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Follow These Steps to Survive a Flooded Basement

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  1. 1. Notify Authorities
  2. 2. Protect Yourself and Family
  3. 3. Start Clean-up
  4.    3.1 Water Removal
  5.    3.2 Discard Trash
  6.    3.3 Sanitizing and Disinfecting
  7.    3.4 Ventilation and Drying
  8.    3.5. Mold Control
  9. 4. Find the Problem to Prevent Future Flooding

flooded basement survival guide

As we all know, life tends to throw us curves every once in a while. You’ve taken all the steps to prevent basement flooding, like installing a sump pump, cleaning out your gutters, making sure you’ve got the proper drainage and all the things recommended by the experts. You feel pretty good about being proactive and assume your basement will be dry for years to come – and then it isn’t.

There could be any number of reasons why your treasured possessions are now floating in a foot of water. And, although the shock and disappointment you feel at seeing everything ruined is traumatic, there are some important steps you need to take in order to survive a flooded basement.

Notify Authorities

The first thing Toronto and GTA residents should do is contact 311 immediately. This emergency hotline is available 24-hours a day, seven days a week to alert City staff to a flooding problem. An inspector will come out to your home to assess the situation and try to determine the source of flooding. If it’s determined that the cause is related to public infrastructure or other problem under the City’s responsibility, a written claim can be filed to an insurance adjuster.

Next, contact your insurance company. Reporting property damage caused by the flooding as soon as possible will help identify what is needed to file a claim. Taking photos and retaining receipts for repair work and clean-ups will be necessary to recoup any dollars spent to restore your property and prevent further damage. If the water source is the result of leaking foundation walls, a blocked drain or some other problem on your property, repairs will be your responsibility and a personal insurance matter.

Protect Yourself and Family

family protection
A flooded basement can pose a serious risk to you and your family members. Precautions must be taken to ensure safety:

  • If you can, turn off electrical power to the basement, or at the very least, stay away from electrical equipment. Keep in mind that electric-powered sump pumps or sewage ejectors will no longer operate.
  • The pilot light on a hot water heater or furnace will likely be extinguished. If you smell gas, refrain from using powered equipment (including turning on light switches), leave the house immediately and call the gas company.
  • Make sure children and pets stay away from the area. While they may be curious to see what’s happening, the area can be extremely dangerous.
  • Don’t use sinks or toilets on any level of the home. Drain water may add to the problem and end up in your basement.
  • Wear protective gear such as coveralls, gloves, waterproof boots, mask and safety glasses. Contaminants carried in the flood water or sewer back-ups can be extremely dangerous. In addition, exposure to caustic cleaning agents or allergens found in the remnants left behind may cause serious health concerns.
  • Open the windows to get some fresh air circulation.

Start Clean-up

Water Removal

If you’re going to handle the clean-up yourself, you’ll need to rent or purchase some equipment and supplies. Depending on how much standing water is in your basement, the most urgent item on your list of things to do is get the water out. Three types of pumps are available for home use: semi-trash pumps, submersible pumps and roofers pumps. Residential-use, semi-trash pumps are typically gas powered with a 2-inch inlet/outlet for removal of water and small debris. The average output rate is approximately 158 gallons per minute. Remember, all a gas-powered equipment must remain outside with adequate ventilation to disburse carbon monoxide fumes. The discharge hose must also be run through a window, not the house, to prevent flooding your entire home in case of a hose leak. Submersible pumps vary in size and capacity but generally use a 2-inch hose and can pump around 60 GPM. They are run on electricity and sit on the basement floor under the water. Make sure you get one with sufficient vertical suction to raise the water well above pump level to drain outside a window. They are only capable of removing very small particles of debris so check the auger often to make sure it’s not plugged. A roofers pump is great for a small amount of water. It will remove water down to 1/8-inch and can accommodate a typical garden hose for output.

Discard Trash

Once the water has been extracted, you’ll find a lot of trash has been left behind. You’ll want to discard everything that has come in contact with water. That means removing carpeting and padding, upholstered furniture, mattresses, toys, drywall, insulation, curtains, wall coverings, paper products and any other items that can’t be sanitized. Any food from a freezer or refrigerator that hasn’t been kept cold for 24 hours should also be discarded. Any mud or other debris should also be shoveled out and removed from the space. Hose down the remaining dirt and use a scrub brush or broom to clean the rest of the area.

Sanitizing and Disinfecting

Now that your basement has been emptied, it’s important to sanitize all surfaces by washing them down with hot water and liquid detergent. A solution of 1 cup of bleach with 5 gallons of water to scrub the walls and floors will help combat mold and mildew growth. Be sure to never mix bleach with ammonia or other cleaning products as this will produce toxic fumes. For carpeting that has only been exposed to clean water (absent of outside flood waters or sewage), you may be able to salvage it by using a wet/dry shop vacuum. Start on one side and move systematically to cover all areas of the carpeting to remove excess water. A carpet steam cleaner used with mold-inhibiting chemicals is also recommended.

Ventilation and Drying

The next step after everything is cleaned and sanitized is to remove excess moisture, thoroughly dry and ventilate the area. You’ll need to make sure all wall studs and ceiling joists are completely dry before re-installing drywall or paneling. Open all windows, run fans, rent high-volume air blowers to disperse air over large areas including carpets and flooring, and run a dehumidifier. Dehumidifiers extract excess moisture from the air and deposit it in as water in a collector. You should connect a hose to it and drain it into your sump pump pit for continuous use. To remove noxious odours, use an ozone generator. It naturally sterilizes the air, destroys bacteria and viruses, and will leave your basement smelling fresh.

Mold Control

mold sample
By quickly cleaning and sterilizing all the basement surfaces, you’ve reduced the risk of mold growth significantly. However, there are many corners and crevices that may have been exposed that will require extra attention. Use of a fogger machine will atomize Concrobium mold control into a fine mist, evenly coat all areas of the room, eliminate and prevent mold growth, as well as remove musty odors. This is all done naturally and without using harmful chemicals.

Don’t forget to wash all clothing and equipment used during the clean-up in hot water and detergent/soap to disinfect it and prevent future exposure to dangerous toxins.

Find the Problem to Prevent Future Flooding

Now that you’ve cleaned up the mess, it’s time to find out why your basement flooded in the first place. The City of Toronto is making significant improvements to its underground system of pipes, sewers and catch basins. If your home is connected to this system, you may be able to reduce your future risks by isolating your home through the installation of a backwater valve or pipe severance and capping. Assistance programs are available to Toronto and GTA residents to offset the costs of labour and materials. Find more details of the Basement Flooding Protection Subsidy Program on our blog.

At this point, it is highly recommended you contact the professionals at Aquamaster Drain, Plumbing & Waterproofing for a complete evaluation. As full-service waterproofing specialists with over 20 years of experience, we’ll provide a comprehensive inspection, determine your risk for future flooding and give you expert advice for improvements needed. Keep your family and possessions safe, call Aquamaster today.

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