How to safely clean a flooded basement

When your basement floods, make sure to turn off the electricity before wading through the water. (Photo courtesy of Angie’s List member Lisa C. of Etherton, Ill.)

When your basement floods, make sure to turn off the electricity before wading through the water. (Photo courtesy of Angie’s List member Lisa C. of Etherton, Ill.)

Submitted by David Heffner of Heffner Plumbing

How many times have you heard the expression, "Water and electricity don't mix?" Electrocution is a very real danger with a flooded basement, and it doesn't have to be a significant amount of water to have this happen. A quarter-inch of water can electrocute a person as easily as 2 inches of water.

Here are some steps to take if your basement floods.

Turn off the electricity for the basement at the breaker panel. If there isn't a circuit breaker that will isolate the power to the basement, turn off the main circuit breaker to the house. Before you turn off the power to the house, however, make sure that all of your computers have been backed up and shut down to prevent losing any work or files.

If the circuit breaker panel is located in the basement, call an electrician or the power company to turn the power off.

The simplest way to pump out a flooded basement is by using the sump pump. If the basement has flooded because of a sump pump failure, get the pump replaced by a professional plumber, and let the pump do its job. If this isn't possible, renting a pump from a tool rental store may be the second best solution.

If the power has been lost to your neighborhood, trying to pump out the basement may not make sense unless you are willing to have a back-up generator running 24/7 to run the sump pump or a rental pump. With the price of gas rising, this could potentially be an extremely expensive undertaking.

Be sure to have flashlights on hand with plenty of batteries.

Have an extension cord available that can run from your basement to a power source.

If you use a gas powered generator, be sure to have this located outside where the exhaust can be safely vented to the atmosphere. Never run a gas powered generator indoors.

If you don't have a battery powered back-up sump pump system, consider making this investment with the understanding that you get what you pay for. A $200 system purchased at a home improvement center will not do the same job as a professionally installed system that costs $1500 or more.

Heffner is a licensed plumbing contractor in the state of Indiana and is bonded and insured. Heffner Plumbing is a highly rated company with Angie’s List and has received the Super Service Award every year since 2004. Heffner received the 2009 Contractor of the Year Award by the Greater Indianapolis Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors (GIPHCC) and is a complaint-free company with the Better Business Bureau.

As of Oct. 21, 2011, this service provider was highly rated on Angie’s List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie’s List.

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