Basements experience water damage more than almost any other area in the home. This occurs for several reasons. Basements are partially underground, so the foundation that forms the floor and walls of the basement has contact with groundwater and rainwater, which can leak inside. Basements often house appliances like a washing machine, HVAC systems or the water heater that use large amounts of water. And basements are usually the access spot for the home’s water lines and sewage pipes. All of these factors put your home at risk for water damage in the basement.
Water may be leaking into your basement without your knowledge. If you notice a damp, musty smell, see mold or stains on the walls or floor, or see a white powdery substance called efflorescence on the walls, you likely have a water problem somewhere in your basement.
Whether it’s a small area of moisture or a major flood, you must address any water damage in your basement immediately or your problems are going to get much worse.
Water is a problem no matter how it gets in. The water will naturally flow towards the lowest area of your basement, so the damage may be extensive, and can occur very quickly. It can seep under flooring and behind walls and create damage that isn’t visible to the naked eye. If you get water in your basement, you may have damage to the foundation, flooring, insulation, walls, furniture, and more.
Other risks come along with water that gets into your basement. Water can degrade the foundation and other building materials. The water may be sewage backup or floodwaters that are contaminated and pose health problems. In addition, moisture in your basement can cause mold to grow. Mold is a major problem for homeowners. It can damage your home, your belongings and your health. Mold remediation – the process of removing the mold and repairing the damage – can be a very expensive project.
In addition to dealing with the water damage in your basement, you may be facing appliance repairs, foundation repairs, or plumbing repairs to prevent continued and future water damage.
If at all possible, you must stop the flow of water into your basement. Know where your main water shutoff valve is, so that in the event of a burst pipe or broken water heater, you can stop the water quickly. Use buckets to collect water that rushes in during a storm or flood. Fix a broken sump pump that is allowing water to back up into your basement.
Next, remove the water. A sump pump, wet-dry vacuum, or mop and bucket are some of the tools you can use to remove water. You may choose to rent a professional grade pump to remove large amounts of water. Then you’ll need to thoroughly dry the area. Absorb remaining visible moisture with towels, then run fans and dehumidifiers to circulate air and eliminate moisture from the air and materials. Drying the basement is critical to avoid the growth of mold. Any damp area is a potential place for mold to take hold, and once that happens, cleanup gets harder and more expensive.
Now you can sanitize areas that experienced water damage by cleaning with a household cleaner such as Seventh Generation or Fantastic. This will also help prevent mold growth or remove small amounts of mold, if present. More extensive mold growth may need to be dealt with by a professional mold expert.
Finally, your basement is ready for any reconstruction. Perform remaining repairs to the source of the water, such as repairing cracks in the foundation, waterproofing the foundation, fixing plumbing problems, and replacing broken appliances. Flooring and drywall may need to be replaced, as well as furniture and personal belongings.
Always maintain your foundation. Inspect it annually for cracks, and repair cracks greater than 1/16th of an inch as soon as possible. If your basement hasn’t been professionally waterproofed, call a contractor who can perform this work. Basement windows should be properly sealed so they don’t allow water to leak inside. Outside, watch out for water that pools near the foundation during rainstorms. Fix the grading of your property and extend downspouts to direct water away from your home.
Maintain appliances to prevent leaks and major floods. If you see a small leak in an old water heater, don’t wait: replace it right away before things get worse. Check to make sure water lines that go into your washing machine are secure. And get your HVAC inspected and maintained according to the manufacturer’s recommended schedule.
Make sure pipes along exterior walls are insulated and that your basement temperature is warm enough to avoid freezing pipes in the winter.
Because basements tend to be damp, run a dehumidifier especially during warm summer months. You need to keep humidity levels below 50% to prevent the growth of mold.
If you use your basement for storage, choose plastic bins instead of cardboard boxes to protect your belongings from water damage. Valuables can be lost forever if they aren’t protected from water.
If the cleanup is too large for you to handle yourself, you can get immediate, 24-hour assistance from a local professional by calling 877-960-0491. You will be connected to a local water damage expert that can answer your questions and cleanup and repair the damage. If your claim is covered by homeowners insurance, they will work directly with your insurance company for payment.