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Flooded basements not only cause substantial financial losses, but they can expose you and your family to harmful mold and mildew spores. Consider these helpful tips to reduce losses, prevent health issues and clean up the mess.


Turn Off Power/Check for Hazards- Regardless of the depth of the water or the cause of the flood, the very first thing you should do is cut the power to the basement. After the power is off, you should check for hazardous conditions that may exist from the flood waters. Look for mildew, mold, bacteria and electrical hazards.Photo: Greg Dastrup


Call Your Insurance Company- Before making changes or removing anything from your flooded basement, you should contact your insurance agent. Be aware that most standard homeowner’s insurance policies don’t cover flooding. However, if you purchased a separate flood policy, your policy may very well cover the damages. In either situation, it is advisable to contact your agent.


Consider Professional Services- After taking care of any hazardous situations and making sure the power is off, it’s time to evaluate the situation in your basement. You need to decide whether you can afford to hire a restoration company or clean up the mess yourself. You should also keep in mind that many molds will begin forming within 25 to about 36 hours after flooding takes place. Restoration companies can come in and remove the water, haul out carpeting, damaged furniture, cabinets and other items. They can also treat the area for mildew and mold. In addition, professionals can also dry the basement using commercial air movers with a dehumidifier.


Essentially, they may be able to restore some of your basement to the previous condition if you’re willing to pay for their services.


Clothing/Protection- Depending upon the flooding situation, you could have several inches of water, mud or even sewage in the basement. Therefore, you should protect yourself by wearing rubber boots, long pants, gloves and a face mask to protect against molds and mildew.


Remove Water- Begin the water removal process before trying to remove all the contents of the basement. If there is just a small quantity of water a mop and bucket works just fine. However, if you have a significant amount of water to remove, you’ll want to use a sump pump, water transfer pump or a wet-dry vacuum to remove the bulk of the water. Next, open curtains and windows to let in ventilation and circulate the air. Remove drawers from cabinets and open cabinet doors and closets.


Order a Dumpster- Consider ordering a large commercial dumpster to dispose of damaged items that cannot be restored. Dumpsters can be rented by the day and will make your cleanup that much easier and efficient.


Removing Damaged Property- Evaluate the flood damage of each item. More than likely, you will have to toss items like upholstered furniture, mattresses, and pillows. In most cases, you may also have to dispose of carpeting and the padding, which usually shrinks even if it’s possible to remove the dirt, mold and smell.


Walls and Built-ins- Remove baseboards and save if they can be reused. Cut and remove portions of any moist drywall and wet insulation damaged in the flood. If possible, uninstall built-in cabinetry and closet doors so they can dry outdoors. Cabinet refinishers might be able to restore expensive cabinets damaged from flood waters or insects.


Disinfect the Basement- Apply a strong disinfectant solution made from bleach and pine oil with a pump sprayer on the flooring and walls to disinfect the basement.


Dry Out the Basement- Check with a local home center about renting a dehumidifier and air movers. Air movers pull out moisture from within framing materials, flooring and drywall. The dehumidifier finishes the drying job by drying the moisture from the air. When dealing with a flooded basement, make safety a priority, contact your insurance agent, and remove the water quickly to prevent additional damage and health issues.

Greg Dastrup is a world traveler and professional writer with a passion for learning new languages. He’s spent most of his career consulting for businesses in North America.

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