Water in the Basement? What to Do — And What Not to Do

A cautionary tale about a basement “flood” in Denver

As a Realtor, I’ve seen firsthand the damage and expense that mold can cause, so when I discovered MY basement flooded late last summer – I went into a full-on panic.   

Day One: Discovering the Flood

On a stormy night, I walked down to the basement to do some laundry, only to find the basement carpet SATURATED with water. Fortunately, the affected areas were fairly empty, but I at least wanted to protect the few items we did store in the basement. By the time I was done it was pretty late, so I decided to deal with the rest in the morning.  

Day Two: Call in the Flood Remediation “Experts”

The next day, I searched NextDoor and found an emergency flood remediation company. Their team arrived within a few hours. Yay! The Team Lead assured me that he had seen this a million times – my flood insurance would “definitely” cover this. Not only could he start ASAP, but he would even take care of the photos and paperwork required by my insurance company. Double yay! 

A few hours later, his team returned, set up dehumidifiers and carpet fans, and removed the carpet padding to get the basement drier faster. They left the dehumidifiers and carpet fans running overnight, and promised to return tomorrow.  

Day Three: Things Get Weird

First thing the next morning, I checked out the basement. Turns out several of the machines stopped running overnight due to a flipped breaker, and the basement was still pretty wet. I could have sworn I discussed where to plug the machines in so this WOULDN’T happen? 

Second thing, I just couldn’t shake this feeling that there was something off about this team of experts. After having done some research on how to best dry carpet, it felt like this team wasn’t following basic best practices. 

I’m fully aware that I’m not an expert myself, and my research was limited to just one night of Googling. However, most of my research suggested carpet should be tented to increase air circulation — but this team left the carpet flat on the floor. And why hadn’t the team lead discussed next steps? Was my best choice to keep this carpet? Or was it too dirty at this point to be viable? Things were just starting to feel weird. 

Day Three Part Deux: What Flood Policies Really Cover 

Kudos to my flood insurance agent – he was there in a snap. He’s a former general contractor, super nice guy, but brought bad news. This was no flood. Um – what? 

Turns out – most flood policies cover ONLY damage from rising bodies of lakes, rivers, or streams. It appeared that my “flood” was due to the aftermath of a freak Colorado storm. Policy coverage for basements is also very limited in the event of an actual claim. It doesn’t cover carpet or flooring — just furnace, water heater, and the like. He explained that, especially for basements, flood insurance policies are pretty bare-boned. 

Day Four: Wait, Who’s Paying for All of This? 

By day four my mind was reeling. The flood expert said insurance would cover this. My flood insurance rep said, “Nope!”  

At this point – I had a bunch of flood equipment set up in my basement. The basement was not getting dryer. The carpet seemed to be laid out so it dried as slowly as possible. Was the flood remediation company trying to scam my insurance company? Were they trying to scam me? Was theinsurance company scamming me? Was I just paranoid? Was all of this coming out of my pocket???? 

The Moral of the Story: Just Call Your Regular Insurance Person 

I finally gave our regular homeowner’s insurance rep a call. She tells me something terrifying. They wouldn’t cover damage if the water seeped in from the ground. I guess it’s a quirk of insurance policies, and I’m still not sure exactly why. If the water comes in from the window wells, or a water heater bursts or a bathtub overflows, then it’s covered. 

I wasn’t sure how the water came in, but I’m starting to think we might be out of pocket for this entire cleanup and repair. That’s when I finally tell Mr. Flood Guy that he has to take his machines and get out. He was disappointed and sulky, but he left without too much fuss.  

The basement was still wet, but this project is now on me, and I was ready to get to work. The regular claims adjuster rep couldn’t come for a few days, but in the meantime, I went and rented my own carpet fans and dehumidifiers to continue drying out. 

And then I decided to rip out the carpet, because why keep it? And that’s when I had another realization — carpet is really heavy! The padding, which the flood guys had been so quick to rip out, is super light and easy to carry. But carpet, especially if it’s wet, is heavy and awkward and hard to maneuver. I was seething mad at this point, but happy that I had kicked them out! And ripping carpet helped with some of the stress.   

Fortunately, when the insurance rep made it out, she determined that the water had come in from the window wells, so our claim will be covered! It was such a great relief to know we wouldn’t have to pay the several thousand dollars it was going to cost to get our basement back in order. 

Tips for Dealing with a Basement Flood: 

Get to know your insurance agent! 

If you’ve never had a chat with them, just set up a call to review your policy and make sure your coverage is adequate. If you’re not satisfied with their explanations or don’t have good chemistry, then consider switching your plan. There are plenty of outstanding agents out there, and they want you to have the right coverage (and many of them are not trying to rip you off). If you would like a recommendation, I have a few good ones to share. 

Now that you’re friends with your agent, call them before making a claim of any kind. 

If your situation doesn’t qualify for a payout, sometimes they’ll be able to tell you over the phone, and you can avoid an attempt at a claim, which will count against you (even if you don’t get paid out) and may cause an increase in premium. 

Research your service people — even if you are panicked. 

After this experience, I’d venture to say the flood recovery service business is a bit shady. They find a job, and they’re on the ready – swooping in with machines. When they get the job, they extend the project to drive up the cost. This particular company had been recommended on Nextdoor, which is usually a pretty good resource — but in my rush, I didn’t thoroughly check them out. 

Your insurance agent should be able to recommend a reputable service person to call. 

Of course, my agent knew a good guy, and he came out to give us a “clean bill of health” once we were dried out. He didn’t even charge for it. 

Be familiar with your policy coverage! 

I know it’s not exciting material, but it’s helpful to know what’s covered, and where you might have gaps. Had I been better prepared, I would have saved myself a lot of time, frustration and money. We can’t know all the intricacies of homeowners’ insurance, but it’s helpful to be familiar with your policy — and ask your agent any questions. The good ones are on your side and will help immeasurably to ensure you’ve got the right coverage. 

In the end, we got a pretty good settlement check! I’m not sure how much our premium will go up, but I’m happy we didn’t have to pay for the remediation and floor repair. 

And guess what? No more carpet for us! We’re doing polished concrete, and I’m excited! 

Published by Jessica Wilkie, Broker Associate

Hard worker data geek with experience and humor to share. Enjoy serving people throughout their real estate journeys and helping them make good and informed real estate moves.

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