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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.

The Terrible Toll of a Bad Winter: The Season’s Wicked Weather Cost HOW Much?!

February 25, 2011

With so many people looking at water damage from ice dams and facing today’s rain (and inch and a half in some areas of Massachusetts) this is the perfect topic for a blog today.

Homeowner insurance appraisers are at a premium for time as they are booked through the next month to document claims from the damage.  Wet walls, ceilings and floors are commonplace in homes throughout New England.  This blog is curtsey of HouseLogic.  They have pulled together some interesting numbers on just how much it costs to repair this damage as they look back at a season of costly roof cave-ins, frozen pipes, and window-shattering snow blowers to tally up the cost of the damage.

Unwanted house guest

It’s always bad news when a raging blizzard comes knocking, but most of us manage to keep the snow outdoors where it belongs. Iowa couple Steve and Betty Ehlers weren’t so lucky. Unfortunately, the blizzard they thought they were escaping when they went on vacation decided to let itself into their home and make itself comfy. A family member who came to check on the house found snow piled in the hallway and kitchen—and even inside some closets and cupboards. How’d it get there? Heavy winds had blown open a side door.

Culprit: Blizzard and a blown-open door. When snow floods into a home and no one’s around to clean it up right away, it has nothing to do but melt. Unfortunately for the Ehlers, this type of water damage is usually not covered by insurance.

Repairs needed: Drywall, trim, carpet and flooring, paint and wall finish, and furniture and personal items.

The bill: $5,896

*National average for water damage from flooding, Insurance Information Institute

Wake-up call


A Springfield, Mass. man, Dan Scagliarini, got quite the wake-up call when his roof collapsed while he was counting sheep. Scagliarini was sleeping on the second floor of a multi-family house, which had he just moved into two days before, when the roof buckled under the pressure of snow at just past 7 a.m. on Feb. 3. To hear him tell it in this video clip, the noise woke him right up and he went to investigate–finding a “big hole” in his dining room ceiling. However, the Associated Press reported firefighters who arrived on the scene found Scagliarini still asleep after the collapse and had to escort him out. Regardless of how deeply Scagliarini was sleeping, he escaped safely. But he did need to find a new place to live. The building was condemned as a result of the disaster.

Culprit: Heavy snow on a weak roof. Snow is heavy! Even just 3 inches of dry snow can weigh about 9.5 pounds per square foot. Wet snow of the same depth? Sixty-two pounds per square foot. This means that for New York, which got hit with three feet in January, that’s 744 pounds of snow per square foot! It’s no wonder we heard about so many roof cave-ins this year. What’s worse, they’re really expensive to replace.

Repairs needed: Rafters or trusses, roof sheathing, wall studs, drywall, insulation, windows, siding, carpet and flooring, furniture and personal items, wiring, lighting, and ductwork or plumbing.

The bill: Around $20,000 to $30,000 for a roof rebuild/repair.

Meltin’ down the house

Sure, dealing with ice in the wake of a storm can be a real bother–not to mention a real hazard. But most people would rather spend a few bucks on a bag of salt before risking losing their house to a fire. Most people, that is, except one Bedford, Mass., man who tried to melt ice from his back porch with a blowtorch and ended up setting his house on fire. The lesson here? Let nature take its course–the sun’s heat and salt’s ice-melting power may be slow, but they’re definitely a lot safer.

Culprit: Fire and ice. Local police reported the man was using a blow torch hooked up to a 20-pound propane cylinder. But rather than melting the ice, he burned his building’s wood frame, vinyl siding, and second- and third-story apartments.

Repairs needed: Vinyl siding, wood frame, drywall and insulation, furniture and personal items, wiring, lighting fixtures, and ductwork or plumbing.

The bill: $30,000.

Blow out

To see a great video of this from Channel 7 click HERE

Winter is hard enough without having your home beaten up by snow blowers. But that’s what happened to home owners in Brooklyn, New York, last December. The powerful machines being used to clean up subway stations in the wake of a severe storm inadvertently sent snow flying through the windows of nearby homes.

Culprit: Snow blowers. It’s good that the transportation authority has such powerful, ready, and able cleanup tools–but a little more care might have prevented the home damage residents suffered.

Repairs needed: Windows with new 3×5-foot double hung vinyl

The bill: $1,106 per window.

Ice ice baby

When temperatures drop as quickly and as sharply as they did in the Southwest this season, water damage is not far behind. Crews in the normally balmy cities of Texoma, Texas, and Las Cruces, New Mexico, had to scramble to repair water damage from burst frozen pipes in hundreds of homes after a drastic temperature drop.

Culprit: Flooding from frozen pipes. When a pipe bursts, a tidal wave of water pours from a wall or ceiling into the living area of the home. It’s an incredibly destructive event that a home owner needs to respond to quickly in order to contain flood damage and get the best outcome possible with the insurance company.

Repairs needed: Drywall, trim, carpet and flooring, paint and wall finish, pipe repair, wiring and fixture repair, water removal, furniture, and personal items.

The bill: $12,000 to $15,000.

These are some extreme damages because of the weather this winter but many homeowners have the more average-sized water leaks due to ice dams and need to repair their ceilings and walls.  RE/MAX Professional Associates hosts a weekly event with Lowe’s (Ware, MA) for homeowners and this coming Tuesday (3/1) we will be focusing on these repairs in a How-To Clinic on Interior Drywall Repair.  You can find out more information at our Meet-Up Group Site  or our Facebook.   We hope to see you there!