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How to Clean a Flooded Basement

Aside from a rowboat, few things can inspire more anxiety and panic when filling with water than a basement.  Unfortunately, floods and unwanted water accumulation falls under the list of hazards of home ownership. Although you may not be able to avoid the experience of tossing bucket after bucket aside, with this guide you should be able to use several methods to clean a flooded basement and get your below-ground dwelling back to above sea level.

What are the Common Causes of Basement Floods?

Repairing any water damage found begins with determining the cause of the flooding.  This comes from many potential sources.

Most notably, burst pipes or leaking plumbing tend to be the root cause of basement flooding:

  • old pipe systems,
  • water pressure variances, and
  • loose pipe fittings

often find themselves as the primary reason an individual experiences saturated indoor environments.

While those causes relate to unwanted water flowing into the area, basement floods also occur when drainage systems clog or otherwise can’t transport the water from the room or fixture. Sewer system blockages contribute to a large number of basement floods:

  • Clogged toilets,
  • shower drains,
  • washing machine runoff, and
  • water heater backups

can cause a sudden influx of water in areas that aren’t designed to handle large quantities of water.

In some circumstances the flooding’s source comes from surges of groundwater or rainwater due to weather events.  If the foundation of a basement isn’t sound, overly-saturated soil can release the excess moisture through the walls or seams of a building through hydrostatic pressure.  This is also known as overland flooding.  In certain cases improper irrigation causes water to build up and the makeshift dam experiences an eventual burst.  Basement windows or doors without proper sealants can also be the cause of unwanted water encroachment.

What Types of Basement Floods are There?

The short answer is that there’s only one type of basement flood:  an inconvenient one.  But, to better understand the methods needed to address the issue, it can be helpful to categorize the flood based on the type of water that entered the area and how it came to it’s inconvenient location.

Clean Water Floods

Clean Water floods are instances in which the unwanted water originated from a leaky faucet or pipe.  This is water that is already within your plumbing system.  This water doesn’t pose an immediate health hazard, although if left unattended additional issues can arise. These types of floods are usually the least expensive to address.

Grey Water Floods

If a washing machine, dishwasher, or other household appliance malfunctions and floods an area, this is known as a grey water flood.  This water can have household chemicals or treatments within it that could pose a health risk if an individual is exposed to the contaminated water. Grey water floods fall into the second category of household flooding and coincide with a moderate level of restoration expense.

Black Water Floods

The most serious category of flooding from a health standpoint and most costly from a repair perspective is a black water flood.  A black water flood iresults when a sewage system malfunctions or an overflowing river/body of water contaminated with hazardous chemicals floods an area.  Specialized equipment is required to remove and disinfect the affected areas.  From a health standpoint, black water floods pose the greatest danger and threat of additional issues through prolonged exposure.  Due to the absorption of contaminants into any porous surface, many structures have to be completely replaced.

What Equipment is Needed to Clean a Flooded Basement?

Whether through a professional service or a DIY attempt, cleaning and repairing a flooded basement will need the use of similar equipment.  Most basement cleaning services combat flooded areas with the following:

  • Sump pumps,
  • moisture meters,
  • air blowers,
  • air scrubbers, and
  • low-grain refrigerant (LGR) dehumidifiers.

Sump pumps are submersible pumps that can drain an area of water where a standard wet/dry vac is unable to address the amount of water.

Moisture meters determine the amount of moisture within a solid surface.  They commonly use a percentage metric to display how heavily saturated a surface is.  Moisture meters prove helpful when determining the extent of moisture within walls or furniture.

Air movers do not disappoint in terms of living up to their name.  The primary function of an air mover is to circulate air through a surface and increase the rate of evaporation.  The benefits of air movers include their ease of use, low cost of use, and low level of supervision required for use.

Air scrubbers differ from air movers in the sense that they serve as a filtration system for the air.  As air particles pass through the scrubber, the contaminants disappear and the cleaned air passes back into the area.  Air movers serve to clean the air, rather than moving it and expediting evaporation, like an air mover.  This proves useful in situations where harmful chemical exposure occurred to the environment.

Low-grain refrigerant dehumidifiers work by lowering the humidity in the air, making the evaporation process easier.  LGR dehumidifiers also cool the air, making it difficult for moisture to remain in the air.  LGR dehumidifiers are specialty equipment that differs from a household dehumidifier in it’s capacity to treat larger areas and the cooling effects produced.  Regular humidifiers are helpful, but treat smaller spaces and take much longer.

How Long Does it Take for a Flooded Basement to Dry?

The length of time needed in order for a flooded basement to dry depends on several factors:  the type of water damage, the extent of damage, professional/DIY repairs, and removal of contaminated/damaged surfaces or furniture.  Estimates on total time to repair/dry a flooded basement range from a few hours to several days based on the extent of water damage and collateral issues.

How to Get Water out of Your Basement

Whenever you encounter a flooded basement, your first step should be to turn off the power to the affected area.  This prevents further damage from occurring due to electrical shorts.

Next, you’ll need to determine where the water is coming from and if the leak/flood is ongoing.  If there is an active leak, you’ll need to stop the flow of water in order to begin the cleanup process.   Most of the time, shutting off the water will do the trick!  If the water has appeared as a result of heavy rainfall or another external source, you’ll need to wait until the water level ceases to rise or recedes before starting to remove water.

If the amount of water within the room is a small amount (e.g. a few inches deep) then it is possible that a wet/dry vac could get the bulk of the water out.  But, if the water level is greater than a small amount, a more specialized piece of equipment (like a sump pump) may be needed.

Before any mud that has appeared dries, it needs to be removed.  Removing the mud while it’s wet is much easier than waiting until it’s dry!

Once the water and mud has been removed, the damage needs assessment.  Remove any furniture or soft materials. Follow up with cleaning and disinfecting before reintroducing them to the space.  Any items that are unable to be effectively cleaned should be disposed of. You’ll want to have the drywall inspected. A professional can determine if the material is salvageable.   In the event that the flood waters fall into the grey or black category, proper disinfection is necessary.  Homeowners should also take additional precautions against the growth of mold and mildew, during the drying and cleaning process.

How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Basement Cleaning Service?

Because each situation is dependent on the circumstances of the damage of the flooding, the cost of professional flood repair ranges from just over $100 to amounts in excess of $10,000.  A general rule of thumb for the cost of water removal and damage repair is in the neighborhood of $6500.  The final amount largely depends on the size of the flood, any associated damages incurred, fees for disinfection, and any additional labor required to bring the room back to its former glory.

Contact Level Home Foundation Repair for Flooded Basement Repairs

Once you’ve assessed the damage and taken the steps necessary to begin cleaning the area affected by flooding, the next step is to turn to a professional that can assist you in preventive measures that will keep the situation from occurring in the future.  The professionals at Level Home Foundation Repair offer a wide range of services designed to improve drainage systems and plumbing setups.  By contacting Level Home Foundation Repair, their team can give you options for addressing your issues that fit every budget.  Contact them today and review your options for keeping your basement and home foundation free of flooding issues: 318-539-5554.

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Bill C.

Home Owner

We had a minor problem they came ahead of time, finished very fast. They were very professional and friendly. The cost was excellent for the job they did. I would recommend them again to all people who need structural repair.

Carolyn K.

Home Owner

After much anxiety about how much foundation repair would cost, I was very pleasantly surprised to learn how affordable Level Home Foundation Repair was. They were on time for both the initial appraisal & the actual repair work. They were pleasant, respectful, and did a great job on the leveling and clean up. They raised the house, with no cracks in the brick, no visible gap between the brick and wood facing. Great job overall. I would recommend them highly.

Stephanie O.

Home Owner

Great all around company!! I would definitely recommend using them to anyone in need of foundation repair. Customer service is off the charts, as well as their work!! Everything is guaranteed and transferable, if you ever look to sell your home.