will still sit above the level of the basement floor, meaning if groundwater seeps in, it’s going to end up in – you guessed it – the basement.
Similarly, sanitary and storm sewer lines are also located underground, though they usually sit lower than your basement floor. But if that’s not the case and the lines are located above your basement floor, you can expect a higher chance that any sewer line leaks will flood your basement.
What causes basement floods?
Many things can cause your basement to flood, and they’ll usually result from weather conditions, mechanical failure or manmade issues, or a combination of all three.
Here are the reasons that can cause a basement to flood:
When a house is built, the ground will be graded and sloped appropriately to carry water away from your home. But if grading wasn’t done properly, it can cause the opposite, moving water toward your home where it will end up seeping through the foundation walls and into your basement, causing flooding.
A Poor Foundation
Your home’s foundation serves several important functions: 1) it holds the weight of your entire house, 2) it keeps your house anchored to its location in the ground, and 3) it helps to waterproof your home. That said, if you don’t maintain the foundation of your home, or if it wasn’t laid well in the first place, cracks can develop, allowing groundwater to seep in and leak into your basement.
A blocked or broken sanitary lateral and weeping tile can also contribute to basement flooding. A sanitary lateral is a pipe that carries all the wastewater (think toilets, showers, sinks, drains) from your home to the public sewer main. If the pipe isn’t maintained, then cracks or blockages can form that will cause your home’s wastewater to back up into your home, giving you quite a nasty surprise.
There’s also weeping tile, which is a porous pipe that’s laid around your home’s foundation. It collects groundwater and carries it away from your foundation wall, keeping it from ending up in your home. Similar to the sanitary lateral, if this pipe is blocked or broken down, it won’t be able to carry water away, leaving your basement at risk of flooding.
Blocked Eavestroughs and Downspouts
Eavestroughs and downspouts work to collect all the water from your roof and drain it away from your home’s foundation. If either of these are blocked and not maintained, then water can pool around your home and seep into the foundation walls and into the basement.
Failure of Your Sump Pump
A sump pump is often installed to help with your home’s foundation drainage. It works to pump excess groundwater away from your home and into either the lawn or the nearby storm sewer. If the sump pump fails, then groundwater will pool around your home’s foundation, seeping through and flooding the basement.
A Backup in the Sewer System
While sanitary and storm sewers are regularly maintained by the municipal government, there can still be situations that cause the system to overload. When that happens, the excess wastewater can back up through your sanitary lateral connection and into your home, leading to a basement flood.
Excessive Water From Wet Weather Events
Unsurprisingly, one of the most obvious ways your basement floods is due to wet weather events. Heavy rain storms and large amounts of rapidly melting snow will push all the water overflow prevention systems we’ve mentioned previously to their max.
If they’re not in good working condition and/or there’s too much water to handle, water will end up in your home. If you live close to a river, lake or stream, you are also at risk of basement flooding should it overflow its banks.
How to prevent basement floods.
While it’s important to know what to do when your basement floods, it’s equally important to understand the steps to take that can prevent your basement from flooding in the first place. Granted, floods from extreme wet weather events are not in your control, but maintaining the systems that prevent water overflow is!
Prevent basement floods by:
Determining the Cause
The first step to preventing future floods in your basement is to figure out why it happened in the first place. Did your sump pump break? Do you have a block in your sanitary lateral? Is your foundation in need of some repair?
Any of these reasons and more can cause a basement flood, and identifying the culprit will guide you in knowing what to fix.
Installing or Fixing Your Sump Pump
As we mentioned, a sump pump works to take groundwater away from your home’s foundation, but if yours isn’t working properly, then it will need repair. Alternatively, if your home wasn’t built with one included, then you may want to consider having one installed.
Servicing and Maintaining Your Pipes
Whether it’s your sewer lateral or weeping tile, these pipes work to collect water from within and around your home and carry it away. Like any pipe, these systems can degrade over time or become blocked, and it’s your responsibility as the homeowner to ensure they stay in good working condition.
If you find wet spots in your basement or yard, smell a musty scent in your basement indicating mold growth, or have drains that are slow to flow, then you might need to take a look at your pipes.
Fixing Your Foundation
Groundwater, downspout runoff and more, your home’s foundation is what keeps outside water sources like these from getting inside your basement, so it’s no surprise that a foundation filled with cracks is a serious flood risk. Make sure you don’t wait too long to fix them, as smaller cracks are easier to fix than larger ones!
Cleaning Your Eavestroughs and Downspouts
Heavy rains can wreak havoc on the area around your home and present a serious flood risk if it’s not collected and directed somewhere else. That’s why it’s important to ensure your eavestroughs and downspouts are clear of debris and can drain water away from your home’s foundation.
Checking Your Water Heater
One common culprit of basement flooding is your water heater! Check near the tank for things like rust, small leaks or puddles and water that’s an odd colour. Any of these will indicate there’s a leak.
No matter the cause, Drying Equipment is ready to help you tackle basement floods with the tools you need to restore your space and your peace of mind.
While it may not be possible to prevent every situation that can cause a basement to flood, know that the team at Drying Equipment is here to provide you with the tools you need to remove moisture and air pollutants. In as little as two hours after placing your order, our team will have your equipment delivered and installed. We’ll then return to check the moisture level and remove the items so you can get back to enjoying your basement once again.