Photo By Christin Lola at Shutterstock
At bluefrog Plumbing + Drain, our emergency plumber service encounters indoor flooding for many reasons. One of the most common and extensive is broken or burst water pipes. Corroded pipes, loose joints, physical damage, and subfreezing temperatures are a few of the reasons why pipes burst under pressure and release a fast, steady flow of water into your living space. As with most disasters, it can be hard to know where to start and how to make sure you respond so that you limit damage to both the building and its contents. Of course, you’ll involve your emergency plumber as soon as possible, but what comes first? And when is the cleanup job done? Because water can provide a growth medium for mold and other harmful substances, cleanup needs to be careful and complete, leaving the space clean and dry.
1. Safety Measures
Turn off any electrical power that could possibly pass through the space, the whole house if necessary. This is critical, because the chances for electric shock while dealing with wet or damp floors and walls is significant. If you can’t get to the shutoff, you might be able to locate one outside, but a call to an electrician is a good idea. If you don’t know one, the emergency plumber you call may be able to provide information. For basement floods, wear boots or protect your feet and legs from the water if there’s any chance chemicals or other contaminants could have leaked into the water.
2. Minimize Water Level
Assuming that the water is from a burst pipe and the basement is safe to enter, you can turn off the house water. If the flooding is from a broken pipe under a sink elsewhere in the house, you may be able to shut the water off locally first. If the valve is difficult to turn or the break is before the valve, head for the whole-house shutoff right away. You can ask your emergency plumber to show you where it is the next time you call for service of any kind. Sometimes, there is a valve outside the building accessible through a small access box or other structure in the ground. Your emergency plumber can help you draw down the water level using a portable pump.
3. Minimize Damage
It may be tempting to rescue your belongings first, but safety and water shutoff are important first steps. Now, consider your belongings, especially those that absorb water and may get more soaked as time passes. Raising your belongings above the water and wrapping them in plastic temporarily can be a good first step. Place items on tables or other stable elevated spots, being careful not to leave water spots or stains. Beware of slipping on stairs if you carry them out from the basement. Remember, soggy cartons may burst open as you carry them.
4. Get Your Insurance Company on the Line
Ask your emergency plumber to help you describe the damage to your plumbing to your insurance company. It’s important to get your claim in motion as soon as possible to help you organize remediation, the process of cleanup and sanitizing that can be more extensive than you expect. Some insurance companies will accept your photos of the damage as evidence for your claim, but in other cases you might need to wait for a claims adjuster before you proceed, so make sure you ask about the next steps to take.
5. Extensive Documentation
Be thorough in documenting the water damage to your possessions and your home, including walls, floors, furniture, electrical outlets, clothes, anything that the water affected. Show the water level mark on the wall if there is one. Take photos, videos, and detailed notes. Remember if there was anything you’ve already removed and include it in your documentation. If your flooding was on an upper floor, make sure to check adjacent rooms for seepage, and water damage to the ceiling and walls below. Include your emergency plumber‘s description of the repair in your documentation.
6. Pump, Mop, Dry with Fans
Many basements have a built-in drain that you can use to remove standing water, pushing puddles towards it. Your emergency plumber may be able to lend pumps or wet-dry vacuums, or you can purchase or rent them to get the water up and help the space to start drying. If you have a rug, you’ll have to consider whether it can dry or should be removed for drying or replacement. Fans can help you move moist air from the area to help speed drying.
Flood restoration companies respond quickly. Your insurance company may offer some names, or your emergency plumber may be able to help with reliable contacts. The goal is to put them to work within a few hours, before mold starts to grow and damage increases.
8. More Drying
The more air you can move and the more you can dehumidify the air in the space where the flood was, the faster deep drying will occur. Now’s the time for larger fans, dehumidifiers, and even using your HVAC system to process the air.
9. Mold and Mildew
Hopefully, you have the help of a restoration contractor, but in any case, you need to make sure that there are no hidden damp spots or places where water didn’t evaporate. You may need to repair drywall and other materials that soaked up water. If mold and mildew have a chance to take hold, you’ll have a significant health problem on your hands.
Get things off the floor in vulnerable areas, protect pipes from freezing with insulation, replace washer and other flexible water lines with steel rather than rubber hoses, and consider using hard flooring with throw rugs rather than wall-to-wall carpeting.
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