You've probably heard the saying: There are two types of basements—those that have flooded before, and those that have yet to flood.
It's a simple matter of physics. Water wants to move downward, and basements give it a place to go. You know that old myth about lightning never striking the same place twice? It's especially untrue about flooding, which can strike the same cellar again and again.
Basement flooding can occur due to extreme weather, burst pipes, or backed-up drains. It's impossible to predict or prevent entirely, but what you can do is learn from the experience so you'll have less damage to deal with the next time around.
Here are five common lessons homeowners have learned after water invaded their basement.
Lesson 1: Cardboard boxes are not waterproof.
It seems like common sense, yet many people continue to store their belongings in cardboard boxes. Not only do these allow water to seep in and damage their contents, but they permit the growth of mold. Plus, hauling your stuff upstairs in boxes with sopping wet bottoms is a recipe for further mess and destruction! Instead, storing your possessions in airtight plastic containers keeps everything safer and makes cleanup much easier.
Lesson 2: Store your valuables off the floor.
It only takes one trip down to a flooded basement to realize a lot of damage could have been prevented by following this simple guideline. All items—especially furniture—should be stored at least one foot off the floor. Place everything on top of blocks or some other structure to keep it out of reach of water seepage.
You might also consider keeping your irreplaceable photos, documents and memorabilia elsewhere in the house. Flood damaged books and wet documents can be restored, but it makes more sense to stash them somewhere less prone to water leakage.
Lesson 3: Time is of the essence.
Anyone who has dealt with a flooded basement knows water damage isn't the only culprit you'll have to face. Wet books, documents and boxes also become the perfect breeding ground for mold. Mold can grow rapidly, especially in a high-humidity environment, and it's a health hazard as well a threat to your property. It's important to dry out all your belongings as quickly as possible.
If you plan to call in professionals to help restore wet documents and water damaged photos, the first 24 hours are crucial. In many cases, your flood damaged documents can be recovered if you respond quickly. When seeking the help of water damage restoration professionals, keep in mind that if your basement has flooded, it's likely other people are facing the same catastrophe. Act immediately to ensure the fastest service possible.
Lesson 4: Keep fans and a dehumidifier handy.
Once the water is pumped out or mopped up, ensuring proper air circulation is essential to drying out your basement and preventing mold growth. Having extra fans available to ventilate the area will help tremendously with the drying process. A dehumidifier is also a good idea for reducing the amount of moisture in the air.
Panic strikes when you descend the stairs to find your belongings swimming in a puddle. By being prepared with the tools necessary to deal with the mess, you'll be able to respond more quickly and have less to worry about.
Lesson 5: Add flood prevention to your seasonal to-do list.
A few simple checks can help prevent disaster from striking. Make it a priority to examine your pipes each season, particularly when heading into winter, and perform any necessary weatherization. It's also a good idea to monitor your rain gutters to make sure they aren't getting clogged.
Other household inspections that can help avert water damage in your home: Check washing machine hoses regularly for bulging, cracking, fraying, and leaks around hose ends; examine toilets and bathroom sinks for leaks or clogged drains; periodically check under the kitchen sink for leaks where the dishwasher hose connects to the water supply; and if your refrigerator has an icemaker, make sure the hose is securely attached to the water supply line.
Even if you follow these guidelines, there's no guarantee you won't find yourself facing a flooded cellar. But at least you'll have the knowledge that you've done everything you can to protect your belongings.
~Nicole Krueger, 2009