A flooded basement, especially if it's a regular issue, is nothing to ignore. Ask yourself these questions to determine the cause of your recurrent floods and how best to address the problem.
Where Is the Water Coming From?
There are three main causes of a flooded basement:
Improper lot grading, which results in an exterior slope that routes outside water runoff into the basement.
Foundation damage, such as cracks, that is letting groundwater inside.
Plumbing issues, such as broken pipes or a backed up drainage system.
Determining which is the cause depends on where the water is coming from. Water seeping through the walls or floor is indicative of poor grading or exterior cracks, which aren't visible inside the basement. Gushing water or quick forming puddles from walls or ceilings usually means a broken pipe. If the water is welling up from the floor, it's time to check the drains.
How Often Does It Flood?
If your basement floods every time it rains, you can be relatively assured that it's a grading or foundation problem. Sometimes, though, this can also be a drainage issue if the outside ground is saturated and the main drainage pipe from the house is clogged or overflowing. If flooding tends to occur during dry weather, your drains or pipes are likely at fault.
When a flooded basement is a rare occurrence, the issue is likely in your plumbing unless rain or snow melt is causing flooding in your locale.
Is It a Health Hazard?
Before trying to venture into the basement, you need to determine if the water poses an immediate health hazard. The safest option is to call in a plumber, unless you know for certain that the water is from ground water or rainfall.
Drainage water, especially if it's from a backed up sewer line, can pose a major health danger. Sewage is generally easy to diagnose – it smells and it's brown or black in color. Even gray water, which comes from the kitchen, sinks and washing machine, can contain chemical contaminants or bacterial waste. Don't touch anything that comes in contact with any type of flood water with your bare hands. Gloves and face protection is the safest bet.
What Should You Do First?
Before trudging into the basement to start cleanup and repairs, turn off electricity to that section of the house. Wet wiring and electrical appliances can cause a deadly shock. If you know the source of the flood and can stop it, such as a burst pipe, turn off the water supply as soon as possible.
Your next step is to save what belongings you can. Remove furniture and rugs and set them outside to dry. If necessary, suck up the water with a wet-dry vacuum. Then, call in a plumber for drainage or pipe repairs, or a foundation expert if grading or cracks seem to be the issue.
The trick to keeping your basement dry and preventing even more damage is getting the issue repaired as soon as possible. Flooding problems usually won't go away on their own. (for more information on plumbing issues, contact a company such as Drainline Plumbing & Sewer Specialist)