Yesterday we had a downpour, the likes of which I haven’t seen since I lived in Mexico City 15 years ago. It was a downpour that brought 80mm of rain in under an hour, which caused problems and chaos galore throughout the city. Toilets, drainpipes and sewers overflowed, manhole covers blew off giving way to lovely geysers of brown sludgey water. And of course, it happened during rush hour!
I came home to find a flooded basement — we were lucky because we were spared sewer backup and our basement is only used for storage and laundry. Our neighbours came home to 6 inches of water in their finished, and now flooded basement. Fortunately, having experienced a similar flood seven years ago, they were prepared and went to work right away, unplugging electronics, moving furniture, pulling up the wall to wall carpeting and getting rid of the water, and cutting the first six inches of drywall away.
To their surprise and mine, a few of our neighbours said that they were okay and only had an inch of water sitting in their basement. They would wait for the insurance people to get there before taking action. Let’s be clear about a flooded basement — even an inch of water can do a lot of damage, especially if things are left sitting in it for a long period of time. The faster you attack the problem, the more likely you’ll be able to save items and the less damage the water will cause. The problem with still and dirty water is the potential for mold growth, not to mention bacteria build-up. Mold growth not only ruins walls, furniture, carpets, flooring, etc., it can lead to poor indoor air quality and cause respiratory problems including asthma, and can lead to severe illness. Preventing mold growth is key to keeping your basement’s air clean and healthy. So in addition to calling your insurance company, Here are a few tips to deal with your flooded basement and minimize the water damage.
- Disconnect the power, unplug any electronics, and remove it and all furniture and movable items immediately. The faster you get items out of water’s way, the more likely you’ll be able to save them. Definitely move all electrical items first, and if you can, turn off your power leading into the affected area, especially if water rises above electrical outlets. Pull up any carpets and underpadding, including wall to wall. You may be able to save the carpet, if you get it cleaned, however, it may shrink and be good as an area rug afterwards. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to save the underpadding, which acts like a sponge and absorbs a lot of water.
- Get rid of the water. There are several ways to get rid of the water, in our case we used old towels, a bucket and mop. If I’d had a wet/dry Shopvac I would have used that, being very careful to plug it into outlets away from any water source. Water and electricity don’t mix! Other people were renting sump pumps from Home Depot. Getting rid of all the water is the most important thing you can do to prevent mold growth. If the water is coming out of your drains, dump buckets of water on your lawn so the ground can soak it up. Don’t throw it down the sewer, it will just recirculate into yours or your neighbour’s house.
Dry out the affected area. Once you’ve mopped up all the water, use fans, a dehumidifier to help dry out the area. If it’s stopped raining open doors and windows to allow for air circulation and faster drying. You want to dry the area out as soon as possible. If you have a finished basement and the drywall was affected, you’ll probably have to cut away the areas that were touched by water. If you have baseboard trim, take it up first, and if it’s made from pressboard it will likely not be salvageable. If it was wood, you might be able to save it.
- Disinfect. After the area has dried out, including wood beams, insulation, drywall, etc., use a good disinfectant to get rid of any bacteria that might have come up through sewers, toilets, etc. My preference is Gloves Off Disinfectant, a non-toxic but powerful disinfectant, but there are several great eco-friendly options available at hardware stores. Disinfect all areas affected by the flood waters including walls and wood and non-upholstered furniture that was sitting in flood water.
- Prevent mold growth. After you’ve disinfected and let the basement thoroughly dry out, apply Concrobium throughout the affected area, according to directions. I can’t say enough good things about this product; it is non-toxic, made with distilled water and inorganic salts. You can use it on furniture, walls, floors, basically anything that is susceptible to mold growth. Once a thin layer of Concrobium is applied, let it dry overnight. As Concrobium dries, it forms a thin layer over any mold that may be growing and actually crushes the roots of the spores. Wherever it’s sprayed, it will prevent any mold from growing, providing continued resistance. If you’re spraying an entire room, you might want to consider renting a mister from a hardware store such as Home Depot. It’s easy to use and very fast. Note: I have absolutely no affiliation with Concrobium, I just really think it’s a fantastic product. It’s safe, non-toxic, and more effective on mold than bleach.