Health & Structural Damage Precautions To Take When Your Basement Is Flooded


One of the worst disasters homeowners face is when their basements flood. Not only are there health risks due to contamination and electrical shock, a flooded home is extremely susceptible to extensive structural damage. If your home ever experiences a flood, there are several important things to understand before you attempt to remove the water and restore your home back to pre-flood condition. Here's what you need to know.

Take precautions for your health

It's important to assume the water is contaminated with sewage, especially if your basement has a floor drain that is connected to the sewer line. Coming into contact with raw sewage can make you ill. It's also safe to assume that everything the water has come in contact with is also contaminated with sewage.

Protect yourself from coming in direct contact with the potentially-contaminated water. Cover your mouth with a mask, protect your eyes with a pair of safety goggles, and wear rubber boots and gloves. If you do come into contact with the water, be sure to use antibacterial soap to remove any potentially harmful bacteria and organisms from your skin.

Shut off the electricity to your home, or at least to the affected areas. You don't want to risk getting electrocuted by the water. If the circuit breaker box is located in the flooded basement, do not attempt to access it. Instead, call your electric company or the fire department to disconnect the electricity to your home from the power line. After you've eliminated the risk of electrocution, shut off the main water valve to your home if you suspect the flooding is due to a plumbing problem.

Reduce the risk of structural damage to your foundation

Now that your health is protected, you may feel that it's time to remove the water from the basement. Before you do, it's important to understand that removing the water too soon could cause extensive damage to your foundation. The reason for this is because there may be too much hydrostatic pressure pushing against your foundation from groundwater if the water table is high.

With water in your basement, the hydrostatic pressure is equalized. Removing the water from the basement while there is hydrostatic pressure could cause the foundation walls to buckle inwards and collapse. Therefore, you'll want to wait until the hydrostatic pressure from the groundwater is minimal. You may be asking how would you know when it's safe?

Obviously, if there is standing water around the exterior of your home, it's a good indication that there is an enormous amount of hydrostatic pressure. However, there can still be hydrostatic pressure after the water any standing water has seeped into the ground. Fortunately, there is a simple test you can do to determine the soil's absorption rate. It's called a soil percolation test. 

To do a soil percolation test, you'll need to dig a hole several feet deep in the ground. If the hole is filled with water, it's safe to assume there is too much hydrostatic pressure to safely remove the water from your basement. If the hole doesn't have water, pour a few buckets of water into the hole and see how long it takes for the soil to absorb the water.

If the ground below the hole is already heavily saturated with water, the water in the hole will not absorb into the soil. You'll need to wait until it does before you can remove the water from the basement. It's a good idea to hire a water damage restoration company to determine if the water table is too high if you are unsure.


24 August 2015

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