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Many families today might be dealing with water in their basement. My heart goes out to you. We got just a trickle this time, but a few years ago we had two solid inches of water throughout our basement. Here’s what to do if that is your situation today.
If you are lucky enough to have a sump pump, working electric, and just a little bit of water in an otherwise dry basement, then use a broom or mop to chase the water over to your sump pump so it can leave your basement right away. You can also use a wet/dry vac to evacuate the water. Remove the water right away to minimize the chance of mold and mildew growing.
If your floor is entirely covered with water, you almost certainly want to contact 911 and your insurance company. There is a possibility that the water is electrified, so don’t step in it. If you have an oil tank in the basement or if you store paint and chemicals down there, there is a good chance of contamination in the water, and you won’t want to walk in those chemicals. Your insurance company will arrange for pumps to be brought in and evacuate the water outside and arrange for fans and drying equipment. Wear appropriate safety equipment, including boots, gloves, and a face mask to protect yourself.
It’s a lot easier to get rid of stuff when it is wet. If you’ve been looking for a chance to downsize your basement stash, you just got it. You might be sad that things got ruined, but most people don’t want to keep items once they see them soggy.
It probably doesn’t seem like a fun job for today, but its important to get wet items out before they become moldy. Bag up discarded items and move them outside until trash day.
Organic items are the most at risk when water invades your basement. Be sure to locate everything that is made of paper, fabric, wood, leather, reeds, florals, and similar materials.
Pictures and photos are some of the most fragile items. If your photos have gotten wet, be sure to bring them to safety, separate them from each other, and lay them in a single layer on towels where they can dry. If they are in albums, separate them from each other and possibly their pages so they can fully dry. Once dry, you may need to press them under books to straighten them. If they are valuable, consider sending them out to a company like FotoBridge or ScanDigital to be digitally preserved.
Books and papers that get wet need to be immediately discarded or dried. Nearly all papers and soft covered books can be recycled. Hardcover books must have the covers removed in order to be recycled. The books that you wish to save should be opened and put in front of moving air, like that from a fan.
Clothing should be washed immediately to see what can be salvaged. Even if clothing didn’t get wet, it’s a good idea to remove it from the basement to minimize mildew while the space is drying. Items that can’t be washed at home should be sent to a professional cleaners. Your insurance may pay the bill.
Other treasures sometimes found in the basement should be preserved according to best practices, like those found in the book Saving Stuff by Don Williams and Louisa Jaggar.
Experts say that packaged food that comes in contact with flood waters should be thrown out. Even sealed bagged, bottled, and canned items are better tossed than consumed due to microorganisms that pass onto the packaging.
Carpet in a wet basement is never a good idea. Carpet should be removed and professionally dried before it is returned to its spot. If you are ready to make a change, a product like FLOR squares might be a good alternative.
Although metal shelves and plastic bins seem like a good idea, they are not secure from water. Dry off metal shelves and cans so they won’t rust. Check inside plastic bins to be sure water didn’t seep in, damaging items inside.
If your basement was breached in just a key few spots, such as through a windowsill or in a particular spot in the foundation, be sure to mark that spot using a pencil or marker. That way, when you dry out, you can take steps to fix the problem or have a waterproofing company be sure to fix those areas.
Once the water is gone, set up a few household fans to move the air and speed the drying process. Keep cords off the floor, if possible, always a good practice in the basement. And if you don’t already have one, add a dehumidifier to your basement. We bought a 65 pint dehumidifier from Best Hardware in Wayne earlier this year, and it was one of our best investments this year.