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June 10, 2008

Specialist: Take care when pumping out flooded basement

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - While floodwaters can ruin a home's basement, pumping out the water can cause more problems if not done correctly, said Steve Cain, Purdue University Extension disaster communications specialist.

"Removing all of the water at once may cause serious structural damage to the house," Cain said. "Draining the water too fast could cause the collapse of the cellar walls, floors and foundation of the house."

Water should be drained slowly to equalize pressure on both sides of the walls, he said.

"Once the flood has receded, water still in the ground outside your house may be pushing hard against the outside of your basement walls," Cain said. "The water in your basement is pushing back. If you drain your basement faster than the water in the ground is draining, the outside pressure will be greater than the inside pressure and may cause the foundation, basement walls or floor to crack or rupture."

Cain suggested the following steps when pumping water from a basement:

* Begin pumping when floodwaters are no longer covering the ground outside.

* Pump water away from the home to avoid back pressure. "If you just put the hose outside a door or window, the water can make its way back into the house and add pressure to the basement wall," Cain said.

* Pump out 1 foot of water, mark the water level and wait overnight.

* Check the water level the next day. "If the level went back up and covered your mark, it is still too early to drain your basement," he said.

* Wait 24 hours and then pump the water down 1 foot again. Check the level the next day.

* When the water in the basement stops returning to the mark, pump out 2-3 feet and wait overnight.

* Repeat the above step daily until all the water is out of the basement.

"Once the basement is drained and cleaned, homeowners should have a reputable contractor inspect the walls to make sure they are safe," Cain said. "If walls collapse it would cost the homeowner more to rebuild them than the cost of the cleanup after the flood."

For additional flood recovery information, read the Purdue Extension publication "First Steps to Flood Recovery." The publication is available at county offices of Purdue Extension, by calling the toll-free Purdue Extension hotline at 1-888-EXT-INFO (398-4636) or online at http://www.ces.purdue.edu/floodpub/index.html .

Also, log onto the Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN) Web site at http://www.ces.purdue.edu/eden/  and click on "floods," "storms" or "tornadoes."

"The Web site has been designed to support the printed "First Steps to Flood Recovery" publication by offering up-to-date Web links with more information," Cain said. "EDEN will keep this site updated when more or new information is available."

Writer: Steve Leer, (765) 494-8415, sleer@purdue.edu

Source: Steve Cain, (765) 494-8410, cain@purdue.edu

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722;
Beth Forbes, forbes@purdue.edu
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