We’ve been experiencing a lot of rain this week, and we’ve received a number of calls from people who found water in their basement. When there is heavy and excessive rain, water can make its way into your basement and cause all sorts of damage. There’s a number of ways to prevent or resolve this issue.
Basements affected by water damage is a huge problem, particularly in older homes. The first step in resolving the issue is to identify the source of the water that’s getting in. It could be one of a number of reasons.
Foundation Leaks - Foundation leaks are a very common source of water damage in basements. Water from outside your home will get in through joints, cracks, and even leaking tie rod holes.
Windows and Window Wells - Slightly less common are basement window leaks, particularly window wells. Wells, especially those without covers, can fill up with rain water, then leak in through the egress window.
Flooding - If you live in a flood zone or if there is extreme downpours, entire neighborhoods can experience flooding, causing basements, crawlspaces, and even main floors to fill with water.
Other Sources - There are many other ways water can get into your basement, such as broken pipes, malfunctioning appliances, or damaged water lines, though these aren’t necessarily caused by heavy rain.
Once you find water in your basement, it’s important to act fast. The water is just the initial problem - it can quickly cause secondary damage if left alone for too long. Some of these forms of secondary water damage can be:
Mold/Microbial Growth - Mold can begin to grow in as little as 24-72 hours, and you may not even be able to see it right away when it starts to grow. Mold can cause significant health issues for you and your family, and if more spores get into your HVAC system, they can travel throughout the rest of your home.
Structural Damage - In even short amounts of time, standing water can cause all sorts of structural damage, such as delaminating carpet, soggy drywall, rotting wood, and hard to remove staining.
Foul Odors - Water can cause repugnant odors in your basement. If left alone long enough, these odors can even spread into other areas of your home.
After finding water in your basement, there’s a 4 (sometimes 5) step process you should follow. This includes extraction, drying, cleaning, deodorizing, and if necessary, perform structural repairs.
Extraction - Extraction is simply the removal of the standing water. If it’s a small puddle, you can probably clean it up with towels, though you may want to use rubber gloves and old towels you don’t mind throwing out if it’s unsanitary water. If it’s more than a small area, you’ll probably want to call a professional water damage restoration company, who will have the necessary tools to extract excess water.
Fun Fact: A single inch of water in a 1,000 square foot basement is roughly 750 gallons of water. That’s a lot of trips up and down the stairs with a 5-gallon bucket.
Drying - After the standing water is extracted, you should set up some fans and a dehumidifier to dry the remaining excess moisture. The fans help circulate the air, bringing moisture out of material surfaces. The dehumidifier takes the water out of the air, which can then be dumped into a drain. Again, if there was excessive water, it’s best to call a professional water damage restoration company, who will have heavy duty air movers and dehumidifiers to ensure all excess moisture is removed.
Cleaning - It’s important to clean the areas that were affected by the water once it’s gone. We recommend using an anti-microbial product such as Benefect, which is an effective anti-microbial, but it’s safe enough that you can actually drink it.
Deodorizing - While this step is usually performed during the cleaning phase, it’s always good to deodorize the affected area to prevent/remove foul odors.
Structural Repairs - If the water negatively affected any building materials (carpet, drywall, etc.), it may be necessary to perform structural repairs. This could include tearing out carpet and pad, sections of drywall, or other affected materials like cabinetry.
Note: If removing drywall, you can often use a chalk line to remove just the bottom 1 or 2 feet of drywall that was affected. If the water didn’t wick too far up the wall, the lowest 1-2 feet are usually the only part that was affected, and you can just cut out that part for replacement instead of tearing out the whole wall.
If it’s a smaller amount of water (3-4 towel cleanup or less), you can probably take care of it yourself. The main exceptions to this are: (1) If it’s extremely unsanitary water considered Category 3 water; or (2) If you’ve found mold growth. If it’s unsanitary water or if you’ve found mold, it’s best to call in a professional.
If it’s anything more than a puddle, it’s best to call a water damage restoration expert. They’ll have tools to measure the moisture in the air and various building materials, infrared cameras to detect water in hidden areas such as wall cavities or under cabinets, and the expertise to properly restore your basement to prevent potential mold and microbial growth.