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5 Questions to Ask Your Flood-Control Specialist

Know what to ask when disaster strikes

Illustration by John Cuneo

I have a pump. Why bother hiring you?

1. A flood-control contractor salvages your stuff and protects your house's structure and framing. "We dry out the entire structure, not just the basement," says DiPrima. "Usually, people extract all the water, and a week later they find mold throughout the house. If we get there within 24 hours, we're able to save a lot of walls and floors."

2. When the water's pouring in, what should I do? Start pumping it out, but if the water reaches your electrical outlets, turn off the basement electricity and plug in the pump elsewhere, says DiPrima. "Not only can you get electrocuted if you don't, but we have to wait for the electric company to shut off the power before we can start cleaning up."

3. I know mold is toxic, but isn't the antimold treatment poisonous, too? Reputable contractors provide ingredient lists for treatments. "We give out a pamphlet that shows it's a nontoxic product," says DiPrima.

4. Any tips to prevent Lake Basement? "I always recommend a sump pump," says DiPrima. "And if possible, have French drains installed, which are basement pipes that go underground all the way out to the street, taking water away from the house."

5. Where should I store things I want to save? Avoid the two places prone to floods and leaks—the attic and the basement. If you must use the basement, "put boxes on cinder blocks or high shelves," says DiPrima. Fink puts in a plea for lightly packed small boxes: "You put years of memories in a 42-gallon tub, and try to lift it in 3 feet of water—it's gonna be difficult."