Water in Your Basement: Who Should You Call
Water damage – from the initial damage to more long-term effects such as mold – are estimated by the insurance industry to cost $2.5 billion dollars per year in the United States. The size of this number shows the scale of damage that water can cause in a home in a relatively short period of time.
When it comes to water in your basement, acting in the right way can save you thousands of dollars. Obviously, the first priority is safety, although once you have ensured that the initial danger is over, your steps should involve identifying and stopping the source of the water, followed by minimizing the damage to fixtures and fittings.
WHEN YOU DISCOVER A FLOODED BASEMENT
Although discovering your basement is flooded can be a traumatic moment, it’s time to think clearly. Every minute counts, and making the right decisions can save your property, your money, and your stress later.
The absolute priority has to be safety. Although it can be tempting to dash straight down and save your prize possessions, flooded basements can be extremely dangerous. As such, you should evacuate everyone from the area except those whose presence is absolutely necessary.
CALL AN ELECTRICIAN
The first call to make is to your electrician. The biggest danger when your basement fills with water is that it makes contact with some of the many electrical appliances and wires in there. Water is a good conductor of electricity, meaning the chances of getting shocked are high. If you can safely access your circuit breaker, shut off the power and gas to your home immediately.
If you are unsure about this process, your electrician may be able to guide you through it over the phone. If not, you will have to wait until they arrive. Only after the electrician declares it safe to reenter the basement should you do so.
Remove Items. Once your basement has been cleared as being safe, you can remove as many items as possible to a dry area. Your focus should be on items that are upholstered that have not yet been affected too badly by the water. You should also look to move any electrical appliances if the water is still rising.
CALL A PLUMBER
Plumbers are professionals who deal with all forms of water in the home: pipes, drains, toilets, and appliances. They will have seen leaky basements before and are great people for the job.
Calling a plumber will help in two main ways. Firstly, the plumber will be able to identify the source of the water (assuming it is coming from a broken pipe, faulty appliance, etc., rather than from an overflowing river). Secondly, the plumber will usually be able to fix the leak.
In some cases, you may need to call the manufacturer of a specific item. These items include:
If the appliance is under warranty, the manufacturer will be able to organize repairs. A plumber will be best-placed to diagnose this and to provide support in case of a dispute.
FLOODING CLEANUP PROFESSIONALS
The cleanup is often the worst part of dealing with flooding. If the water has come from inside your home, it is likely to be more sanitary than if it is from an overflowed river or lake.
In the latter case, you’ll likely need to hire a professional team to come and sanitize the space because of the presence of biohazards in natural water.
For more information on flooding cleanup, see our guide on flood water removal – how to clean up after a flood.
However, in general, you will need to do the following:
CALL YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY
When the immediate danger has passed, and there is no further risk to property, you should call your insurance company. You will need to provide them with the details of the water in the basement, particularly what was the cause, and what was the extent of the damage.
Be sure to tell the insurance company the truth – deliberately misleading them is illegal. You should also take as many photographs as possible to document the situation and provide evidence.
Depending on your policy and the cause of the damage, you may be eligible to recoup some – or all – of the costs of the damage.
Most don’t cover damage caused by flooding (for that, you will need to buy flood insurance).
As a general rule
If the damage was caused from within your home, it’s covered; if it was caused by external factors, it’s not covered. Obviously, this is dependent on whether or not the damage was caused by negligence – if you left the freezer compartment door open and it flooded, you’re unlikely to get an insurance payout.
In the long term, the damage caused by water can continue even after the water has been removed. Therefore, once the water has been shut off, and things have returned to relative normality, it’s time to do some long-term mitigation, remediation, and prevention.
Failure to take adequate steps to prevent flooding again is likely to prevent you from being able to claim on your insurance next time – meaning you’d be out of pocket for all damage.
MOLD REMEDIATION EXPERT
Mold is one of the most common consequences of a basement flooding. Mold spores thrive in damp conditions and can very easily spread throughout your home. Once it has spread into other parts of your home, the cost of mold remediation increases rapidly. Addressing the potential for mold quickly is therefore imperative.
A mold and mildew remediation expert will be able to help you with the cleanup process, with specific reference to preventing the spread of harmful fungus throughout your home. If you suspect the presence of mold (particularly black mold) you should immediately call in a professional. The presence of mold is usually indicated by a strong musty smell.
Even if you have no direct proof of the presence of mold, it is usually preferable to call in a mold remediation expert for an inspection. They will be able to let you know whether mold has started to form and the things you can do to prevent the chances of mold taking hold (which usually involves keeping the area dry and using a dehumidifier).
Ultimately, your goal in the rebuilding process is to also prevent a recurrence of the flooding. It is likely, therefore, that you will want to consult with a waterproofing specialist. These usually work in tandem with a plumber or a remediation expert to provide you with advice on how to keep your basement water-free.
If the water was caused by runoff from your yard or a particularly heavy storm, it’s likely that the waterproofing specialist will be the only professional you need in the medium to long term. Their job will be to guide you on how to encapsulate your basement. This will usually involve identifying the immediate source of the water’s entry, followed by more expansive long-term steps that will permanently waterproof your basement.
According to the US insurance industry, the average cost of a home water damage insurance claim is just under $7,000. That means that there can be some serious damage that takes place from something as seemingly innocuous as water. Getting the right professionals on the job at the right time can be the difference between superficial water damage and a major home disaster, with serious restructuring required.
An important point to make is that many homeowners ‘take their foot off the gas’ when the immediate danger has passed and the water has been removed. However, the long-term damage from mold is potentially far greater than the short-term damage from water.
Mold issues can spread and affect every room of your house. Furthermore, if you don’t take steps to prevent flooding again, you may waive your right to an insurance payout were it to recur.
As with so much when it comes to homes, it is crucial to think long-term.