Basements flood for lots of reasons. It could be from the slope of your yard or being ‌in a floodplain. Maybe your flood results from clogged gutters or a downspout too close to your foundation. And let’s not forget plumbing leaks or sump pump failures. Severe weather, such as tornadoes, hurricanes or blizzards, causes flooding any time of year. In the U.S., 98 percent of basements have water damage at some point. If you’re a homeowner, it makes sense to be prepared.

7 Steps to Take When Your Basement Floods

Whatever the cause of your flood, taking quick action will protect your health and reduce the amount of damage. Following are tips on minimizing the damage if your basement floods. For more safe cleanup tips, read the Homeowner’s and Renter’s Guide to Mold Cleanup after Disasters.

  1. Shut off the electricity and gas. If the power is on don’t enter a flooded area. Standing water can conduct electrical currents. Call an electrician if you don’t know how or can’t reach the breaker box.
  2. Find the source of the water. For a flood caused by leaking plumbing, turn off the water to your home. If rain, or melting snow is leaking in, try to locate where water is entering the basement and block the leak with towels. Check the floor drain to keep it clear and able to drain. Wear protective gear, such as boots, gloves and a mask if you are wading into standing water.
  3. Take photos and call the insurance company. Photograph the affected areas to document the damage. Most homeowners insurance policies don’t cover water damage from a flood unless you have flood insurance. But a standard policy might cover plumbing issues.
  4. Remove the water. Use towels, a mop or a wet vacuum depending on the amount of water. For more extensive flooding, call a disaster mitigation company. SERVPRO, a leading water restoration company, uses powerful pumps and extraction units to remove water and reduce drying time.
  5. Move wet items. Bring furniture and other wet items to another well-ventilated part of the house to dry. Use the garage or a shed, if possible. Weather permitting, let items air out in the sun. Remove items from boxes so they can air out. Check items for mildew growth. Furnishings that don’t dry out within two days will likely be discarded.
  6. Use fans and dehumidifiers. Because mold grows in high humidity, you’ll want to remove water from the air so walls and floors will quickly dry. Open the windows, set up fans, and use dehumidifiers to help the drying process.
  7. Get Professional Help. The speed of the water removal and drying process helps you save your belongings. For that reason, if your basement has more than a foot of water or mold is developing, get professional help. For example, SERVPRO, a leading cleanup, and restoration company has a network of storm teams on standby 24/7. They can handle disasters of any size and have the equipment and expertise to manage the cleanup and restoration process. As a trusted resource for insurance claims, they’ll even handle the claims process for you.

Preventing Future Flooding

After the crisis is past, you’ll want to waterproof your basement:

  • Clean rain gutters and downspouts. Keep your rain gutters clear of leaves or debris and check that they are pointed away from your house’s foundation. Make sure downspouts drain at least five feet away from exterior walls.
  • Install a sump pump. An automatic sump senses when groundwater reaches a certain level and pumps water away from your foundation. For extra security, add a backup pump in case the first one fails.
  • Use window wells. Protect basement windows with window well covers.
  • Observe pooling water. Check your yard immediately after heavy rain to see where water pools. If it’s flowing toward your foundation, have a contractor-grade your yard so it slopes away from your house.

With the preventive measures mentioned above, you may be able to avoid a basement flood. But if one does occur, you know the steps to take to begin the cleanup process.

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