How do you dry a flooded basement – yourself? That is a frequently asked question by homeowners everywhere, especially if the flooded basement was caused by rain or rising water tables which usually are not covered by insurance. Homeowners would call and ask can we dry our flooded basement ourselves?  That’s a great question and the answer is yes, however, there are a few very important guidelines that must be followed.

There are five basic steps to dry a flooded basement.

Step one – Make a flood-related safety inspection.  Check for any hazardous conditions such as structural damage, electrical hazards, pathogenic bacteria, mold, and mildew.  If any hazards are found they should immediately deal with.  Determine to what extent the water has actually migrated into your basement using a moisture meter. You can buy a very inexpensive version of what the professionals use at Lowes or Home Depot.

Step two – Move or elevate any and all building contents which might be permanently damaged. Remove as much water as possible via pumps and once the water gets down to where a pump won’t work, vacuum the rest of the water up with a portable extraction unit. You can rent a portable extraction unit at our local rental store or purchase a wet and dry vacuum at your local hardware store. Both will do the job, but the portable extractor will work better, usually, because it holds more water and the drain valve usually is set so you can drain the water directly into a toilet or a five-gallon pail. The wet and dry vacuums are much more difficult to get the water out of.

Step three – Remove the carpet padding and dispose of it. Carpet padding is the most difficult to dry, professional water damage restorers today have specialized equipment to save most of the carpeting padding, but as a ” DIY ” (do it yourself), just remove it. If you don’t, what will happen in a few days after following these guidelines, your carpet will feel dry but the pad will still be wet. (If a flood is caused by a sewerage backflow, discard the carpet as well for it cannot be salvaged). To remove the carpet pad, go to a corner of a room and with some needle nose pliers grab a piece of the carpet and gently pull up. This will disengage the carpeting from the tackless strip holding it down. Pull the carpeting back as far as you can and then cut out the water soaked padding. Do this from all four corners until you have removed all of the paddings.

Step four – Disinfect your flooded basement:

Go to the store and buy Pine Oil and Clorox Bleach. (Look on the bleach container for the proper dilution rate for disinfecting) Use a pump sprayer to apply the bleach mixture on all hard surfaces to include flooring and the walls up to the height that the moisture meter indicates is wet. For the carpeting, do not apply the bleach solution, but rather have it professionally cleaned once the carpet is dry.  Use the Pine oil disinfectant on all nonporous household items. This application of disinfectant will help prevent the growth of mold.

As an alternative to the store-bought disinfectants, check on-line for a local distributor of water damage or janitorial supplies, both will sell disinfectants that you can use on all surfaces.

Step five – Set up Air Movers & Dehumidifiers.

Your last goal to dry a flooded basement is to create an artificially dry environment. The drier the air in your flooded basement, the faster your home will dry out.  To achieve this, dehumidifiers and air movers (special fans) are utilized. The air movers’ job is to pull moisture out of your carpeting, drywall, and framing material and place this moisture into the air.  It is then the dehumidifiers’ job to pull that now moist air over its coils; water condenses on the coils thus dehumidifying the air, “drying it out”.  The condensed water is then collected or pumped away.

Problems can occur if you have too much or too little air movement and not enough dehumidification, this can lead to problems. If a water-damaged structure has too much air movement and not enough dehumidification, there is the possibility of secondary damage happening.  Secondary damage is the result of extremely high relative humidity, which can cause: damage of books and electrical instruments; warped doors, drawers, and ceilings; peeling wallpaper, and even corroded metal.  On the other hand, if you use not enough air movers, it will prolong the drying process. The longer the water is present, the higher the probability that there will be damage to structural elements – sheetrock disintegrating, framework warping, carpet backing rotting, etc.

In the best of circumstances, a flooded basement should have approximately one air mover for every ten linear feet of wet walls.   You will also need a dehumidifier capable of handling the amount of water that the air movers are going to put in the air. If you already have a dehumidifier (and the flood is a small area) what you can do is use the outside air as a natural dehumidifier.  Watch the local weather forecast, if there is a day when the relative humidity is very low, open up all of your windows. Nature is always the best dehumidifier when the conditions are right. Then shut the windows if the humidity rises. This is called an “Open Drying System”.

But if your flooded basement is a large area, you may have to go to your local rental store and rent a large commercial grade dehumidifier, because an Open Drying system won’t always work. If the weather where you live is anything like it is here in Boston MA, one day it will be sunny and the next day rainy, with 95% relative humidity outside.

How do you know when you should call a Water Damage Professional to dry your flooded basement?

Most water damage restoration firms rent their drying equipment at the same prices as your local rental center does. If the water damage in your flooded basement seems a little overwhelming, call in a professional. The cost maybe a little higher than doing it yourself, however, you will be hiring certified technicians who will bring with them their expertise to ensure that everything is done efficiently thus removing the questioning of oneself, did I dry my flooded basement properly?

Good Luck with drying your flooded basement, and Stay Dry..!



Also Check out Puritan’s blog  on “What you should do after a flood”.




About the Author

Paul Daniele has dried many a flooded basement since 1982. He is the President of Puritan Flood Restoration Inc and is a recognized authority in Water Damage Restoration for real property applications. Today Puritan is the leading Water Damage Restoration drying firm in New England

Mr Daniele is certified in Water Damage Restoration and Applied Structural Drying by the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC).

He is also a Certified Thermographer by the Infrared Training Center (ITC).