Basement water damage is one of the most common problems reported by Maryland homeowners. In the event that your home has become flooded, it is important to be equipped with a plan-of-action to limit the extent of the damage on your home and maintain its value.
Think You Have Water Damage? Here’s What to Do
1. You could be at risk for serious injury if you enter a flooded basement without taking the proper precautions.
Water and electricity can be a deadly combination. When your basement floods, wiring and electrical outlets can be submerged, setting up conditions where shocks can occur.
Play it safe. Unless you are absolutely sure that all of your wiring and outlets are above water level, call the electrical company to get your power turned off before you enter your basement to assess the damage.
2. You need to act quickly.
Once you know it’s safe to enter your basement, fast action can minimize residual damage from mold and mildew.
- Throw out—or at least remove from the house—any paper, cardboard, cloth or other organic products that are wet. You may also have to remove and replace any drywall that’s been soaked through.
- Scrub walls down with a bleach product, making sure that you follow proper precautions for ventilation and usage.
- Once there’s no water on the floor, keep fans running to keep air circulating and speed up the drying process.
3. Take moisture seriously.
While you may think that you have removed all of the water from the floor, the chances are that there is still moisture in the walls and air of your basement. All too often homeowners report that they were quick to clean up the floor, only to notice mold and/or mildew forming weeks later. Chances are that your basement probably hasn’t finished drying as much as you thought it had. Be sure to do a thorough basement inspection and err on the side of being over-cautious.
4. Your insurance may not cover you.
Most people assume that their homeowners’ or rental insurance will cover losses but that’s not always the case. For example, if you have basement water damage in Maryland because the Susquehanna River or the Gunpowder River has gone over its banks, you probably aren’t covered. You’ll need a separate flood insurance policy to get reimbursement for such losses.
Most standard homeowners’ policies will cover losses from water in a basement if it’s due to a burst pipe or an ice dam on the roof. But you’ll have to check your policy carefully to see if losses from water in a basement due to sewer or drain backup are covered.
The Insurance Information Institute offers this guideline: “Generally speaking, water that comes from the top down, such as rainfall, is covered by a standard homeowners insurance policy, while water that comes from the bottom up, such as an overflowing river, is covered by a separate flood insurance policy.”
5. There are steps you can take to prevent water in your basement.
You can’t do anything about the hurricanes or torrential rains that may bring water into your basement. But you can take precautions that will reduce the risk of other types of water intrusion:
- Make sure that everyone in your household knows the location of the main water valve shutoff. Turning off the water right away can limit the damage in your home if you have a burst pipe or hose.
- When you go on vacation, shut off the hot and cold water feeds to your washing machine. Nothing can ruin vacation memories faster than coming home to a basement that’s full of water because of a burst hose.
- Periodically inspect the pipes and hoses in your basement. If you see signs of leakage around joints or cracks that could let water pour in, replace hoses and get a professional in to look at your pipes.
- Hire a local basement waterproofing company to do an assessment of your basement and your yard. Experienced professionals can alert you to any problems like improper landscaping, clogged gutters, or badly directed downspouts that could direct rain water or snow melt into the lowest levels of your home.