Basements are one of the most common rooms for water damage in your home. Most of your water pipes and drains run through your basement. Hot water tanks and HVAC units are usually there too. Washing machines and dryers are often in the basement as well. Even a small malfunction could leave your basement flooded. In addition to all of the internal systems, there are many external factors that could lead to basement water damage. We cover how to remove water from your basement as well as how to make basement water damage repairs.
Signs of Basement Water Damage
Standing water or sewage are the most obvious signs you may have water damage in your basement. However, floodwaters or a sewage backup aren’t the only causes of basement water damage. Water damage from a slow leak or poor drainage can be just as devastating. We recommend that you inspect your basement once a month for water damage.
Water from poor or improper drainage, heavy rains, and winter thaws can easily enter your home through cracks in the foundation, window seals, walls, or floor. Extreme temperatures, water, or ice put pressure on the structure of your home and may cause cracks over time. Hairline cracks are unlikely to cause damage, but you should repair cracks wider than one-sixteenth of an inch as soon as possible.
Mold requires water to grow and is often a sign of water damage in the basement. If you see mold, there must be a consistent source of moisture or water. Common causes are slow plumbing leaks and condensation from HVAC systems, but mold may also be a sign of a larger problem. Bleach and water will clean surface mold, but it will return if the source of the moisture isn’t fixed. Contact a mold remediation specialist to fix the cause of the moisture and ensure the mold is properly removed.
Basements are often prone to odors, but take note of persistent and abnormal odors. Clean and inspect your basement thoroughly. Look for other signs of water damage, especially mold, stains, and deterioration. If you are unable to locate a source of moisture or water damage, but the odor persists you should contact a professional restoration specialist.
From leaky pipes in the ceiling and walls to cracks in your foundation, yellowish-brown stains are a common sign of basement water damage. Look for stains or discoloration on walls, paneling, carpeting, and ceiling tiles. While you can cosmetically repair some stains with a new drop ceiling tile or a fresh coat of paint, you should contact a water damage restoration specialist to prevent further damage.
Like stains, deteriorating or crumbling building materials are often a sign of water damage. Drywall, plaster, and wood will break down after consistent exposure to excess moisture or standing water. While flaking or peeling paint and wallpaper may be a sign of age, it may be caused by basement water damage as well.
Efflorescence is a sparkly, white, powdery coating that forms on foundation walls and other surfaces in the presence of persistent moisture. Often confused with mold, efflorescence has a distinct shimmer like thousands of tiny crystals. Commonly associated with poor waterproofing, efflorescence is also a sign of other water damage.
Causes of Basement Water Damage
Any source of water can cause damage to your basement. The longer the water sits, the more damage it can do. These are the most common causes of water damage in basements.
Broken or Leaky Pipes
In most cases, all water enters and leaves your home through the basement. Clean water comes in and pipes branch off to the rest of your house. Drain pipes all flow down into your lateral sewer line and out to the street. Whether it’s an issue with a supply line or a drain, a broken or leaky pipe can cause significant water damage in your basement.
Malfunctioning Water Heater
Most water heaters hold 30 to 50 gallons of water and last 3 to 12 years. While a properly maintained unit may last longer, hot water tanks do wear out over time. Not only could your hot water heater cause a significant flood, but it’s possible that the supply line could allow water to continue to flow.
HVAC systems produce condensation and require proper drainage. Service HVAC units regularly to keep them in proper working order. Check drainpipes and tubing to ensure they are working properly as well. While your furnace is unlikely to cause a huge flood, it can cause mold or damage drywall and carpeting over time.
Malfunctioning Sump Pump
Sump pumps help prevent water from collecting around your foundation. Channels along foundation walls direct water to a well where a pump pushed it out of your home. If the pump malfunctions, water can eventually flood your basement. Service your sump pump at least once a year to keep it in proper working condition.
A blockage in your sewer line can cause a sewage backup into your basement. Grease, hair, and other items can clog your sewer line, tree roots can crack and grow through them, and even municipal sewers can back up into your home. Not only is it unsanitary, but sewage can cause damage to flooring, walls, and personal items if not cleaned up quickly.
It’s important to properly channel rainwater and snowmelt away from your home in order to prevent flooding and basement water damage. Clean gutters and downspouts regularly and either channel water away from your home or connect to storm sewers. Connecting them to your sanitary sewer can cause sewage backups during heavy rainfalls.
Leaky Windows and Foundation Walls
Cracks in window seals and foundation walls can cause basement water damage during heavy rains or winter thaws. Cracks and other problems with windows and foundations are easy to detect in unfinished basements. In finished basements, check for stains, discoloration, and deterioration of drywall, paneling, and carpeting as well as the other common signs of water damage listed above.
How to Repair Your Basement After Water Damage
Whether you call our professional restoration specialists or choose to do it yourself, the steps to repairing water damage in the basement are the same. The sooner you can begin basement water removal, the better the chance you can save your walls.
Repair the Source of Water
The first step to basement water damage repair is identifying and fixing the cause of the water. Whether it’s a burst water pipe or a malfunctioning sump pump, you can’t begin cleanup until the source of water is fixed. The one exception is weather-related groundwater flooding. In this case, move immediately to removing water from the basement, even if it’s still raining.
Remove Water From the Basement
Limit the extent of the damage by removing water from the basement as quickly as possible. Ideally, use a submersible pump to extract water from your basement. A wet-dry vacuum is another option, although it is much less efficient. As a last resort, use buckets to bail out water. Regardless of the method used for basement water removal, make sure to dump the wastewater away from your foundation. Otherwise, it could reenter your home through your foundation.
Dispose of Damaged Materials
No matter how quickly you react to basement water damage, you will likely need to dispose of some materials. Carpeting, carpet padding, insulation, and paper items are the most susceptible to water damage. Drywall might need to be removed depending on the amount of water in your basement and how long it sat. Use heavy-duty plastic bags to dispose of damaged items. Avoid overloading bags, as they can get quite heavy.
Dry Out the Area
After removing the water and damaged materials from your basement, you need to properly dry materials that can be salvaged. When possible, use commercial air movers and dehumidifiers to quickly and efficiently dry out affected areas. Depending on the extent of your basement water damage, the process may take 1 to 3 days or more. You can use consumer fans and dehumidifiers but they will take 2 to 3 times longer, which increases the potential for mold.
Disinfect and Deodorize
Once dry, you need to disinfect structural materials and salvaged furniture, fabrics, and personal items to ensure mold and bacteria are not present. Mix 1 and ¼ cups of bleach in a gallon of water and wipe down or spray on hard surfaces. Since bleach can stain carpeting and fabrics, consider using a hospital-grade, color-safe disinfectant on those items. To prevent smells, sprinkle baking soda on carpeting and fabrics and allow to sit for an hour up to overnight. Vacuum to remove the baking soda and repeat as necessary.
Finally, you can safely rebuild and return it to the original condition. This process will vary depending on the extent of your basement water damage and what materials you needed to remove. Most often, you will need to hang new drywall, install new carpeting, and paint.
How Much Does Basement Water Removal and Restoration Cost?
Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to how much basement water damage restoration will cost. The key factors to consider are:
- Cause of the Basement Water Damage
- Category of Water Involved (Clean, Grey, or Black)
- Size of the Area Damaged
- Kind of Materials Affected
- How Difficult it is to Extract the Water
- The Amount of Reconstruction Necessary
Your homeowners’ insurance may even cover some or all of the cost for basement water damage cleanup and restoration. Review our water damage insurance claims guide for more details on the types of water damage covered by standard insurance policies.
Get Water Removal and Basement Water Damage Restoration
As the nation’s largest network of restoration contractors, we will connect you with a local water damage restoration company to clean and dry the damage. They will remove water from your basement, dispose of damaged materials, dry the area, prevent mold, and restore your home or business to its original condition.
Locate a qualified water damage restoration company near you now. Our listings include independent companies and the most popular brands like Belfor Restoration and Stanley Steemer. For immediate services, call 1-888-443-3110 for a free estimate on basement water removal and restoration from our on-call water damage company in your area.