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How To Clean, Dry, and Repair a Flooded Basement

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Author Icon Written by Angela Bunt Updated 03/20/2024

A flooded basement is a source of dread for homeowners, whether due to heavy rain, melting snow, or a burst pipe. You must contend with the immediate water damage, what to do with the damaged items, and whether your insurance company will cover expenses. Plus, you’ll need a plan to prevent future basement water issues. 

We’ll take you through the complete basement flooding repair process so you know what to do.

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The average cost for sinking foundation repair ranges from $600–$3,000.


Step 1: Immediate Response

Once you realize your basement has flooded, take the following steps immediately. If a severe storm caused the flood, wait until it’s over before heading downstairs. Here’s a step-by-step guide to follow.

Shut off the power: Check your electricity or gas, depending on your utilities. You must turn off your basement’s power at the breaker box to avoid electric shock risk. 
Wear proper gear: Wear rubber boots and gloves to keep your skin dry and minimize the possibility of electric shock. Wear a face mask to protect your lungs from mold or contaminants. 
Look for the water source: You must identify the flood’s cause. Turn off the water to avoid further damage if it’s a plumbing issue.
Unclog the floor drainage system: For basements with floor drains, ensure they don’t get blocked or clogged to make water removal easier.
Call your insurance company: Depending on the flooding’s cause, your homeowners insurance or flood insurance policy may cover the damage. Call your insurer to find out. You may qualify for professional cleaning services right away.

Step 2: Assessment and Inspection

Inspect the entire basement to measure the extent of damage. Take photos to support your insurance claim if the water damage was caused by a covered event. 

As you assess the damage, look for structural issues. Check to see if the corners still look very square or if they’ve shifted. Look for sagging, bulging, or cracks that weren’t on the walls or floors before the flooding. If you see serious structural damage, call a professional right away. They can brace the walls to create a safe environment for the repair process. Bring in a certified electrician if you’re unable to turn off the electricity before entering the basement.

Step 3: Water Removal

The scope of the water removal process depends on the amount of water in the basement. For several feet of standing water, FEMA recommends only pumping out 1 foot of water every 24 hours. This helps prevent walls from collapsing. 

If your electricity is in working condition, you can install a sump pump to slowly remove the water (as long as the water isn’t high enough to reach any electrical outlets). Some basements are already equipped with sump pumps, or you can buy one at a home improvement store. On HomeDepot’s website, cheaper models start off around $100 and pump 1,600 gallons per hour, while expensive models start off around $400 and pump 4,000 gallons per hour. For smaller water levels, consider using a bucket or wet/dry vacuum.

Homeowners can also hire a professional water removal company. They have heavy-duty water extractors that get the job done quickly. Your homeowners insurance policy may cover water removal if the flooding was caused by a covered event.

Step 4: Drying and Dehumidifying

Once standing water is removed from the basement, you need to dry and dehumidify. If you hire a professional service, they’ll bring in commercial-grade air movers and dehumidifiers. They use moisture meters to determine how long to keep the equipment running. Some professionals may also bring in air scrubbers to remove harmful particles from the air.

The drying process can also be a do-it-yourself (DIY) project. Open all doors and windows to increase air circulation and setup fans throughout the space. You can rent large, commercial-grade fans and dehumidifiers. Running your air conditioning throughout the house also helps the basement dry out. The chance of mildew and mold growth increases after 48 hours, so take these steps immediately.

Step 5: Cleaning and Disinfecting

Clean and disinfect the basement and everything in it. The cleaning process depends on the type of water damage. We’ve outlined the three types below. 

  • Clean water: The flooding didn’t bring in any contaminants
  • Gray water: Anything that came from your shower/tub, washing machine, or toilet tank
  • Black water: Any water that contains human waste from the toilet or sewer line 

If items were contaminated with sewage water or floodwater (which has bacteria), you will likely need to throw them away. For clean or gray water, consider taking soft items to a professional cleaner.

Once the basement is clear and dried out, mop concrete floors and walls with a bleach solution (use 3/4 cup of bleach with 1 gallon of water). Be sure to open windows and run fans while disinfecting with bleach, and rinse surfaces afterward. Consider hiring a professional for sewage floods, large amounts of mud, and damaged drywall to ensure the job gets done properly.

Step 6: Damage Repair

In addition to water removal, flood damage often creates other damage. 

Properly treating mold ensures the air you and your family breathe stays healthy. According to the EPA, it’s safe to tackle mold remediation as a DIY project if it’s 10 square feet or less. Otherwise, you should hire a professional. Even if you can’t see mold, a musty smell in your basement can indicate issues.
Cement basement floors can be dried and disinfected with relative ease. Carpeting will likely need to be replaced, as will any other floor material that warps or retains moisture. This could be an easy project for many homeowners with basic DIY skills.
Basement walls made of drywall need replacing if they are still soft or flexible after drying. You may be able to salvage the wall’s upper portion if only the lower areas were impacted by the flooding. This can be a DIY project if you’re comfortable demoing the impacted walls and installing replacement pieces.
Similar to drywall, any ceiling damage caused by water from above must be replaced. You can spot-treat affected areas and gauge whether to hire a pro based on your drywalling skills.

Step 7: Future Flooding Prevention

Once the water damage restoration process is complete, take steps to prevent further damage, especially if the area is at high risk of flooding again.

One option for basement waterproofing is to install an electric sump pump, which removes water as it comes in. Add a battery-powered or water-powered backup in case power goes out during a storm. You can also install a water leak detection system. Place one near any appliances that use water (such as a water heater or washing machine); the device sounds an alarm to notify you to shut off the water when there’s a leak. You can also apply waterproof coating on concrete or cement surfaces in your basement or crawl space to minimize future structural damage.

Finally, prevent water damage from the home’s exterior by installing gutters and downspouts and landscaping that grades away from the house.

When To Hire a Professional

When there is significant damage or large amounts of water, consider calling in a professional. They have the proper equipment for removing water, sanitizing the area, and removing mold or mildew.

Check with your home insurance company to ask if they work with local vendors. This can expedite the repair or claims process. The insurance company may also pay recommended vendors directly. Read online reviews to choose a reputable restoration company for dealing with excess water.

Our Conclusion

Safety is the priority when dealing with basement floodwater. Once you understand its cause and can safely enter the area, talk to your insurance company about what remediation services your policy covers. If services aren’t covered, gauge the damage’s intensity to determine whether you should DIY the project or hire a professional.  

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FAQ About Flooded Basement Repair

How do I know if my homeowner’s insurance covers flood damage?

Homeowners insurance typically doesn’t cover flood damage caused by storms or other weather events. Sewage backups are also not covered unless you purchased a specific add-on to your policy. Insurance may cover plumbing issues as long as they weren’t caused by neglect or deferred maintenance. 

How do you get moisture out of a basement after a flood?

The best way to get moisture out of a basement after a flood is to open all the windows and doors, pump out the water, and run fans and dehumidifiers. Starting this process quickly reduces the risk of mold and mildew growth. 

What is a sump pump?

A sump pump is a small piece of equipment that monitors water levels and pumps it out. It has a pipe leading from inside the basement to outside the house, where water drains. You can find electrical sump pumps as well as battery or water-operated pumps.

Is it safe to go in a flooded basement?

Going into a flooded basement is safe if the electricity is turned off and the water level is low. Wear protective clothing, such as rubber boots, gloves, and a face mask, to protect yourself from unsanitary water and potential mold. 

Does a flooded basement cause mold?

Yes, a flooded basement can easily cause mold. Mold colonies can begin to grow within 24–48 hours of flooding. Even if you don’t see mold growth, unhealthy spores could be in the air. 

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