What to do when your basement floods
Flooded basements are a headache to homeowners, but here’s what you need to know:
People with flooded basements need to act fast.
Experts say the most important thing is personal safety. Don’t just wade into standing water.
“The first thing you ought to do is be very careful about electrical outlets,” Carter said. “You don’t want to go down there and get electrocuted.”
- If basement water is deep enough to reach outlets, the first thing is to shut off power — if you can safely get to the fuse box.
- Be aware of natural gas leaks (rotten egg smell).
- Remove standing water with a pump or a wet vacuum.
- Remove carpet and padding before mold begins to grow.
- Buy or rent fans or industrial blowers and possibly a dehumidifier.
- Unclog the floor drain, if necessary.
- Call the insurance company.
Experts also advise homeowners to consider getting a sump pump and testing it periodically.
Flooded basements also mean high traffic for businesses that offer help.
On a normal day, Dry Basement Inc. gets about 30 calls for service. During epic rains in August 2017, the Kansas City company received about 700.
“We’ve had this before, but it’s been several years,” said company president Otto Fleck, who has been in the wet basement business for more than four decades. He had to think back to the great flood years of 1993 and 1977 for comparisons.
Fleck said his company is capable of handling roughly 120 appointments a day. But if a flooded basement is unfinished, the homeowner should keep a record of where they saw the leak for repairs later.
Foundation businesses will also experience heavy call volume.
The city’s Water Services Department said part of the reason is rainwater can get into the sanitary sewer system.
“It can come from residential sump pumps and downspouts that are connected to the sewer system,” said spokeswoman Brooke Givens. “Homeowners can lessen the impact by disconnecting those sources from the sewer system.”
Kansas City has a limited-time Keep Out the Rain KC program to help homeowners find and fix those connections for free. It is part of the federally mandated consent decree to reduce sewer overflows.
Water can find its way into home foundations through cracks, as well. Engineers say it is important that the ground around the exterior slopes away from the home and not toward it. That is particularly true in the Kansas City area, where the soil contains a lot of clay. Wet clay expands and puts pressure on the foundation walls, which can lead to cracks.
“Poor water runoff allows rainwater to collect near foundation walls,” according to Foundation Engineering Specialists. “Clay has about twice the lateral pressure of dry soil.”
Foundation repair, proper drainage and unclogged gutters are important things to address before the next heavy rain.
“I’ve been in basements with standing water where the sump pump was unplugged because it made noise at night,” Carter said. “You’re just asking for flooding.”
Editor’s note: This story was originally published Aug. 24, 2017.