What to do if your basement floods
If your basement has flooded, there are some really important things you should know. When in doubt, don’t enter the flooded area until you are told it is safe by a professional qualified to do so.
First and foremost, consider your family’s health and safety.
Entering a wet basement could be hazardous! Before you enter your basement, consider the following:
- Electrical shock – When your basement is wet, there is a legitimate risk of electrical shock.
Do not enter your basement if you know or suspect water has risen above the level of electrical outlets, baseboard heaters, furnace or is near your electrical panel. Electricity can move through water or wet flooring and cause a severe electrical shock. Get additional flood safety information from the Electrical Safety Authority.
If you are positive that you can safely do so, turn off your home’s power at the main breaker switches.
- Gas leaks and odours– If you detect the rotten egg smell of a gas leak:
- Evacuate your premises.
- If you can do so safely, open all doors and windows.
- Don’t use anything that could create static or a spark, such as electrical switches.
- Call Utilities Kingston immediately from outside your home or building at 613-546-1181, extension 2151.
- Don’t use lighters or matches, and don’t smoke.
- Get more information on natural gas safety.
Do not enter flooded areas with natural gas appliances: Never enter a flooded area in your home or business due to a potential electrical shock hazard from electrically-powered natural gas appliances or other electrical sources, which may cause severe injury or death.
If natural gas appliances have come into contact with water, they're not safe to use.
Flooding can impair the effectiveness of safety devices installed in natural gas appliances and equipment. If your house has flooded and any of your natural gas appliances (including furnaces, boilers, water heaters and dryers) have come into contact with water, they're not safe to use.
If you’re renting a natural gas water heater or any other appliance that has come into contact with water, contact your service provider for an inspection and any repairs. If you own the appliance(s), contact a TSSA registered heating contractor. (Find a registered contractor by calling the TSSA at 1-877-682-8772, or by visiting the Find a contractor page on their web site.) Utilities Kingston does not provide this service, but we will make your home safe by disconnecting the gas supply to any flooded appliances.
Remember that just because there is no visible water, it doesn’t mean your appliances are safe to use. It is important to have them inspected before you use them again.
If you smell gas, or if your natural gas meter, regulator or appliances are fully or partially submerged as a result of flooding, call our emergency number immediately at 613-546-1181.
- Pollutants – Sewage can contain bacteria and transmit disease and the floodwater in your basement may have originated from the sanitary sewer and contain raw sewage. Wear protective items including gloves, safety glasses, a face mask and be sure to wash thoroughly after any contact with sewage or items touched by sewage.
- Chemicals – Cleaning may expose you to a wide range of contaminants, including those from the cleaning agents being used, as well as those that may have entered from flood waters. When you get to the cleaning stage, be sure to ventilate well and limit your exposure to contact and exposure as best you can.
- Structural damage – While this is not that common, a flood with certain conditions may weaken walls or even ceiling structures. If there is any concern that structural integrity has been compromised, or you simply don’t know, leave the area and call in the experts.
Sanitary sewer problem? Contact Utilities Kingston
For 24-hour emergency assistance with a sanitary sewer flood in your home, call Utilities Kingston at 613-546-1181. We will check the sanitary sewer collection system, ensure it's working properly, and correct any issues we may find.
Property owners are responsible for the sewer pipe from the home’s plumbing system to the property line. If the problem is with this, or other components of your home's plumbing, charges may apply. View a demarcation diagram showing home owner and utility responsibilities.
Storm sewer problem? Contact the City of Kingston
If you have any storm water-related concerns please contact the City’s Engineering Department at 613-546-4291, extension 3130.
Depending of the nature of the flooding, also consider…
- If the flooding is due to a burst water supply pipe in your home, and if you are safely able to do so, shut off the main incoming water valve as this could help minimize the damage. You will probably know this is the case because the water will be clean, and likely coming down through the house from an upper level. In the future, make note of where this shut-off is and keep access clear.
- If the flooding is due to a sewage backup (or you are not sure), do not flush the toilet, run a washing machine, dishwasher or any other feature with a drain since this is likely to increase the flooding.
- If it’s raining heavily, and you have a backwater valve installed, reduce your water use (e.g., avoid flushing toilets and running water). The sewers may be filling due to the heavy rains and the device gate may close to block sewage from backing up into your home. The opposite is also true – sewage from your home cannot get out, either. During severe weather, check the backwater valve to ensure it is operating correctly.
Call your insurance company
They will immediately advise you on any standard clean-up procedures, contractors to call, and claim procedures. In general:
- Make sure to take lots of photos and document items that have been damaged or need to be replaced. Before you head out and start buying new stuff, make sure you are familiar with the coverage you have with your insurer. Keep any and all receipts for emergency work done, purchases, and/or repairs.
- Based on your insurance, you may be covered for such an occurrence. Even if you have insurance coverage, the homeowner is responsible for the clean-up, repairs and replacement of lost property.
- An insurer is more likely to look favourably on homeowners wanting to undertake work on their own to reduce the likelihood of future flooding. Repeat claims with no efforts to reduce future risk may be sufficient for an insurance company to drop that form of coverage in the future. Visit How to Protect Your Home from Basement Flooding for practical suggestions you can use.
Report your backup to the municipality
Let the City of Kingston or Utilities Kingston know that flooding has occurred. Documentation of flood locations helps municipal staff determine if any work is required on the municipal infrastructure.
Use our online flood reporting form, or call us at 613-546-0000. This data is used by the municipality to track basement floods to assist in directing inspections and maintenance on the municipal infrastructure.
- If you haven't already done so, review the safety information provided at the top of this web page.
- Wear protective clothing, included disposable overalls, protective eyewear, gloves and a face mask.
- Beware of electrical equipment and outlets. Shut off the electrical if possible. Make sure any appliances are completely dry before plugging in again.
- Provide as much ventilation as you can, with open windows if the weather permits, and fans. This will help to get things dry.
To have water pumped out of your basement, you will need to contact a restoration services company or someone else who can safely provide this service.
- Salvage your belongings and remove as much as you can out of the flood zone. The quicker items are removed, the more likely rot, mildew, moulds and warping can be avoided.
- Keep an itemized list of what you are pulling out and organize by what can be salvaged and what needs to be discarded. Your insurer may help you or be involved with this process.
- Remove rugs, or roll them back out of the wet area. Any form of flooring that could have absorbed fluids needs to be removed and likely discarded, including wood flooring, underlayers, and so on.
- Completely dry and disinfect fixed-in-place features such as the foundation floor, walls, furnace, and any other objects.
- Eliminate excess water using old rags, towels, and other things. A wet/dry vacuum may also help with this.
- Carpets and furniture that can be salvaged may need to be professionally cleaned and dried.
- Some minor items may be suitable for placing in regular garbage pickup, but in all likelihood, a trip or two to the dump may be required.
Future planning – protecting your home
- Before you start with the rehabilitation, think about what you want to do in the basement in the future. Are you ready to commit to refinishing it the same way? Are you going to do any extra work to protect yourself from flooding in the future? Take a look at How to Protect Your Home from Basement Flooding before you begin any construction in the affected area.
- Consider fully tearing out exterior framing and dry-wall (if the damage is bad enough). One of the big problems about finished basements is that you develop cracks in your floor or walls and not even know it. So, for example, you may have just flooded by a sewage backup, but cracks developing in the foundation floor or walls might mean that another flood is just around the corner.
Renovation time is the best time and possibly the only time to find for these sorts of problems and fix them.
- Consider storing items in watertight containers, and keeping things raised off the floor.
- Consider changing or upgrading your foundation drainage system.
- Consider a sump pump and/or a backwater sanitary valve.
There are many ways to protect your home. Visit our other informational pages to learn more about Why Flooding Happens, and How to Protect Your Home from Basement Flooding to reduce the risk of flooding again.