carpet and padding being removed from floor

What to Do if Your Basement Floods

Updated March 17, 2021 . AmFam Team

Learn what to do if your basement floods and the immediate steps to take to minimize and assess the damage.

When severe weather hits and leaves a basement full of water behind, you need to act quickly. Although cleaning up after a basement flood may seem like an impossible task, it is possible. So, before a storm sweeps through your area and you’re dealing with a flood on your lower level, watch this short video on what to do when your basement floods. Then, keep reading for step-by-step tips on how to manage water removal and quickly restore your basement in the aftermath of a flood.

What To Do If Your Basement Floods

First and foremost: never walk into a room when water is present on the floor. Extension cords or other electrical wiring may be compromised and that standing water could be electrified. After making sure you and your loved ones are safe, there are other important steps to take as well. You’ll need to move quickly in order to keep mold development to a minimum.

Your homeowners insurance is typically able to cover the water damage in your basement if it’s caused by covered events like a burst pipes and sudden leaks caused by accidental damage. Water damage caused by flooding that results from a storm probably won’t be covered by your homeowners insurance though.

To protect your basement from this type of flooding and for greater peace of mind, consider purchasing a separate flood insurance policy through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). If you have a separate flood policy through the NFIP, file a claim or contact your American Family Insurance agent (Opens in a new tab) once you notice the flooding damage and after everyone is safe.

In addition to working with our Emergency Water Removal Program, here’s a list of things to do to within the first 24 hours after a flood to get your basement back in shape quickly:

1. Turn off the electricity

If necessary, contact a licensed electrician to disconnect the power to the basement. Be sure you’ve got high-powered, battery-operated flashlights or flood lamps to help you navigate safely.

2. Rent a gasoline-powered water pump

Industrial tool rental groups will usually have pumps and hoses suitable for basement flooding repair.


water leaking under a door


3. Find the source of flooding

Once you’ve got the majority of the water out, you’ll need to understand how the basement flood happened. It’s smart to first check your sump pump — did it stop working? When it’s safe to do so, power up the sump pump and see if it’s still working. If it is, let the sump collect the rest of the water.

There are a few other places to check in your basement that could have caused the flooding. Be sure to inspect the following:

  • Walls
  • Windows
  • Floor cracks
  • Pipes or hoses connected to appliances
  • Floor drain
  • Toilets
  • Sinks
  • Bathtubs
  • Showers

4. Remove all wet and waterlogged items

Get all items that have been impacted by the flood water out of the basement. Painful as this may be, that may include your flooring. You may have to pull up the carpet, padding and other flooring with this type of water damage. When water has made its way into flooring, mold can develop quickly and that can present serious health issues for you and your family.

5. Use a wet-dry vacuum to pull up remaining water

Shop vacuums that can handle water are a great tool for water extraction. Use them to clean out the low-lying areas and pull up puddles that remain. Use a squeegee to move water towards floor drains or for collection by the wet-dry vacuum.

6. Get air flowing through the area

After the water’s up, it’s time to kick the humidity out of your basement. Check back with the tool rental group and reserve a couple of fans to dry out what’s left behind.

7. Turn on the dehumidifier

Along with airflow, getting the moist air out of your basement is the next step in returning it to a usable space. Be sure to run a hose to a drain — if possible — or empty the water collection bin regularly. Your local tool rental outfit may have industrial dehumidifiers that can really help to pull moisture out.

How To Handle A Flooded Basement

You’ll need to dry out your basement’s floor right away to prevent future damage to your basement or costly repairs down the line. The drying process depends on the type of flooring material your basement has, so follow the steps for your basement’s flooring below.

How To Dry a Carpeted Floor After a Flood

If you’re wondering how to handle wall-to-wall carpeting after a flood, you may be able to salvage the carpeting, but the padding will have to be pulled up and replaced. Here’s how to dry your carpeting after a flood. Be sure to follow the final step to prevent mold from forming.

1. Get the water out of your basement

Use the wet-dry vac to pull water up as much as possible from the carpeting. Think about renting a carpet cleaner to pull water and shampoo the carpet before you pull it up.


a worker removing wet carpet


2. Pull the carpet up from the tacking strip

Wall-to-wall carpeting is attached to your floor with a tacking strip along the perimeter. Pull the carpet up off the floor and tent it over chairs and ladders.

3. Ventilate the drying carpet

Direct fans above and below the tented carpeting, and use your dehumidifier to assist.

4. Pull the padding

Your padding will likely not be recoverable and will need to be pulled up and thrown away. Get in touch with a carpet installer and get a quote on new padding and re-installing your dried carpeting, if you’re not up to the job yourself.

5. Sterilize and deodorize

After you’ve dried the carpet and the cement pad is dry, get cleaning chemicals and materials that inhibit the growth of mold and mildew. Apply these chemicals carefully and be sure to follow the safety instructions. Proper ventilation and personal protection equipment — like a respirator — may be required. Hiring a professional steam cleaning group to sanitize the carpeting after it’s re-installed can also help prevent mold from growing.

How To Dry a Concrete Floor After Flooding

If the flooding isn’t too bad, you may think your concrete floor will dry up no problem on its own once the excess water is removed. However, not properly drying your concrete floor after flooding can cause it to crack or fail to bond with water-based adhesive used in things like carpet. Here’s how to dry your concrete basement floor after flooding.

1. Remove the water

Just like carpeting, remove the standing water by mopping it up, draining it or using a sump pump if severe.

2. Air it out or use dehumidifier

Next open windows to get air circulating in your basement. A dehumidifier is preferred if your flooding was substantial, as it can really help remove remaining moisture.

3. Hire professional help

If your flooding was severe, you’ll need professionals to assess the damage. As concrete is the foundation of your house, you don’t want to risk it becoming more damaged, so consider hiring a professional concrete drying company.

How To Dry a Wood Floor After Flooding

Like carpet and concrete, drying your wood floor after a flood immediately is crucial. Wood in particular can discolor or warp when wet, so act fast and follow these steps.

1. Move furniture and wet items

Leaving furniture or heavy appliances on wet wood floor can cause damage, so move those items right away and dry them elsewhere.

2. Remove the water

A wet-dry vacuum is your best bet for removing as much water from your wood flooring as possible. If there’s a lot, consider hiring a water damage restoration company for help.


cleaning up water from a wood floor


3. Disinfect the floor

Hardwood flooring is susceptible to mold if too wet, so use a wood floor-friendly disinfectant to clean the floor after the standing water has been removed.

4. Use fans and a dehumidifier

To start drying, use a dehumidifier in the center of your basement. This will be a big help for removing moisture, but you can use large fans if you don’t have a dehumidifier. Turn on the air conditioning in your basement — that will help too.

It can take up to six weeks to completely dry your basement floor, so wait before having your floor sanded or refinished. If your floor still seems wet, contact a professional.

How To Prevent Basement Flooding

A great initial step to preventing water damage caused by flooding is investing in a water leak sensor. When placed in flood-prone areas, these devices can detect water leaks, shut off the water main and alert you via your smartphone.

To help protect your home and what matters most, here are more ways you can help prevent basement flooding.


a corner of a basement with water damage


1. Repair foundation cracks

Check your home’s concrete foundation for any cracks or signs of stress. That includes the exterior if visible, and your basement’s floor and walls. You can use epoxy to repair small cracks, but you’ll need professional help if serious.

2. Clean downspouts and gutters

Rainwater can pool and seep into your home if your gutters or downspouts are clogged with debris. Regularly clean your gutters and make sure your downspouts end at least three feet away from your home so water will freely flow away.

3. Cover window wells

Water can collect in window wells and seep through to your basement floor. Securing your window wells with clear acrylic covers will help to keep out water — leaves and critters too — and best of all, they let sunlight in.


a sump pump


4. Maintain your sump pump

Your sump pump is responsible for preventing water damage to your home, but it can fail due to a clog or power outage. Be sure to regularly inspect your sump pump to make sure it is running correctly. Learn more about sump pump maintenance and how sump pump insurance coverage can protect your home from sump pump failure.

5. Regrade your lawn

Lawn regrading is leveling out your yard so that any slopes rainwater can travel down toward your house are smoothed out. A little landscaping can go a long way in making sure rainwater drains away from your home and basement.

Keep in Touch With Your Insurance Agent

Cleaning up after a flood can feel like a job that will take weeks. But the majority of the work is setting up the space to keep humidity down while things dry out. It can be hard to determine who to call when basement floods, but you’re not in this alone!

A great resource in the event of a basement flood is your American Family Insurance agent. (Opens in a new tab) Before the storms start rumbling, they can help you determine if you’ll benefit from optional coverage like hidden water damage or sump pump failure. And of course, if the unexpected happens, they’ll be right there to help you file your claim.

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