There’s little more horrifying as a home- or commercial building owner than walking into a basement filled up to your ankles with water. It’s worse than any scary movie scenario served up in the basement. (Side note: why do all the worst scenes always happen in the basement? But we digress.) While we’d like to tell you that basement flooding hardly ever happens, and that it will never happen to you and your home or business, we’d be lying if we did. Basement floods happen. A lot. Nobody is immune: residential properties, commercial properties, rental properties. Basement floods happen. This is a universal truth we must all live with, and prepare for so that when they do happen, we know exactly what to do.

Unlike in horror movies where the answer is to just never go down into the basement, when it comes to basement flooding, knowledge of what lurks beneath is key. So, to help you be brave and prepare you for whatever lies down there, we’ve put together a step by step guide of exactly what to do if you find yourself ankle-deep in your own waterlogged home-horror-movie basement scene – all of which happen before you call for a plumber.

Without further ado, herewith the eight steps you need to take before calling a plumber to rescue you from your flooded basement hell.

Step 1: Don’t wade in

You might be surprised to find that Step 1 isn’t ‘Call the plumber immediately!’ And, yes, you’re probably surprised by “Don’t wade in” because we’re the ones who told you you must go down there in the first place. But once you arrive to see water where no water should be, for goodness sake back away. Don’t get your feet wet, don’t test the waters, don’t pass Go, don’t collect $200! Before you wade in where angels fear to tread (water), you need to first answer these two crucial questions:

  1. Do you need to walk through water to turn off the electricity to your basement?
  2. Is there more than two feet of standing water turning your basement floor into significantly more than a paddling pool?

If the answer to either of these questions is yes, turn around and go call for help.

The biggest danger with a flooded basement is the potential for electric shock or electrocution, which is potentially lethal. If the flood water has risen to anywhere near an electrical socket, there’s a good chance it’s got electric current running through it. And you don’t need to be a plumber or an electrician to know the deadly danger in that. You need to turn your electricity off completely at the main source before going into your basement, so if your mains are down there too, you’re going to need professional help to get it done safely.

Even without the chance of deadly electric shock, the water in your basement might be sewage water. Sewage water is dirty water. The kind of bacteria-filled dirt that could make you really sick. Yet another reason to stay out until you’ve read through all eight steps.

Step #2: Gear up and shut ‘er down

While we might be stating the obvious, by this stage you should also have shut off the water! Head straight to the main water supply and make it so.

Then, if you find you are able to make your way safely through your basement without walking in any water and electrocuting yourself, it’s time to shut everything else down. Gear up with protective gear – thick, non-conductive, non-slip boots and gloves – and shut down all electricity to the basement as well as any appliances in it.

But remember, if walking through your basement means walking through water, shut your DIY impulses down and call an electrician immediately to turn off your electricity safely.

Step #3: Get your home insurer on the phone

Before you spend any money on flood fixes, DIY or otherwise, it’s wise to check in with your home insurance before the fact. Are you covered? And if so what exactly does your policy cover and how do you go about filing a claim?

By checking in with them early on in the process you can avoid any nasty financial surprises or fights down the line – just like the basement itself, it’s better to know what dangers and pitfalls lurk than have them sprung on you. Because, unfortunately, you might find that most basic homeowners insurance policies do not cover flooding or sewer backups. That said, there is a chance that some of the specific damages might be covered. As the saying goes, there’s no harm in asking, and you don’t get what you don’t ask for.

Step #4: Identify the problem

It’s now time to figure out the cause of your waterlogged problem. Of course, if it’s been storming and your entire neighbourhood is under water, you don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to deduce the cause of your basement flood. Once the rain has stopped, scan your basement to inspect for leaks through the walls, floors, foundation, or windows, all indicators that the storm caused too much water to build up around the outside of your basement.

No storm to blame it on? It could be a burst or leaking pipe, a backed up sewer (trust us, you’ll nose, erm know, if it’s this one), a bust appliance hose (sometimes it really is that simple), or a foundation leak allowing ground water through.

If you can’t figure it out, do call in the professionals, such as an experienced plumber, to help, because how you deal with your problem, and the people you get in to ultimately fix it, depends on this diagnosis.

Step #5: Mop it up, dry it out

The longer you leave the water down there, the more potential for harmful mould and bacteria to build, which, in turn, has potential for long-term damage and health side effects. As soon as it’s safe to do so – you’ve followed all the steps above and have figured out the root evil – you should set to work removing the standing water from your basement floor. A pool pump, a trash pump, a hand-crank pump, a submersible pump, a wet vacuum, or even a good old bucket, mop and all the towels in the house… do whatever it takes to get things dried up.

It’s also a good idea to open basement doors and windows, if you have them, to allow air to move freely through, which will aid with both the drying process and getting rid of any noxious (and obnoxious) odours that may have accompanied the flooding.

Oh, and if you had a sump pump down there but fat lot of good that did you, you need to figure out why it failed and how to make sure it doesn’t let you down again. For this you will need to call in one of our expert plumbers.

Step #6: Assess, remove, replace

You can now go ahead and assess the damage to everything that was down in your basement, from the walls to the furniture to the boxes of storage you’d been planning to stash somewhere safe for the last five years. You know the ones.

Start by removing all the movable stuff – furniture, rugs, those boxes – from the basement and leaving them to dry out completely somewhere else. Don’t leave them in the basement to dry, there’s still too much moisture down there. Ideal case scenario? Take them outside to get fresh air and sun. After 48 hours, begin checking for mold and mildew and if you find any, bin it. There’s no place for sentiment when mold comes a-calling.

Once those are out of the way, inspect the floors and walls: wet carpet and drywall will have to go – again, be ruthless – as these are breeding grounds for bacteria and mold.

Step #7: Vent (your feelings and your basement), clean and sanitize

On top of opening doors and windows if you have them, to speed the drying process up you need to generate really decent airflow through your basement for at least three to five days. Rent some high-powered fans, throw in a couple of dehumidifiers, and really get that air circulating through the entire space. HEPA air purifiers are also a really good idea at this point – now is not the time to take chances with your home and health.

Once everything is 100% dry, set to cleaning it like you’ve never cleaned anything in your life before. Clean every single thing that was down there. From corner to corner, nook and cranny to nook and cranny, every stick of furniture, every appliance. Every. Single. Thing. Use a medical-grade sanitizing cleaner and an anti-mildew spray. Leave no surface uncleaned, no corner unsprayed.

Step #8: Don’t let it happen again

While basement flooding can, and does, happen out of the blue, and sometimes more than once, there are steps you can take and preventative measures you can put in place to try avoid another basement scary story. Top tips from the professionals?

  • Clean your gutters – now, and regularly
  • Get your sewer lines inspected for invading tree roots and other blockages – set a calendar reminder to get this done annually
  • Snake your indoor pipes annually – another reminder for your calendar
  • Get a sump pump professionally installed and put on a regular maintenance plan
  • Move any rain downspouts at least five feet away from your foundation
  • Get your walls properly checked for cracks and weak spots
  • Call in the professionals to get proper repairs and waterproofing done where necessary

Step #9: Call in the professionals

Finally, calling in the professionals, like the expert emergency plumbers at Urban Water Works, is never a bad idea. Basement flooding can be incredibly stressful, and dangerous, but we can take you through it safely and remove some of that stress. We’ve seen it all before, we know how to handle every aspect of it, and we know just what to do to limit the chances of it happening again. The Urban Water Works team has the equipment, the expertise and the energy to get your flooding problem put out to dry and you back to reserving your basement horror stories for scenes from the big screen.

Urban Water Works serves Burnaby, Vancouver, the North Shore, New Westminster, the Greater Vancouver area, and surrounding areas in British Columbia.
Call Urban Water Works, your local Vancouver, BC, drainage and flooding experts, today on 604-790-8993 or contact us via our easy online form and we’ll get back to you ASAP.