One of my units got destroyed last night in a flood. What do I do now?

75 Replies

yep, about a foot of water in my basement apartment in my triplex. Called the flood insurance company, but my deductible is fairly high ($5k) so I'm looking to still do this cleanup on the cheap. Anybody have any good ideas? 

UPDATE: See photos and continuing story below in this thread! :) 

Call a remediation company like Service Masters and start getting quotes.  But if it was the whole town, you may run into price escalation. I wouldn't try to do it on the cheap, because of where you operate.  The potential for rot, and mold is incredibly high, and being cheap now is going to cost you more in future.

Waldo got flooded?  Oh no! Ben will be on this like frogs in a flooded basement.

Seriously, I agree with @Troy Fisher  this needs professional cleanup fast.  If it looks like it will take them time to get in, get an electric pump and get as much water out as you can and start some fans in there until they can get to you.

Obviously, it needs to be pumped out ASAP.  See for recommendations on a floor pump.  However, this is for a few inches. of water.  Still you might be able to run and pick one up and get it going and then see how fast you can get somebody out there to pump it out.

Been there, done that, as you know, @Brandon Turner  

What was the source of the water?  If it was a burst pipe or a hole in the roof with rainwater coming your landlord insurance will cover it.  If the water touched the ground and then came into your property, the only insurance that would cover it would be national flood insurance.  Flood insurance doesn't cover much, even if it does apply.

Get to a rental store and rent a pump.  A good one will move  a LOT of water quickly.

Get a BIG shop vac and go to town to get the remaining water after the pump has reached its limit.

If the water got into electrical boxes, open those and pull out the devices.  Don't disconnect, just leave them hanging to dry out.  They will probably be fine.  Ours were.

Get the wet sheet rock and any insulation out of there.  Any flooring, too.  Its probably not salvageable.  Get anything that's wet other than framing out.

Center for Disease Control and FEMA both have remediation information on their web sites. We followed the CDC process of bleaching and scrubbing the framing and basement walls. Do that as soon as you have the water out.

If you have hollow core doors, they now have water inside them.  Drill holes in the bottom to drain them.  Or just plan on replacing them.  We were able to salvage most of ours.  Really would have been better to just replace them and that may be something we still end up doing.

Get fans and dehumidifiers in there.  We rented dehumidifiers at first, but the ended up buying one on amazon.  The rentals add up.  But you have to do something to get the humidity down so the framing can dry out.   Fans to circulate the air.  Ideally, some of those super powerful fans that blow right along the floor.

Get a moisture meter off amazon and monitor the water content of the framing.  IIRC we were told to get it below 10% in the studs and floor plates.  This took a few weeks of running the dehumidifiers and fans.  Its quite dry here, so your goal may be different in your area.  And I may be mis-remembering that number.  The building inspector was the one who specified the number.

Now fix all the damage.

You can call those remediation companies, but be sitting down when they give you a quote.   These guys are targetted to situations where an insurance company is footing the bill.  I did get one bid but the price for dehumidifiers and fans was just outrageous. 

@Brandon Turner   I am very sorry to hear what happened to you! Best thing to do is keep you cool so you can make the best decisions for your situation, and it could have been much worst! 

Let me send your way how we had dealt with almost identical situation to yours.

We had huge rain Hurricane, in Annapolis a few years ago! If we had waited for the pro.s for days we would have risk a saturation of everything which could have resulted to a "gut out rehab" .

Were very concerned of the timely solution of our flood problem, we decided to do it our self, this is how we did it:

(by the way we were back in business and move in ready in 7 days)

1, Go to Hardware store immediately get at least 2 pumps (make sure they hook up to your garden hoses) so you can get the water as far as possible and fast!

2, While water being  pumped out  go get $20 fans from Wallmart, HD etc one for each room and at least two for the living room (if larger). Also get 2- or 3 dehumidifier if you don't already own some. 

3. Once the water is all pumped out, to the point where you can walk around safely without stepping into little "lakes" than start the dehumidifiers and fans.  If the place has furnace house fan use that too! As it helps the dehumidifiers pickup water this much faster.Make sure you empty out the tanks for the dehumidifiers. At first they fill up every 4-5 hours. Than if will take 7-8 hours, than it will take 12 -15 hours. If you buy new dehumidifier you will be able to "adjust" humidity with it. When you adjust down the button to 30% and it hardly comes on you are done! At this point the place should feel dry and hot like a desert. 

4. After about the 6th day you can cut a few "probing holes" into the wall cavities in areas that you consider hard to dry, to see if you are satisfied with the progress. 

One more thing you want to make sure that as soon as you you have the dehumidifiers/fans started (after pumping) you maintain at least 85 -90 degree inside with windows closed. This will allows the wall cavities to give out all humidity much faster. 

For us the total cost of the flood incident was, under $500, i did not include the price of the new floor because we were about to replace that anyway. 

Good luck to you don't worry it will work out!

@Brandon Turner  

We had a fire, flood and an explosion in one year.

Called remediation company that night and got them working on it right away.  They brought in many fans and dehumidifiers.  They removed the carpet PAD and threw away, but saved the carpet itself and dried it out.  They cut the drywall from the bottom of all the walls about 12 inches above the water level.  They used moisture meters to monitor the amount of moisture.  They had heavy duty fans, they were blue plastic with a exhaust at the bottom.  Some of the fans were situated under the carpet.  It took several days to dry out before they could start reconstruction which mostly consisted of drywall repair and painting and replacing the carpet pad and re-stretching the carpet it self.

@Brandon Turner   DO NOT try to use hardware store pumps.  Sorry, @Val Csontos but these are just too puny.   Go to a rental store and rent a serious pump.  They look similar to one you can buy at Home Depot but are MUCH more powerful.  The one I rented was almost the same physical size as the one I had (A HD one I used to use to pump out the spa) but it came with a 1.5" hose and it would shoot a jet of water out of that hose.  A garden house is, maybe 0.5" inside diameter.  The 1.5" hose is 9X bigger than a garden hose.  

@Jon Holdman You are right, renting a better pump is probably a good idea IF there are any in the area.  When we had the flood all pumps, fans, dehumidifiers, were gone in our county and the counties around us too! I had to drive 60 miles each way to purchase all that stuff. 

Lots of good advice, the most important is to get to it quick as far as drying things out. I also want to mention that if water is fresh or salt water it makes a difference.  If you have salt water or contaminated with mud or debris you also need to rinse with fresh as soon as you can. appliances etc., anything metal.  We were able to salvage furnaces flooded with tidal salt water by rinsing them but only because the electrical components were not flooded, if they had been the prognosis for the furnaces would be different. you might want to towel off appliances and other metal items rather then wait for them to dry to manage rusting.

FEMA recommended removing sheet rock and insulation at least 6 inches above the flood line but for other wall coverings like paneling we used to just dry it out. probably not FEMA approved but seemed to work fine.

Hey all - just a quick update.  As you may have seen on the news (not sure if it's national news, but at least regional) my entire area is flooded. We've never seen anything like this in the existence of this town. Looks like the rain water coming off the hills came down so hard that the drains couldn't keep up and it just filled the area. 

I went and drove as far as I could into town, made it about 6 blocks away before I couldn't drive anymore, and then got out and walked in it to the house to rescue my tenants (they were young and scared about the electricity being on, so they wouldn't get off their bed until the power was shut off. So I went there, broke a window, and shut the power off. I would have had the police do it but they told me they couldn't get there. Hah. Wimp :) Right now there is about 3 inches of water, in the unit. No sense in removing it yet - I'll wait till later or tomorrow when the water will hopefully subside.

I saw 4 homes completely destroyed by a landslide, 1 block away from my Triplex, which has the basement apartment flooded. Luckily I have concrete/tile floors, but I'll likely have some drywall work to do. 

The worst news of the day is this:  My only property in this area that DIDN'T require flood insurance (another Triplex) because of the high ground - flooded. Bad.  One of the units and maybe two have about an inch of water. No concrete in that one. So ... that'll be fun to deal with. 

Here are some photos: 

Some more pics: 

The rest are not mine, just crazy pics:

Holy cow!!!   When we were hit we thought we had it really bad.  But others were hit much worse just a few days later.  Scary stuff.

Wow. I seen basements flood, but never the first floor. Good luck. Hopefully that beard will keep your face warm and dry at least. :)

@Brandon Turner  

I feel you pain.

Had one house with 8 ft of water in finished basement with family room, bedroom and full bath.  Water might have been there for 2 years.

Another house had a hole in the roof, not visible from the ground, possibly for 7 years.

Another property the 100 year flood level is 8 ft above ground.  Torrential rains caused flooding 13 ft deep, so there was 5 ft of water on the Second floor.

When I was a kid a relative had a property with 8 feet of water on the first floor and of course a full basement.  We went there and helped clean up.

But I've never had a landslide!

Hang in there.


This may be a blessing in disguise.  As you might know, Atlanta was hit by some serious flooding back in 2009.  There were many houses flooded up six feet and higher.  Fema came in and gave a lot of people checks to fix their properties but suddenly getting a $30K check can seem like manna from heaven to a lot of people and they let their houses sit until foreclosure.  Probably didn't help that the houses were figuratively underwater also...

You'll probably be able to pick up some great deals over the next couple of years as long as you are prepared to rehab the properties.  Knowing your dislike for flipping, I'd think you're plan would be to find a partner to buy the property with, then rehab, then refi and take your money out.  I might have read that in a book I recently read...:)  

I'm a news reporter now :) 

wow looks like you are one of the better off people there.  Good luck and be careful till things settle out.

Good luck is right!!!

we had 6 ft in a basement & the HW tank was literally horizontal against the floor joists.

apart from the pumps suggested get some of the high force fans to dry it out esp the electrical panel as it will get moist & it could short. I would move on the pumps & fans before they become scarce.

Keep all your receipts as it may be designated as a disaster area & FEMA may reimburse some of your expenses.

the only consolation is waterfront property rents are at a premium :)

1. Holy crap - you guys got hammered!

2. Hahahahahah - poor Waldo. Basement unit - you were asking for it...just sayin'

3. Be happy that wasn't 2nd floor water leak - I know something about that...

4. Hahahaha - Waldo

5. Remediation will cost an arm and a leg if you call in the "specialists". Start by pumping it out and open the walls. Water travels up the dry-wall! If you had a foot of water, you'll need to open up 2 feet at least above the baseboard. This is a job! Flooring too - concrete is porous and takes in water - not sure if you can dry out the tile :(

6. Natural disaster - insurance is unlikely to cover :(

7. What CAP rate did you say that thing was? What great cash flow? Sounds like Waldo is loosing money this year... What do you think @Serge S.  ?

Brandon - you'll live, but damn!  I bet Heather is NOT happy right about now...  better get some flowers tonight :)

Also had my office flooded with 4 ft of water when I was at the law firm.  We had advance warning and moved all the furniture, files and everything not attached to the building to the second floor.  Ended up getting 4 feet of water.

BT, you mentioned turning off the electric.  In the law firm they had all the law firm records in the basement, they had been there 50 years, so there were many, many files in the basement.  They had been flooded before and had 2 massive sump pumps in the basement to hold back the water.  And they had a track record of not flooding the basement even when the surrounding area was under water.  The head of the law firm was out of town and some brainiac decided to wade through the water to turn off the electric which disabled the 2 massive pumps and caused the law firm to lose 50 years of records.

@BrandonTurner  You're a landlord hero!!!

@Cal C.  is right, get into a buying mood.  You're gonna see a lot of landlords ready to sell now!  Also sounds like you've got 3 water damaged units. You need to fly @Joshua Dorkin  and the rest of the BP crew out to Aberdeen to help you if you plan on a DIY.  

We also expect a book out of this one.  

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