What to do when your basement floods



Imagine walking down your basement stairs to retrieve your laundry or spend time in your finished family room, only to discover the floor covered in water. Don’t panic. You can take steps to determine the cause safely, remedy the situation and clean up the mess.

Basements are great for extra storage, livable space and handy appliances. However, they are also prone to disastrous complications such as flooding, a downside of having a room underground. Whether it’s from a burst pipe, heavy rain or sewer backup, a flooded basement can be a serious pain for homeowners.

While a flooded basement is stressful, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. This guide will help you take control of the situation. Repairs to damaged walls and floors, as well as replacing any appliances or furniture will cost money. However, handy homeowners can DIY parts of the cleaning and repair process to help lower costs. Here is the first step in getting your basement back in working order.


What to do right away if your basement floods

The moment you find flood water in your basement, you must take precautions. Basement flooding can be dangerous. Flood water can contain bacteria and debris or cause electrocution. Never enter flood waters without proper protection, including shoes, or turning off any power sources. 

Here are a few steps you must take as soon as you discover that your basement has flooded.

Shut off power to your basement

The most important safety step to take when your basement floods is to turn off the power to the basement. Do not enter the basement or flooded area until the power is off. Flip the circuit breaker for the entire basement, including any separate breakers for appliances located there. If you are at all unsure about how to turn off the power or your breakers are located in the basement, call a professional electrician.

It is essential that the power is turned off before you touch any of the flood water. Water conducts electricity. If there are any live electrical wires in your flooded basement, it is a major safety risk and extremely dangerous. 

After the power is turned off, the flood water can still contain dangerous bacteria and debris. Always wear shoes and protective clothing when walking in the water. Avoid tracking contaminated water to other areas of the home. 

Determine the source of the water

Once you deem that your basement is safe to inspect, you need to determine the source of the water. It’s important to find the cause of the flooding before beginning the cleanup.

Check for a leaky or burst pipe. If you determine this is the source of the flooding, shut off the basement water source. Flooding can also come from a water heater failure or leaking appliances, such as a washing machine or water heater. Turning off the water will stop the water from these as well. Plumbers can make repairs after cleanup.

Basement flooding is a common result of heavy rain, sewer system problems and drainage issues. Be sure to repair leaking or unsealed foundation walls or basement window wells to keep water out. Let professionals solve any sewage backup issues or sewer system problems. 

Call your insurance company

When your basement floods, it’s important to call your home insurance company. This will help you determine what your insurance policy covers, any claim limits you may have, and the procedures and process of filing a claim.


How to clean up after a flood

After you determine the source of the water and take the important steps to solve the problem, it’s time to start cleaning up. A flooded basement may seem like an overwhelming project, so taking it one step at a time is best. 

Remove the excess water

The best way to tackle water removal from your basement depends on how much water there is. If you have inches of standing water on your basement floor, a pool pump or gas-powered water pump is the best option. Simply place the pump where the water is deepest and run the hose outside. 

If you have a more manageable amount of water sitting inside, you can use towels, a mop and a bucket to remove the water. You can also use a wet/dry vacuum or dry vac to suck up larger areas. Also, take note of any floor drains you may have and keep them open to avoid clogs.

Move damaged items into a well-ventilated area

The most pressing concern for any homeowner after a flooded basement is avoiding the buildup of mold and mildew. This means removing furniture, clothing, valuables and other porous items from the basement to dry. Give these items about 48 hours to dry out. If they are not dry after that, you might have to toss them. 

Running a dehumidifier in the space will also help to remove any lingering moisture. This will help keep mold and mildew from forming in hard-to-reach areas.

Rip carpet out of the basement

After your basement floods, it's important to make sure the floors dry properly. You will likely have to remove any flooring you have installed. Rip out any carpet, which can be a breeding ground for bacteria and mold. You should also consider removing any hardwood or laminate flooring as well. This allows the subfloor to completely dry.

Throw away contaminated items

If your basement floods with rainwater, sewage or any other unsanitary source, it’s important to discard anything contaminated. These water sources contain harmful bacteria that can cause illness. 

Even if the water was not contaminated, you might have to discard some items. Furniture, rugs and other items run the risk of growing mildew or mold because they take a long time to dry out. However, if you have an item that you can’t part with, consider taking it to a professional cleaner or water damage restoration professional. 

Increase air circulation

To aid in the drying process, it’s best to get as much air circulation in the basement as possible. This means opening doors and windows, running fans and using a dehumidifier. It is essential to remove as much excess moisture as possible. This will help prevent the growth of mold. 

Wash your floors and walls to remove any dirt

Flood water is never clean. Even groundwater has bacteria and microbes. It picks up dirt and grime from outside or around the area it’s flooding. So, even if the source of your flood was clean water, you should clean and disinfect your basement. This includes washing down the walls, floors and fixtures. Make sure you allow the space to dry after cleaning. 

Repair any broken pipes or foundation

Now that you’ve removed the flood water and cleaned up the basement, it’s time to start repairs. This is the perfect time to repair any broken pipes, fix any foundation cracks and seal any leaks. It is also the best time to waterproof your basement and seal your foundation. This will help prevent any future flooding disasters.

Replace flooring or walls

Now it’s time to replace the flooring and walls. Because drywall is porous and prone to mold, it’s important to remove any sections that were underwater and replace them. This means you might have to cut away sections and patch as you go.


DIY vs. hiring a professional for flooded basement cleanup

The biggest difference between DIY flooded basement cleanup and hiring a professional is cost. Hiring a professional will cost more overall, but as professionals, they are familiar with the dangers of such a project. 

Professional cleaners can find the sources of the flooding and offer their professional opinion on a solution, preventing future flooding. They are also prepared with the proper tools for the job, especially if your basement floods with raw sewage. What’s more, they know the best way to get out the water, dry out the space, and let you know if floors and walls need replacing.

While handy homeowners can easily DIY a flooded basement cleanup project, it depends on the severity of the flood and the homeowners’ time, budget and ability.


How much does it cost to fix flood damage?

The cost to fix flood damage depends on the severity of the flooding. Contaminated water damage will cost more to fix due to safety issues. Pumping out the water and drying out the space costs between $500 and $1,000, depending on the size of the room. 


6 tips for preventing floods before they start

Grade your lawn correctly

One of the best ways to prevent flooding into your basement is to make sure your yard doesn’t flood during heavy rainfall. Are there any hills or slopes in your yard? Do you have any low areas that happen to gather water after it rains? Grading your lawn ensures that water is able to flow away from your home and not pool in low-lying areas around your property. 

The easiest way to check if your lawn has been properly graded is to simply step outside and take note of how your yard slopes around your home. Inspect your yard after it rains. If you see areas around your home where water pools around your foundation, it could eventually lead to a leak. If your lawn is not properly graded, call a professional to discuss how to address the situation.

Mulch your gardens and around your home

Mulching the gardens and areas around your home will not only keep up your curb appeal, but it will help keep your yard and home from flooding. Not only does mulch help to absorb rainwater, but it helps maintain the integrity and placement of soil. Keeping soil in place not only prevents drainage issues due to erosion, but also absorbs water.

When landscaping around your home, make sure to lay at least 3 to 4 inches down. What’s more, make sure there is a gap between the mulch and the siding or liner. This will prevent damage to the liner. 

Extend downspouts and make sure they turn away from your home

When it comes to the area around your home, you never want water to run or pool along your foundation. One easy way to prevent that is by inspecting your downspouts. Each downspout should be cleaned regularly and inspected for damage. What’s more, each one should extend 3 feet away from your home. 

By directing your downspout away from your home, preferably in a way that will direct the water away from your foundation, you keep rainwater from soaking into the basement. Even if you have a rain barrel or other type of rainwater collector, always make sure that it is set away from your foundation. If rainwater flows along the foundation, it will seep into your basement.

Clean out your gutters regularly

Cleaning out your gutters on a regular basis can actually help prevent flooding inside your home. By keeping debris out of your gutters, rainwater is able to flow easily through them, down the downspout and away from your home. However, if your gutters are clogged, then the rain flows right off your roof and down near your foundation. This leads to water pooling and running along the sides of your home.

Gutters should be cleaned at least three times a year. While it isn’t the most glamorous chore, it is an easy one. All you’ll need is a ladder, gloves, a scoop and a bucket at a minimum. While tedious, the easiest way to clean your gutter is to climb up the ladder and remove all the debris. You can also clean them from the roof or use a pressure washer or gutter cleaning tool from the ground. Just remember to stay safe, work within your capabilities, and keep an eye out for any damaged gutters that may need replacing.

Install a sump pump

A sump pump is a system that helps keep basements dry all year long. When water enters your basement, the sump pump detects it and pumps it out before it can get above floor level. If your home does not have a sump pump, speak to a professional about installing one. 

If your home already has a sump pump, make sure to keep up with regular maintenance. A faulty sump pump can lead to a flooded basement. Check your sump pump a couple of times a year. Make sure it is standing upright, the drain hose is connected and functional, and the inlet screen is clear. You should also open the top of the sump pump to remove any debris that could clog the drain line. 

Waterproof your basement

One of the best ways to keep your basement safe from unwanted floods is to waterproof it. Not only will this protect your walls and floors from water damage, but it will also help keep water from leaking in through your foundation and windows. Hire a contractor to waterproof your basement walls and reseal your foundation with a waterproof coating. Hiring a professional will help make sure that there aren’t any cracks in the foundation that need to be addressed. 

Many basements have windows, which can leak. This is especially problematic if the drainage system isn’t sufficient. When waterproofing your basement, seal the edges of all the windows. You should also consider addressing any window well drainage issues outside.


Protect your home from costly repairs and water damage with a Cinch warranty

Whether from flood damage or other repair issues, help protect your home with a Cinch Home Services protection plan and home warranty. From appliances to home systems, Cinch has you covered. 

With three different plans to choose from, you gain the benefits of reduced repair costs, discounts on brand-name appliances, and customizable options to cover all aspects of your home. With Cinch, you’ll find the plan perfect for your home.

  • Cinch Appliances plan. This plan covers repairs on all major home appliances, including washers and dryers, stovetops, built-in microwaves and more. 
  • Cinch Built-in Systems plan. The built-in systems warranty is just what you need to protect your home from major repair costs related to HVAC systems, electrical systems, plumbing and more. 
  • Cinch Complete Home plan. This plan combines the appliances warranty and the built-in systems warranty. However, it also includes a homeowners insurance deductible reimbursement. So, this comprehensive plan will help you keep repair costs down across your home.

With a 180-day workmanship guarantee on covered repairs and 40-plus years of experience, Cinch home warranties are the perfect addition to your home. Get a quote today


When your basement floods, what should you do? Here are steps you can take to keep your home safe, prevent future flooding and successfully clean up.