How do you deal with a flooded basement? Stop crying, find the source and stop it from happening again!
“Mama! The basement floor is wet!”
It’s an awful feeling.
Even if it’s a cement basement, or the horrendous mess of outdoor-carpet-glued-on-cement that we inherited in our new home, it’s an awful feeling.
My heart sank as I thought about all the things that were sitting on the basement floor, and the prospect of figuring out exactly where the leak came from – oh, I wasn’t looking forward to that at all! We had just moved in the house a month earlier and we still didn’t even know how to turn off the well pump.
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When yours is a finished basement, used as a play area or entertainment space, then you probably have a wall to wall carpet down there, with furniture sitting on it. Our flooded basement room was just full of stored food … you know, nothing important!
Water in the basement + carpet = lingering moisture, mess, musty smell… and eventually, mold.
If you’ve never had a problem with basement drainage before, then you’ve got some researching and investigating to do. If the basement leaked this time, that means it’s going to leak again – maybe soon – unless you figure out what happened.
It can seem nearly impossible to track down the source of the incoming water. When ours flooded, all we could tell at first was that it came out of the walls. But where was the source?
Don’t worry – there are some things you can do to help solve the problem. Let’s make sure we all know what to do when we get hit with a flooded basement.
Table of Contents
A flooded basement starts with a leak!
What part of the basement is wet?
Start by investigating whatever’s in the immediate area.
Is it a cracked water pipe?
A hose connection gone bad?
Or is the water coming in from a crack in the foundation wall?
This first clue will help you figure out what to do next. You may have to call a plumber, a foundation expert, or a water mitigation specialist. They’ll be able to guide you from this point on, so you can solve your problem, but being able to locate the source of the leak is the first step.
If you can’t seem to locate the source of the leak from inside, then your next step is to go outside.
Take a look at your gutters.
The gutters line the edges of your roof. Water collects in them and then flows into the drain pipes and down to the ground. Where does the water go next after this?
If you’ve never paid attention, now is a good time to start.
Look at your gutters
The best time to check your gutters is while it’s actually raining.
Next time you get a good downpour, go outside with your camera or phone – and someone to hold the umbrella!
Look to see if the water is flowing properly. Is it pouring over the sides of the gutter? That’s bad – it could mean that debris or an obstruction of some kind is blocking the proper flow of water.
Do you see water drizzling down from a hole where a screw once was?
Small problems can quickly become big ones when it comes to water, which might be why you now have a flooded basement!
Is something stuck in your gutter?
If you have tall trees on your property, it’s quite likely for something to get stuck in your gutter and need removal. Figuring this out needs a birds-eye view of your gutters.
That’s fine if you live in a bungalow, or if you’re very comfortable with ladder-climbing and roof-walking.
For most of us, though, inspecting the gutters from above requires a gutter professional. While she’s up there, your gutter expert can also tell you if it’s time to make some repairs or maybe even replace your gutters if they’re old and worn out.
What do the down spouts look like?
Some people bury their gutter down spouts in the ground where the rain water collects in a mini holding tank.
Others use a little pan or gutter tray (it looks like a small slide – some call this a “gutter down spout splash block”) to route the water away from their house. They’re not very expensive.
It’s possible that you had a splash block at the end of your drain pipe, but it got somehow moved out of the way.
This may have allowed the water to pool close to the foundation of your house and make its way in through cracks, which led to your flooded basement.
Maybe you have a water barrel, if you live in a place that allows the collection of rainwater? In that case, is your rain barrel overflowing – again, wetting and damaging the foundation of your house?
Examine the foundation of your home
Look for cracks in the foundation that may have worsened with the possible shifting of the ground beneath your home.
How does the soil around the perimeter of your house look?
Is it mounded up in a way that would allow water to collect at the base and flow toward the foundation?
Use a garden shovel to dig around the soil at the perimeter of your home.
Landscaping can be a contributing factor, especially if you have large mounds of mulch piling up around the edges of your house.
You may be surprised at what you find at the place where the water came into your basement. It could be a channel of water that made its way in through some loose soil and continued along the foundation wall and in through a crack. You can actually remedy this type of situation.
First you need to fill any cracks in your foundation. You can do this using a special caulk that’s available at home improvement stores.
Tamp down the soil. The soil around the perimeter of your home should be well packed. The tighter packed and more clay-like it is, the less likely rain water will pool at the foundation and make its way in through cracks.
You can purchase extra bagged soil and use a tamper to make sure the soil is packed as tightly as possible. You may have to remove some landscaping in order to do this correctly.
Better to have fewer plants than a wet and moldy basement that smells bad, ruins your belongings and makes your family sick!
Replace mulch beds with small stones
Mulch holds moisture, which is a good thing in your garden.
It’s not a good thing piled up against your foundation, especially if it’s mounded too high and too close.
If you have mulch against the side of your house, you should replace it with small stones. This helps to keep water away from your house, and it also prevents termites and other pests.
Add a down spout extension
Attach heavy duty tubing to the drain pipes to help channel water away from your home.
To do this, you’ll need to measure your drain pipe so you’ll know what diameter tubing or piping to purchase.
The length of the tubing or piping should be about 3 feet. This is enough for the water to run through but not become stagnant in the piping because it’s too long to expel. Most home improvement stores carry down spout extension kits designed especially for this purpose.
Check the flow of rainfall
Next time it rains, get outside and observe where the rain falls now that you’ve made some changes.
Is it still drizzling or pouring over the sides of your gutters? Gutters are there to help the water from getting in through the basement of your home. If they aren’t functioning properly then as mentioned earlier, it’s time for cleaning and maintenance – and possibly replacement. Gutters are relatively inexpensive, while basement foundations are not, so don’t be “penny wise and pound foolish”
If you’ve done a good job rigging up your down spouts so that no water is allowed to collect at the base of the spout, then the next good rain will confirm this. Your added down spout extension pipe will channel the water away from your house so that the basement stays nice and dry.
So now you’ve figured out the source of your flooded basement, tracked down the cause, and hopefully fixed it!
The next step is going to be taking care of that wet mess the flood left you.