This past week was a bit stressful in the Grounded Engineer household. Mrs. Grounded Engineer called me at 3:00 pm on Monday afternoon to inform me we had water in our basement. Yep – I had a flooded basement.

This post is a little off the normal personal finance realm, but I thought I would share it because it does carry a significant cost burden. I highly recommend that you check your sump pumps to ensure they function properly!

My first thought was panic – how the hell am I going to clean this up? This was quickly followed by how much is this going to cost! So, I downloaded a few podcasts for my ride home to gain some insight as to how others tackled this problem.

Here are the steps I used to clean up my flooded basement. At the end of the post, I summarize what my insurance covered.

Step 1 – don’t panic

Don’t panic! If you have more than a few inches of water take caution. Be cognizant of any electrical that could be exposed to water and if you can get to your breaker safely turn off all power to the basement. If you can’t get to your breaker safely – call a professional. Same for any gas lines. Gas is trickier and if you have any concerns with a gas leak I would contact a professional immediately.

When I got home the carpet was wet, but there wasn’t a noticeable layer of water. Luckily (not the greatest word choice considering the circumstance), we caught the problem early. The water did not span across the entire perimeter of the basement. The carpet pad underneath the carpet acted like a sponge to soak up the water. I didn’t have to worry about any hazards – like being electrocuted.

Step 2 – Identify the source of the problem

You’re probably asking what the culprit was – it was the sump pump. When I got home, the sump pump was not running. So I had concerns that there was a leak in the foundation, but when I lifted the sump pump cover the sump pump turned on and began to push water out! Somehow the float, which rises when water fills in the sump pump hole and actives the sump, malfunctioned and water poured out of the hole and flooded the basement.

N0w that I had the sump pump running and I was pushing water out of our basement, I devised a quick game plan. The bottom line in each podcast I listened to was: get your basement dry as quickly as possible.

Once the sump pump kicked in, water no longer poured out of the hole. We were left with the water that had soaked into the carpet and pooled in a few spots on the concrete in the utility room…

Step 3 – Remove everything from the basement that is on the floor

Self – explanatory. Because we only moved in a few months ago, we didn’t have much in our basement. We had some things under the stairwell, which was one of the first areas the water traveled to. However, most items were in suitcases on wheels. The water didn’t rise high enough to get into anything. There were a couple of old pictures that didn’t have much value that did get water damaged.

Our daughter’s play area was in a corner that the water didn’t get to. The carpet pad underneath was a little wet, but the carpet itself shielded the water from her toys. The only nice thing in our basement is a small bar that was built for us by a family member. We had a plastic desk mat underneath the bar to aid in opening the doors on the bar (friction from the carpet made it difficult to open the doors.) The plastic desk mat kept the water from getting to the bar.

Step 4 – Get fans and a dehumidifier running

We didn’t have a dehumidifier and we only had two smaller fans. Down the road from us, there was a local rental shop. They had an industrial grade dehumidifier and large blowers we were able to rent. We rented these for two days and the total cost was $145. The local rental shop was more competitively priced than the big box stores, so check out local shops around you to get competitive quotes!

The local rental shop was more competitively priced than the big box stores, so check out local shops around you to get competitive quotes! The first few nights, I moved the blowers and the dehumidifier around every 3 or 4 hours.

Step 5 – Roll back the carpet and remove the carpet mat/pad

Next, I rolled back the carpet to see where all of the wet areas were located. The carpet mat beneath the carpet was soaked – it basically acted like a sponge. I tried to cut the carpet mat into larger pieces and haul them outside. However, when I squeezed the carpet mat the water rang out and went everywhere.

So, I got a plastic container about the size of a small tote, and I cut the carpet mat into smaller pieces. I carefully lifted them into the plastic container so that I didn’t squeeze out the water. With each piece of carpet mat I removed, I used my shop vac to suck up the remaining water. This continued for a few hours until I was able to remove all of the wet carpet mat.

flooded basement

Carpet and carpet pad removed :'(

Step 6 – Ensure you got everything dry

Check all of your baseboards, drywall, and trim. Our insurance adjuster had a meter that was able to read how wet our drywall was. It was much more effective than my finger test!

Step 7 – Use anti-mildew spray

We purchased a smaller-sized dehumidifier for our basement. I plan to use an anti-mildew spray in the next couple days once I ensure everything is completely dry. I saw the recommendation for using an anti-mildew spray from American Home Shield. In addition, I recommend this mold test, which can be purchased on Amazon: Healthful Home 5-Minute Mold Test. Aspergillus/Penicillium and Stachybotrys. Works Even If You Can’t See The Mold. No More Waiting for Labs. Includes Expert Consultation.

What was the final damage for having a flooded basement?

I was hesitant to call our insurance company right away because I didn’t think we had coverage for a failed sump pump. The first two evenings I spent working to ensure the basement was dry. By night three, we went out to solicit quotes on new carpeting – we were looking at a minimum of $3k to get the same quality of carpet installed in our basement. Yikes!

This is why we build emergency funds, people! Although, it is never actually fun when you have to potentially dip into your emergency fund.

Related: How to Get Your Finances Under Control

Related: How to Make More Money on Your Emergency Fund

Our insurance policy covers a failed sump pump. My insurance company worked with me and before I chose to submit a claim I had the exact costs of what would be covered (a.k.a. how much money I would get) and I understood how much my premium would go up. It was pretty simple math to determine making a claim would be the correct choice to make.

We had an adjuster come out and he found enough damage where we received the maximum amount from our policy – $10k! The work I completed to remove the carpet, the carpet mat, and get the basement dry was valued around $1,500. It was a small, internal win for me 🙂 I grew up working manual labor jobs, and since I graduated college I’ve had a pretty cushy office job. It was a good change of pace to get back to some strenuous work!

So, I am out $1,000 to cover the deductible, but we have a check for $10,000. This week we will be getting bids from contractors to replace drywall in certain spots that got wet. We already received a few quotes on the carpet. Unless I am way off estimating the cost to replace the drywall, I think we should make out OK other than the inconvenience this costs.

Have you had flooding in your home? 

Any steps I missed that you would add?