What to Do When Your House Floods

Written by | Updated July 5, 2016

Water Damage and Home Flooding Guide

There’s nothing worse than walking downstairs and stepping into a puddle where you expected a dry floor. Unfortunately, 14,000 people experience water damage at home or work each day. Whether a leaky water heater turns into a geyser or a toilet overflows, water damage can cost you in more ways than one. To prevent and clean up water damage, you can shop for some handy tools. Read on to glean water damage prevention and remediation tips and find out which water damage products will serve you best.

Water Damage Control Tips

If you’re ever in the midst of a watery disaster, here’s what you’ll need to do:

Stop The Flow.

Your first priority is stopping the flow of water. If you’ve identified the appliance that’s leaking, shut off water to that appliance. If you’re not sure where the leak is coming from, shut off water to the whole house. Next, turn off electricity at the fuse box. If you can’t reach the box without wading into water, call an electrician and stay out of the wet areas.

Before removing any water, document the damage for your insurance company. Capture the extent of the water damage and all possessions impacted by the flood. Digital photos are best because you can quickly upload them directly to your agent for assessment.

Contact your insurance company as soon as possible and follow their directions. Not all flooding is covered by a basic homeowners policy, so work with your agent to discover the cause and identify coverage you can qualify for. Do not remove any water before talking to them so you don’t accidentally do anything that will decrease the amount of coverage you’ll be able to claim. If the insurance company wants you to wait for an adjuster before making repairs, do so — but make sure you give them a clear picture of the damage and repairs that are immediately needed.

Minimize Damage.

As soon as you are cleared to remove the water, get it out of there. You can rent a sump pump, a wet vac, and industrial fans from most hardware stores. It might be worth it to hire a professional disaster cleanup or flood-restoration company like Servpro®.

If you do it yourself, open doors and windows to help air out and dry the home. If you can turn on the electricity, crank the heat or air to accelerate the drying process. If you’re concerned about water trapped behind walls, carefully poke holes in the wallboards at floor level to allow trapped water to escape.

You won’t know immediately if the water is contaminated, so take precautions to safeguard your health. Wear protective gear like waders or rubber boots and rubber gloves before delving into the water and removing water-logged possessions. If possible, remove children from the home until the damage is assessed and contained.

Remove damaged possessions as soon as you can and start airing out and drying salvageable items. Create a list of all damaged items, when you purchased them, and the approximate purchase price. Mold can set in as soon as 24 hours after a flood, so the more quickly you can remove belongings the better. If items have been exposed to the water for more than 48 hours, it may be best to throw them out.

Remove flooring to expose the subfloor so it can start drying as soon as possible. Some wood subfloors can take months to fully dry. Floor padding will need to be discarded and replaced. Carpets and vinyl flooring that were under water for less than 24 hours may be salvaged if the water was not contaminated. Hardwood floorboards need to be dried slowly to avoid cracking and buckling.

All rugs should be professionally cleaned. Attack mold growth on surfaces by wiping them down with a pine oil or non-ammonia cleaner. Follow with a disinfecting solution that is at least 10 percent bleach or labeled to kill germs. Be sure to test all cleaners on a small area first to detect any staining or fading that may result.

Get back to normal.

The extent of the flooding will impact the amount of work required to get your home back to its former glory. Minimal flooding may require only the time it takes to remove the water and dry everything out. More extensive flooding can leave you needing a complete remodel. Be prepared for the potential construction site left in your home after a flood.

By the time you’re ready to start rebuilding, you should have the final word from your insurance company regarding how much your payout for repairs will be. Keep this amount in mind as you make decisions about any potential upgrades you’re considering. In addition to structural materials, you will probably need to replace furniture and electronics as well. Make sure you take all potential costs into consideration when putting your home back together.

If you’re living in the home, set up dust barriers between construction areas and habitable spaces. Designate an area to hold displaced furniture and other belongings. Even if you’re able to cook, arm yourself with takeout menus: cooking in a construction zone can make everything taste like dust.

Water Damage Prevention Tips

You won’t even need to think about the steps above if you just follow these top water damage prevention tips.

Follow our buying guide.

Prevent water damage by buying some of the products we’ve listed below—and minimize the effects with them too.

Clean your gutters.

Gutters help water flow away from your home. If they’re stopped up with leaves, it’ll cause water to collect. Water needs to flow somewhere, so it will begin seeping into your home through walls or through the foundation. Cleaning leaves out of your gutters once a year is a sure way to prevent this from happening.

Break out the caulking gun.

See cracks in your foundation or windows? Seal them back up. It’s a cheap and easy fix to keep water out.

Keep your heat on.

If you go away for the winter, you can’t shut off the heat. If you do, your pipes will burst and you’ll come home to an unpleasant mess. Keep your heat on 50 degrees to ensure water remains a liquid instead of a solid. In its icy form, it can cost you thousands in damage.

Check your pipes.

If your pipes are in your home, but aren’t insulated, then they can still burst. No matter if your home is a toasty 80 degrees, this can still happen. Hire someone or check your pipes yourself and tuck them in with some extra insulation so that they don’t burst in winter. If you’re really worried, you can also leave cabinets open (if your kitchen is on an exterior wall) to keep warm air circulating around your pipes.

Clear your pipes.

If you have an outside sprinkler system, make sure to clear your pipes before winter comes. This will remove water from inside the pipes and prevent them from freezing, expanding, and bursting underground. Come springtime, a burst pipe in your sprinkler system could result in a serious leak that can mess with your foundation and utility bill.

Top Water Damage Products

Water damage is caused when pipes freeze, toilets overflow, appliances leak, roofs fail, and Mother Nature plays mean tricks. The average water damage bill amounts to nearly $7,000 and can make a mess of your finances as well as your home. In order to prevent it from happening, here are some products you can purchase to safeguard your home.

Whole House

The following products are meant to keep your whole home safeguarded from water damage.

1. Home Alert Water/Freeze Sensor

When temperatures in your home dip below 41 degrees (fahrenheit) or a water leak is detected, this sensor will alert you through your phone. You’ll need to purchase the entire Home Alert system ($99), but that includes an app, water/freeze sensor, smoke/CO audio detector, main hub, and a bunch of accessories. Then, place a sensor under water heaters, in the basement, in the bathroom, or near any appliance that uses water.


  • Includes A Lot. You’ll get smoke/carbon monoxide sensors as well as 24/7 monitoring with this service.
  • Home Automation. Download the app and this sensor will alert you and/or your contacts if you have a leak or freeze warning.


  • Requires Monthly Service. You’ll need to buy Home Alert’s $9.95 monthly monitoring with this service.
  • Price. The whole Home Alert system costs $99. You can’t buy water/freeze sensors on their own or they won’t work.
  • Additional Sensors. The system only includes one water/freeze sensor. They cost $29 each and can add up if you want more.

Buy it on FindHomeAlert.com

2. Flexx Point Gutter Guards

Leaves, twigs, birds’ nests, and more can clog your gutters—rendering them useless. When water pools in gutters instead of flowing away from your home, it can cause leaks and water damage. If you don’t like cleaning out your gutters often, you can purchase a gutter guard like Flexx Point to keep things from falling in in the first place. They install on top of your gutters and have a 30-year lifespan.


  • 30-Year Lifespan. These last a long time.
  • Affordable. Flexx Point gutter guards costs about $1 per foot.
  • Subtle. You can’t see these gutter guards from the ground, so they won’t negatively affect the look of your home.


  • Still Need To Clean. Cleaning won’t be nearly as extensive, but you will need to brush debris from the gutter covers to make sure water can drain properly.

Buy it on Amazon

3. WEN 1800-Watt Portable Generator

In the dead of winter, losing power can be catastrophic. If your home’s temperatures dip below freezing, your pipes could burst and cause thousands of dollars of damage. A backup generator will get you through power outages and prevent pipes from freezing. This generator is the “#1 Best Seller” on Amazon. The 1800 watt is the cheapest, but you can also choose versions that put out up to 13,000 watts. Just make sure you have gasoline on hand to run this generator.


  • Affordable. The 1800 watt model is less than $200 on Amazon.
  • Long-Lasting. The 1800 watt Wen generator runs at half load for 7.5 hours on less than two gallons of gasoline.
  • Light/Compact. This Wen generator weighs 50 pounds (less than others) and has a less than 2 ft. footprint.
  • Best Seller. This is the “#1 Best Seller” on Amazon for generators.


  • May Be Too Small. Depending on the size of your home and electricity needs, you may need to buy a more powerful generator. Prices get pretty steep with greater wattage and most electrical systems need a 5,000-8,000 watt generator to run properly.

Buy it on Amazon


Considering that 98% of basements will suffer water damage, it’s important to focus water damage prevention and remediation in this area of the home. Here are some products that can help you prevent basement flooding or clean it up if it happens to you.

4. Superior Pump 91250 Sump Pump

You’ll need a sump pump if your basement floods, but it can be used to prevent a flood from getting out of hand too. This little machine can pump 30 gallons of water per minute and help you clean up your basement quickly. On top of that, it’s very compact and can fit into a six-inch space. Customers love this device and it’s become the number one best-seller on Amazon.


  • Best Seller. This is the most popular sump pump on Amazon.
  • Compact. Fit this sump pump into a six-inch space.
  • Affordable. Buy the ¼ model for under $50.
  • Powerful. It can pump 1,800 gallons an hour at a depth of 25 feet.
  • Submersible. This sump pump can be submerged in water.


  • Standing Water. While this sump pump can remove a lot of water, you’ll still have ⅛ inch on the ground that you’ll need to mop up.

Buy it on Amazon

5. RadonSeal® Foundation Repair Kit

If you see any cracks in your foundation, that’s a sure sign that water can get in. Depending on the size of the crack, you might be able to patch it yourself. Using a high quality epoxy kit like RadonSeal can help keep water out. like Here’s a how-to if you’re doing to do it yourself.


  • Inexpensive. Compared to hiring a professional (unless your foundation need extensive work) or paying for water damage remediation, $115 isn’t too bad of a price tag.
  • Highly Rated. This has 4.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon.


  • Might Not Be Able To Do It. This is for hairline cracks, so if your foundation has more serious issues, you won’t be able to use this.

Buy it on Amazon

6. MacCourt Window Well Covers

Window wells can cause basement flooding if not sealed. That’s because they’re low points where water can become trapped. By purchasing transparent window well covers, you can prevent water from collecting around basement windows. MacCourt’s window well covers are highly rated on Amazon, don’t block out light, and can be purchased in different sizes.


  • Affordable. Each window cover is under $20.
  • Transparent. These are clear and won’t block sunlight.
  • Size Options. Depending on your window wells, you should be able to find a cover that fits properly.
  • Protects Animals. These covers keep critters from falling into your window wells and becoming injured or worse.


  • Not Reinforced. MacCourt window covers are just plastic. They’re not meant to stand up to extreme weather like hurricanes.

Buy it from Home Depot


Your bathroom uses the most water in your entire home, so there are a lot of things that could result in flooding. If your basement has flooded or you’d like to prevent that from happening, here are some products for you.

7. Zircon Leak Alert

These toilet alarms will let you know right away if there’s a leak in your home. With a powerful alarm, they’ll start beeping if your toilet leaks. They’re built to float in a flooded environment, so they won’t give out on you when you need them most.


  • Best-Seller. This is the number one seller on Amazon for toilet leak sensors.
  • Cheap. You can get five of these sensors for $50. Odds are, you won’t even have that many toilets in your home.


  • Not Smart. Home Alert sensors can detect water leaks and have home automation technology. These sensors do not.

Buy it on Amazon

8. ConnectSense Water Sensor

We have this under the bathroom category, but you could use this in your kitchen and bathroom too—or anywhere you want to monitor leaks. ConnectSense is cool because it functions as a smart device. Through the app, you can get alerts if it detects a leak. It doesn’t require a monthly service charge, so it’ll cost you less in the long-run than similar devices like Home Alert. Power it with battery and connect to it through your home’s WiFi. This device is super easy to use and install.


  • Smart. Get alerts to your phone and email through an app.
  • No Monthly Fee. Unlike Home Alert, this sensor doesn’t require a monthly service fee.
  • Easy Install. It connects through your WiFi and uses rechargeable batteries that last up to three years.


  • Pricey. This costs $150 on Amazon. If you want more than one, it’ll get expensive fast.

Buy it on Amazon

9. Wilton Food Coloring

This might seem strange, but you can test to see if your toilet has a leak by using food coloring. Squeeze one drop into the tank and watch it for 10 minutes. If color leeches into your toilet without flushing, there is a leak. Flush right away so your tank doesn’t stain and call a professional right away to fix the problem.


  • Cheap. This is a cheap method for diagnosing a leak. Plus, you can use the leftover coloring for recipes!


  • Stain. This can stain your tank if you keep it in there too long.

Buy it on Amazon

Dealing with a flood in your home isn’t fun, but you can keep your family safe, minimize the damage, and recover quickly if you’re prepared. No matter what, acting quickly and proactively is key, so keep these tips and product recommendations handy. Otherwise, you might wake up one morning to discover your living room floating in a pool of unexpected water.

Written by Katherine Torres

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