Your basement may flood for any number of reasons. Flooding can occur where unusually large volumes of water settle and may be hard to move. If the water remains for long periods, it may cause untold damage to your structure and the health of the household.
Stagnant water in your basement can harbor mildew and mold, and some bacteria may seep into the air. Also, the items you store in the basement can become water-logged and become unusable. If you experience flooding, here are some steps you can take to help resolve the situation.
Causes of basement flooding
You’ll first need to understand some of the reasons why your basement may flood.
Heavy rainfall, snow, and storms can send lots of water in your basement. These types of events can damage the foundation, furniture, and other valuable items in the basement.
Frozen pipes and melting snow in winter can also cause basement flooding. If the pipes break under pressure, it can cause flooding. Alternatively, if the snow melts quickly, it can settle in the driveway or nearby streets, and eventually seep into your basement.
Most sewage systems usually sit at the lower ground and basement levels, and in some instances, above. However, the sewage and groundwater levels may lie over the basement floor and cause water to rush into the basement. Additionally, if there are any cracks in your foundation, water will seep through in these situations. Water in the drains, washrooms, and laundry may also cause an overflow in the sewage well. If it seeps into the basement, the odors will be unpleasant and also allow germs to circulate in the atmosphere. Backups in the sewage system can send water into the basement through low-lying fixtures like toilets; floor drains, washbasins, shower drains, and sinks.
Leaks in the main sewage lines can also cause excess water to run into the basement if there’s a torrential downpour or blocks in the system.
Broken and leaky plumbing
Old, rusty, or broken pipes around the house may break away under pressure and cause water to rush into the basement. The hot and cold water lines tanks and primary sump pumps are areas that can make the basement flood. If your sump pump fails or is not well-maintained, flooding can cause significant damage if you cannot control the floodwater quickly. You may need to stem the flow is to shut off the valve. Another short-term measure would be to fix the leaks at the source. Long-term solutions will include upgrading and replacing the plumbing system.
Living in a flood-prone or low-lying area might be another cause of basement flood. And you may need to elevate the foundation slightly higher than the ground to help prevent a flooded basement.
Faulty weeping tiles
Your foundation drainage system may also break down with regular wear and tear over time. If your pipe collapses or has blockages, the water level close to the foundation can overflow into the pump and get into the basement. You might have to deal with the basement flood if wastewater and groundwater can also get into the basement through the sewage fixtures or floor drains.
Unsealed or poorly sealed basement areas
Any openings in the walls, tiles, and basement foundation can cause water to flood your basement. Make periodic checks and plug any cracks to prevent water from getting in.
Some Other Possible Causes of Basement Flooding
Other causes of basement flooding may include faulty drains, stagnant water from heavy rain, and surface water running through the foundation. These will include:
Debris in drains and gutters
Gutters and other drainage units are necessary to help redirect water from the house and keep the basement free from water and moisture. Twigs, leaves, and other stuff from flowers, trees, and shrubs on your property can clog the gutters. The debris will block the water path coming from the roof, and into the drain spout. If the gutter overflows, the excess water will gush down the walls of the house and creep into the basement.
Faulty drains and downspouts
Installing drainpipes and downspouts at least six feet off the house can help prevent flooding in your basement. These systems help channel water off the roof, away from windows and doors and into nearby streets or your backyard. If the downspouts have leaks, cracks, or broken parts, runoff water may settle close to the house. When it occurs, the water will eventually run into the basement through cracks in your foundation.
Take an inventory of the items that become damaged by the floodwater. Make separate lists of what you plan to keep and what you plan to throw out. Also, take some pictures, if possible, to show the extent of the damage. It will be helpful for insurance claims
- Switch off the electrical and water supply to your house and basement.
- Call your insurance company, the city sewage department, and plumbing professionals for help.
- Call a plumbing professional to assess the damage before attempting any plumbing repairs.
- Try to locate any sources of leaks around the house and foundation and fix them if you can do so.
- Check the floor drains, if any, for any clogs that may cause flooding and clear them out.
- Wear gloves, boots, protective eyewear, and other shields to prevent coming in contact with contaminated floodwaters and water-logged items.
- Use buckets, mops, cloths, towels, and other absorbent materials to help soak up some of the stagnant water.
- Take up any carpeting and move it out of the basement. Carpets and rugs hold water and moisture and may keep the floor underneath moist and slow down the drying time.
- Remove any items in the basement that soak up water like furniture, drywall, and insulation. These can hold moisture and may cause mold to grow.
- Place small plates or rubber tiles under furniture to keep the legs off wet carpets on the basement floor.
- Open the vents, windows, and doors and allow fresh air to reduce odors and speed up the drying process.
- Allow at least 2-3 days for wet items to dry out before returning them to the basement.
- Use an anti-mildew cleaner or spray on the walls and flooring to help slow the growth of mildew or mold in the basement.
- Do not walk through stagnant water unless you are wearing protective clothing.
- Avoid handling items like lamps, stereos, televisions, and other electrical items in your basement, even if the power supply is off. It’s ideal to allow some time for them to dry out before touching them.
- Do not use bleach and other household cleaning products to clean the areas in your basement.
- Do not attempt any repairs or basement makeover to walls and floors in
- Avoid using a regular vacuum cleaner to draw water out of your basement.
Cleaning up basement flooding
If your basement floods for any reason, you’ll need to start the cleaning process as soon as possible to minimize damage.
- Check to ensure it is safe to enter the flooded area. Also, look around to pinpoint any holes, cracks, or twisted wood or building material.
- Shut off the plumbing valves if the flooding occurs because of a burst main.
- Disconnect the electricity from the circuit breaker. Also, check to see if there is any electrical wiring that may be underwater.
- Try not to wade through floodwater. However, if you do, wear high boots, face coverings, gloves, and other ways to protect your body from possible contamination.
- If you have a primary or battery backup sump pump, let it drain the water from the basement.
Steps in cleaning the basement
Push off the water immediately
Remove the flood water by using a sump pump, mops, buckets, or a wet/dry vacuum if you have any. You can also rent a commercial pump or use a pool pump to help remove the water. Using a squeegee to help push the water into the drains may also help. You may also use a plumbing snake or plunger to clear the drains to help get the water out.
Removing water-logged items
Take out all the damaged items in the basement to help reduce the spread of rot, mold, and mildew. Also, remove furniture and carpets that can absorb water.
Dry the area completely
Employ your sump pump if you have one, or use a wet-dry vacuum to help absorb water and moisture in the basement.
Ventilate the area
Open the windows when necessary, or use a fan or humidifier to circulate some air in the basement. If there are baseboards, it may be helpful to drill some small holes to help release any damp air from behind the walls.
Disinfect the area
After you finish drying the basement, use some disinfectant to clean the flooring, walls, and foundation. It will help destroy any spores or mold that may be present. Remove any damp or rotting boards and other building materials from the area. Seal any cracks in the basement vents, windows, and walls where moisture can build up and cause mold to grow.
How to clean sewage from the basement
If there’s a sewage leak, it may be best to leave the area altogether to avoid contamination to your family and pets. Close off the basement area form the other areas of the house to prevent any possible contamination.
- Switch off the power supply to avoid any electric shock.
- Protect yourself by wearing gloves, boots, and face masks if you need to enter the basement.
- Disconnect the water supply to the house and basement.
- Avoid flushing the toilets, using the tubs, sinks, showers, and washing machines until the sewage clears away.
- Notify the city sewage company about the problem.
- Pump or drain the sewage water and any material out of the basement.
- Wash down the floors, walls, and other areas of flooding.
- Rinse each area and item where possible with warm water.
- Disinfect the area to help slow the spread of spores, viruses, and infections from the sewage water.
- Open the windows and doors to allow some clean air inside the basement space.
How to prevent basement flooding
Get adequate insurance
Even if your insurance plan does not include compensation for flooding, increasing your overall household coverage may provide funds if it occurs.
Invest in a sump pump
A sump pump is an excellent backup to help get rid of floodwater quickly. The pump can also help remove excess water if there’s a power outage when flooding occurs.
Plug the cracks
Cracks and crevices in basement foundations and walls may cause water and moisture to get into the area. Set a regular maintenance plan to seal these areas to help prevent flooding.
Clear your gutters and downspouts
Dry leaves, small pebbles, and other objects may block down drains and gutters and can help cause flooding. Clear these areas often and also channel some of the water into troughs or extension pipes.
Clean the wells and septic tanks
Clean your wells and septic tanks at regular intervals to avoid any backups in the sewage system. Repair any leaky sewage valves to help prevent flooding. Dumping and flushing excess items into the sewage system may also cause blocks and flooding. Flush the toilets properly to help reduce backups that can cause basement flooding.
- Allow only toilet paper to pass through the toilet drains.
- Avoid sending excess chemical substances into the sewage system.
- Do not drain oils, grease, and fats from the kitchen into the sewage plumbing.
Fix the pipes
Fix and repair leaks and damage to your pipes and drains to help stem the flow of water entering and flooding your basements.
Waterproof the basement
A damp, wet basement can start to smell moldy and musty and affect your health. Waterproofing your basement can help save you the stress and repair and replacement costs going forward. Before you begin, make a check to ensure you get the best possible waterproofing items for your basement area. Find out which solution is right for your flooding problem. Locate the areas that are leaking like around the foundation, windows, or at the ground level.
It will help ensure you protect areas like walls, window drains, and stairwell drains from leaks and cracks. It will help you decide the best ways to fix the leaks.
- Interior and exterior sealers
- Interior draining products
- Exterior waterproofing products
Fix all cracks, and clean all drains and downpipes and gutters. Remove debris to help keep water flowing freely around the foundation areas. Keep a reasonable distance between the drainpipes and your house to help channel water away and help reduce flooding.
Use sealers when appropriate
Some experts advise against applying some at-home sealants to plug leaks around the house. They suggest sealants are primarily short-term fixes and may not solve the problem of leaks. However, they advise using a type of hydraulic cement as an alternative to help prevent cracks in basement walls and other areas.
How long does it take to clean the basement?
While initial cleaning may take several hours, a flooded basement may take up to at least two weeks to be free of any moisture or floodwater.
How do I ventilate the basement?
You can use a fan or humidifier to help increase good airflow in the basement. You can also open any vents, windows, or doors to help remove moisture in the atmosphere and bring in dry air.
How to avoid electric shock in a flooded basement
When flooding occurs, it’s a good idea to disconnect the power supply from the circuit breaker immediately. Also, if you plan to enter the basement, check for any low hanging or underwater cables that may cause shock. Avoid wading through basement water with visible electric wires to avoid any possibility of shock.
How to deal with gas odors in the basement
Gas pipes may burst during flooding and may cause odors to escape. If you detect gas during the period, do not try to carry out any repairs or disconnections on your own. Leave the area at once and inform the authorities. If the gas line is already off, call your service provider to carry out inspections and restore the service after the al-clear. After the inspection, clean, dry, and ventilate the areas as much as possible to help clean the air of gas odors.
Flooding in your basement can be stressful to clean up while handling the damage that may occur. Rain, snow, and stormy weather can cause severe flooding. Blocked drains and sewers, leaky plumbing, and cracks in the foundation can also allow water to back up in the basement. Thorough cleaning and ventilating may take a few hours or up to at least two weeks to have the area clean and dry again. It will ensure you remove any mold, mildew, fungus, or harmful spores that may affect the health of the household. Be sure to take every safety precaution to prevent contamination and any electric shock or gas fumes that may be harmful. Also, ensure you have a regular maintenance plan to keep the plumbing, drains, and sewage systems in good working order.