1. Try Not to Panic
Without sounding trite, it’s important to try to keep calm when your basement floods. Then, you should focus on your personal safety. Make sure grounded electrical appliances or devices are unplugged in the wet area. If they are plugged in, go to your electrical panel to kill the power to them, then unplug them if possible. Next, focus on getting as many of your water-sensitive goods out of the flooded area, and then determine how the water is getting in. NOTE: Freezer and refrigerator contents may need to be removed.
At this point, it’s useful to know that if the water is rainwater coming in through your foundation because of improperly placed downspouts or obstructed eaves troughs, it can continue to come in for as long as 48 hours after the rain has stopped falling. In this scenario, there’s not much point in paying someone to start drying out your basement until the water has stopped coming in.
2. Call the Right Professionals
Many carpet cleaners claim to have the skills and equipment necessary to fix a wet basement. BEWARE! In most cases, the cleaner is motivated to “help” you because they see an opportunity to make BIG MONEY from your misfortune.
When water gets into their basement (and into their carpet), most people are focused on getting the water “sucked up.” However, fixing a wet basement usually requires more than simply extracting the flood water from the face of the carpet:
1. Unless the water has come from a broken pipe inside the room, most often the water has come through the ground, and through at least one exterior wall (and sometimes some interior walls as well). When this happens, it is just as important to dry out and decontaminate the affected walls as it is to attend to the wet flooring. Wet walls are susceptible to mould, and because of the health hazards associated with inhaling mould spores, it is extremely important that wet walls be located, their interiors exposed, and all their components dried as quickly as possible.
2. If the water has come through the ground, or if it’s rain water that has come in through a window, the water is carrying microbes. It’s important to kill microbes that have taken up residence in the flooring, or else you’ll have to live with a sour or musty smell emanating from the carpet and/or underpad. Microbes living directly in the carpet and on the surface of the concrete may be killed through a controlled application of an anti-fungal/anti-microbial. If there is an underpad below the carpet, it is generally saturated with microbial water, and has to be discarded.
3. If the water has come from a leak or broken pipe in the dump out part of the washing machine, the water is referred to as “grey water” and has to be treated much like water that comes in from outside: underpad has to be removed, concrete and carpet treated with an anti-fungal/anti-microbial, and all affected surfaces dried and cleaned.
4. If the water has come up through the sewer system, either from a floor drain back-up or any other kind of plumbing back-up, the affected materials (drywall, baseboards and flooring) have to be taken out and discarded, and then the remaining materials (studs, concrete) dried, disinfected and cleaned.
5. If the water has come from a broken fresh-water pipe inside the basement, then the water initially is not considered contaminated, so the focus is on drying the affected areas as soon as possible. If, in addition to this fresh-water flood, the carpet and underpad are new, usually the underpad and the carpet can both be dried and saved. However, if the carpet is in a previously soiled condition and is flooded with fresh water, often the carpet and underpad become septic after flooding. This can only be determined by a professional in flood restoration.
The rapid drying of a wet structure like the basement of a home is generally accomplished through the use of high-powered air movers (called “dryers”), heat, and dehumidifiers. The wet inspection of walls is done with infra-red cameras and moisture meters, and the mapping of the wet and dry areas of the walls is done using coloured dots. You might also see a professional removing the wet baseboards of the affected walls, and wet portions of drywall as well.
WATCH OUT for the carpet cleaner that shows up to your flood job, extracts some water out of the wet carpet and then installs drying equipment for numbers of days. These “professionals” only look like they are helping you. They are not following the science of drying structures, and instead are focused on charging you or your insurance company for the use of their equipment. Always ask your “cleaner” if they have certification in Advanced Structural Drying; otherwise, BEWARE!!
Our owner, Paolo Mancuso, in addition to having Advanced Structural Drying certification, is also certified in the use of Infrared Thermography for wet structure inspection, and has over a dozen years of experience and training in advanced structural drying. He is one of the few restorers in Canada who has done the one week intensive program of studies at the Dri-Ease Institute in Washington, which uses a flood house for both theoretical and practical training.