IS A FLOODED BASEMENT DANGEROUS?
Basement flooding is unfortunately extremely common, as 98% of basements in the United States will experience some form of flooding during their existence. So if you are experiencing home flooding or have experienced it before, you are far from alone.
Flooding in a basement can do a significant amount of damage – and if you need help drying it out quickly see our page on how to dry out a wet basement fast – but first and foremost, the most important thing to asses with a flooded basement is whether or not it is dangerous to the structure of your home and those living in it.
This guide will cover the potential dangers involved with having a flooded basement.
WHEN IS A FLOODED BASEMENT DANGEROUS?
If one of these describes the condition of your basement, then it may be a dangerous situation:
The flooding has risen above live power outlets
If basement flooding has risen above active power outlets, then there is likely a live electrical current running through the water. In this instance, DO NOT TOUCH THE WATER. You are at risk of fatal electrocution if you do.
If you can safely access the home’s electric panel, then do so and shut off power to your home. If you can’t safely reach the panel, then call an emergency electrician and a water removal and restoration company for help.
Items or appliances connected to a power outlet are inundated in the water
If items are plugged into an outlet, then a live electrical current is running through them. When these items are submerged in the flood water, then that current could be running through the rest of the water as well.
Therefore, this puts you in the same position as the scenario above. DON’T ENTER THE WATER. Call for urgent help from an electrician and water damage company.
Water has risen above your fuse box
If water has risen so high that it has reached your fuse box, this can be extremely dangerous. Get everyone out of the house immediately and call emergency services.
There’s sewage in the water
The water is left to sit for too long
When flood water is left alone for a long period of time, it will start breaking down materials and the structural integrity of your home. Drywall and wood framing are the first to succumb to wet conditions and even concrete eventually breaks down from the extended pressure of the water.
See Average Cost of Basement Flooding Cleanup for details on what it will cost you to have the water in your basement professionally cleaned.
Flood water is removed, but remaining moisture is left behind
Once all of the flood water is out of the space, dehumidifiers and fans need to be brought in to fully dry out the area and all of the materials in it. If this step is skipped, it could lead to a rampant mold infestation, which can be dangerous if left alone to spread.
Mold can bore into and break down materials like wood and it can cause health issues for the inhabitants of the infested home.
PREVENTATIVE STEPS TO TAKE
Here are some preventative measures you can take, so that if you are met with basement flooding, it won’t be as dangerous to you and your home:
Move basement outlets up
Since basement flooding is so common across the United States, many basements have their power outlets raised up higher on walls, and even sometimes on the ceiling to reduce the likelihood of them being inundated in the chance of a flood. This is something to consider to better prepare you for any future basement flooding incidents.
Replace outlets with GFCI versions
GFCI is an acronym for Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter. These replace standard outlets throughout your home and reduce the chance of electric shock, making you and your family safer.
It is recommended by the National Electric Code that GFCIs be installed in wet environments, so any outlet near a sink should be a GFCI protected outlet, but also where flooding is a risk. Water conducts electricity extremely well, which is why GFCI outlets are so important in any areas that could potentially get wet.
Our GFCI outlet guide will help you determine where and when you need to replace your outlets with GFCI versions.
Upgrade your electric panel
Any old, exposed wiring is extremely dangerous in basements that are bound to get wet. Additionally, if you have an electric panel in a vulnerable position or one that is difficult to access in an emergency, consider making improvements in this area.
See our Electric Panel Upgrade page for more information on this topic.
Repair cracks in your foundation
The main culprit of basement flooding is water leakage after a storm through cracks in a home’s foundation. Repairing foundation cracks is a simple fix that will give you immediate relief to your basement flooding issues. However, it is likely that you will need to take further steps to relieve some of the pressure surrounding your foundation that caused the breakthrough in the first place.
Replace old windows and doors
Oftentimes, basement flooding is due to poor drainage around a home. When it rains or experiences extra water, that water just pools in the same area, adding pressure on the foundation walls and eventually breaks through.
Consider installing things like gutter downspout extenders or a french drain in your yard to redirect the water and have it dump out further away from your home.
In short, a flooded basement can be very dangerous in certain circumstances. However, if you take steps to reduce your risk level, then you will be far better off – and safer – if your basement experiences flooding.