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How to Clean Up (and Forget the Nightmare) of Basement Flooding

September 11, 2018

Rain, rain, go away. And sewage backups. And burst pipes. All y’all can GO. AWAY. Especially if they turn your wet bar into a soaking wet bar and your ping-pong table into an island.

Flood design Free Vector

Every homeowner with a basement imagines that horror. If basement flooding should happen to you, don’t retreat into a fetal position on your couch and hope for a miracle, no matter how much you want to. You can deal with the soggy disaster. Here’s how.

4 Things to Do Right Away

Don’t wait until you’ve reached the fifth stage of grief before addressing a floodFast action can minimize a rising, rank situation — and the money it’ll cost to repair.

1. The first thing to do is really a “don’t,” says Glenn Gallas, vice president of operations at Mr. Rooter Plumbing. Don’t ever, everstep into standing basement water. “You could be shocked or electrocuted,” he says. Who wants to venture into that murky mess, anyway? Turn the power off or call an electrician to be safe.

2. Then stop the flow of water.How you do that depends on what the source is:

Water Source What to Do
Broken or malfunctioning pipes Turn off your water’s shut-off valve. If you don’t know where that is, scope it out now — before the worst happens. Some valves are buried in the ground and require special tools to turn off.
Sewage backup Stop flushing toilets and running faucets. Your local sewage authority may offer pumping services or let you submit a reimbursement claim. If you have a septic system, though, it’s on you. Call the septic company to have your tank pumped ASAP.
Groundwater Sorry, that’s bad news. You can’t turn off Mother Nature. The good news: Groundwater flooding might not stink as badly as sewage. Get references for a waterproofing pro or a structural engineer because you could have a foundation problem.

Groundwater was the culprit for Nancy Friedman and her husband when their St. Louis home flooded back in 2014. They knew they had a tiny wet spot in their basement, but “I didn’t think too much of it,” Nancy Friedman says. “Going downstairs is not an everyday occurrence for us,” she says, especially since they both travel a lot.

That tiny wet spot soon became a full-on flood in their basement, causing thousands of dollars in carpet damage – not to mention the cost to repair the structural issue that allowed water to seep in in the first place.

3. Find a plumber with a high-capacity pump. This is not a job for a DIYer. It needs to get done fast. You need a professional-grade pump. “The longer that water sits, and the longer your drywall spends under water, the more long-term damage,” Gallas says. The more damage, the more it costs to clean up.

4. Make your smartphone earn its keep. Take photos and video, then back them up in the cloud, so you’ll have them for insurance purposes.

DIY Some of the Basement Flood Cleanup to Save Money

Once the water is pumped out, the rest can be a DIY job. Just make sure to protect yourself with:

  • Gloves
  • Rubber boots
  • Eye protection
  • A mask (especially if you’re dealing with a sewage backup)
  • A nose plug if the smell is really bad

Then suck up the remaining muck with a wet-dry vac. You’ll also need an army’s worth of paper towels and plastic bags to dispose of the mess.

Unfortunately, you’ll have to say goodbye to all rugs, carpets, and upholstery, which will soak up floodwater contaminants and bacteria, regardless of the flood source. (Seriously sentimental items might be restorable by a professional, but don’t get your hopes too high.) That’s what happened to Friedman. “The first thing we had to do was pull up the carpet.”

Other restoration steps:

  • Open all windows and doors, and run large fans and dehumidifiers.
  • Scrub water-contaminated walls, floors, cabinetry, or hardware with a soapy solution. Ventilate again.
  • Make a bactericide by adding 1.5 cups of DIY TipBleach doesn’t kill mold and mildew. It kills the bacteria that they feed on, but doesn’t destroy the nasty fungi itself. Use soap to zap it.bleach and a few drops of liquid soap to a gallon of water. Spray on the walls; let air dry.

But Don’t Feel Like a Wimp if You Want to Hire a Pro

In fact, both Gallas and Friedman recommend hiring a restoration service, as long as the company you hire is trustworthy and affordable. A small flood might cost as little as $500 to pump out and dry, but a large flood can cost up to $10,000.

“There’s a lot of companies out there that put a guy in a truck and think a high-powered fan is good enough to dry a basement,” Gallas says. Improper technique, like not allowing the home to dry for long enough or failing to properly treat drywall, puts your home at risk for mold or mildew in addition to the flooding damage.

So just be sure to do your homework on who you hire.

Don’t Assume Insurance Will Cover Your Repairs

Friedman’s first call when her basement flooded was to her insurance company. “They told me, ‘You don’t have flood insurance,’” Friedman says. “I thought everybody had flood insurance!”

Standard home insurance often doesn’t cover all types of floods, especially groundwater.

“If I could do a speech on floods, it would be: Do you know this very moment, for sure, if you have flood insurance?” Friedman says. “Call your insurance agent right now and ask.”

But the best scenario is no flood at all.

Related: What Does Regular Home Insurance Cover?


5 Things To Do So You’ll Never, Ever Flood Again

  1. Install a leak detector and high-water alarm. These small devices notify you before a small leak becomes a disaster, either via an audible alarm or a text message.
  2. Insulate your pipesThawing pipes are one of the leading causes of basement flooding.
  3. Maintain your backwater valve. It prevents sewage from seeping from the septic or sewer system to your home.
  4. Consider a sump pump. Every basement should have one of these flooding saviors. “I think sump pumps should be wedding gifts,” Friedman says.
  5. Flush and dump with caution.Dumping anything besides waste and toilet paper down your toilet or drains is a big no-no — from tampons to grease. These clog the system, causing backups.

What Would MacGyver Do? Use Paper Clips to Solve Common Home Repair Jams

November 22, 2011

Thanks in no small part to MacGyver, the paper clip has found many uses around the house, especially when it comes to quick fixes.

What MacGyver did:
The question is: What didn’t he do when a paper clip was within reach? MacGyver hotwired cars, picked locks, disarmed missiles, and everything in between.

What you can do:

  • Unclog spray bottles. Unbend the paper clip and use one end to clear tiny clogs in your perfume bottle, lotion pump, etc.
  • Pit cherries. Unfold a paper clip at its center, insert one hooked end into the top or bottom of the cherry. Once you feel the pit, lift it up and out.
  • Reach tiny “reset” buttons inside electronics. Unfold and use the end to poke away.
  • Temporarily replace a broken zipper. Untwist a small paper clip and slip the end through the zipper hole, twist it back, and unzip.
  • Pick a small lock on a jewelry box, screen door, or a basic center key bathroom door. Untwist a paper clip and slip the end inside the lock. Then jiggle it to open the locking mechanism.

Great quick guide to home remodeling/repair costs

April 26, 2011

I have so been neglecting my blog.  It’s true.  It’s shameful.  In my defense it’s because I have been so focused on my clients.  I am correcting that today and giving it the attention it needs!

Tis the season for home remodeling!  I have been working with a new buyer client who is looking at homes in Worcester that will need some repair – as well as working with a seller whose home will need to be repaired when the buyer has the keys in hand.  My parents are remodeling their kitchen and I am still picking away at the rehab on my own house.

It seems as if remodeling is happening everywhere!  And IT IS!  (Stay tuned for details on a home renovation event in May….ssshhhhhh…press release coming but it’s going to be HUGE!).  I did stumble upon (I love that site) this quick guide to estimating the cost of home repairs / remodeling that Freddie Mac has published and I love it!  It’s quick – easy to read and realistic.

Check it out and bookmark this page – it’s a great way to thumbnail the costs of new projects or to see what you would be getting into with a new home.

Estimated Remodeling and Repair Costs

Kitchens Roofing Floors
Additions Costs
Build addition $70 to 120 per square foot
Enclose porch $5,500 to 15,000
Drywall ceiling over plaster $1.50 to 2.00 per square foot
Basement Costs
Convert basement to legal rental unit $30,000 to 50,000
Bathroom Costs
Remodel bathroom $7,000 to 12,000
Add half bathroom $3,500 to 5,000
Add full bathroom $7,000 to 12,000
Electrical Service Costs
Increase service to 200 amps $700 to 1,200
Run separate electrical lines $150 to 300
Install connectors on outlets
(of aluminum wired homes)
$15 to 20 per connection/
$2,000 to 3,000 (whole house)
Exterior Costs
Regrade lawn $500 to 1,500
New gutters and downspouts $2.50 to 3.50 per linear foot
Fireplaces Costs
Build masonry fireplace $3,300 to 4,800
Install prefabricated fireplace $1,800 to 2,300
Reline chimney with terra cotta $2,000
Floors Costs
Sand and finish wood floors $1.50 to 3.30 per square foot
Install ceramic tile floor $11 to 22 per square foot
Install vinyl tile floor $2.64 to 5.34 per square foot
Install wall-to-wall carpet $3.38 to 6.61 per square foot
Garages Costs
Build single car garage $6,000 to 9,500
Build double car garage $8,000 to 12,000
Heating and Air Conditioning Costs
Replace warm air furnace $1,500 to 3,800
Replace electric heat pump $2,200 to 3,600
Replace central air conditioning system (electric) $1,500 to 3,000
Replace central air conditioning system (gas) $2,600 to 3,500
Install humidifier $300 to 550
Install electrostatic air cleaner $500 to 750
Replace hot water boiler $2,500 to 3,500
Install attic ventilation $250 to 450
Insulation Costs
Insulate attic / basement $.75 to 1.20 per square foot
Kitchen Costs
Remodel kitchen $8,000 and up
Plumbing Costs
Hot water heater
(40-gallon capacity) $400 to 650
(40-gallon capacity) $300 to 550
Install new well $3,000 to 5,000
Install new septic system $3,000 to 5,000
Install sump pump $400 to 500
Install French drain and sump pump $2,000 to 3,500
Roofs Costs
Asphalt / fiberglass shingles-
Install over existing shingles $1 to 1.20 per square foot
Remove existing shingles and install news $1.30 to 1.75 per square foot
Windows Costs
Install storm windows $60 to 100 each
Replace existing windows $250 to 500 each