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Close-up Photo Of Flooded Floor In Kitchen From Water Leak

A pipe burst, your washing machine broke or it rained a little too much, and suddenly you have your own personal pond down in your basement.

Water problems are a nightmare for homeowners, especially when those problems lead to significant flooding. Dealing with water or flood damage is time-consuming, expensive and isn’t always covered by homeowners insurance. Depending on the amount of damage, restoration can cost between $1,400 – $7,500.

Since it can be so expensive, homeowners might consider taking on some repairs themselves to minimize the amount of money they have to spend. But is this a wise idea? And how can you tell whether the cleanup will be manageable, or if it’s necessary to hire professionals?

Things to Consider

To determine whether you can clean the area up on your own or if you need to call in an expert, you’re going to have to evaluate your situation and consider a few different factors.


A small to moderate amount of water in your home should be manageable on your own, provided you have the proper tools to deal with it. However, if the flooding is significant or is continuing to rise in spite of efforts to curb it, don’t try to deal with it on your own.

If your area is recovering from a large flood or other natural disaster, now isn’t the time to take on a DIY repair project, especially if your home suffered significant damage. Leave this one to the professionals and follow instructions from local disaster relief authorities.


Before you decide to clean up water damage on your own, you first need to figure out where the water is coming from.

There are three different types of water that you may deal with when you have a flooding issue in your home. The type of water will guide you on whether you can do the cleanup yourself or if you need to bring in a professional.

The first type is clean water. Clean water might come from rain or leaky pipes and doesn’t have harmful bacteria growing in it. The second type is called gray water. This is water that comes from sources like your dishwasher or washing machine, and may be slightly contaminated. This type of water can also be safe to clean up yourself, provided you take proper precautions and use appropriate safety gear.

The last type is black water. Black water can come from sewers or flooding from a nearby body of water. Don’t try to clean up this type of water on your own, as it can harbor all kinds of highly infectious organisms and other health hazards.

If you’re unsure about the type of water you’re dealing with, play it safe and call in a professional.


The level of damage is also something to consider. Light damage can usually be taken care of by the homeowner. However, water can cause significant damage to a home and even render elements of it unsafe.

For example, if you’re dealing with bad flooding on one of your house’s upper levels, that water can seep through the floor and damage the ceiling below, which could be hazardous. If the damage is beyond your ability to safely repair, you should hire an expert.

If the flooding is deep, you also have to consider the damage to your electrical and HVAC systems. If any electrical equipment was submerged in water, it’s likely ruined. Those aren’t things you’re going to be able to fix on your own, so there may be a limit to the number of repairs you can DIY.

DIY Water Damage Cleanup

If you’ve determined that the water damage in your home is simple enough to deal with on your own, let’s take a look at the steps you need to take to get the area cleaned up and restored.

Safety First

The first thing you need to do, whether you’re managing the cleanup yourself or hiring professionals, is turn off all water and electrical sources in your home. To turn off the electricity, you may need to have a licensed electrician remove your home’s electrical meter from its socket to ensure that all electricity has been disconnected.

If you’re going to be wading into the water, it’s a good idea to wear some sort of protective clothing to prevent your skin from coming into contact with the water. Even if the water looks clean, you still can’t be sure it hasn’t been contaminated in some way.

Remove the Water

If the amount of water is very small, you may be able to use a wet vacuum to remove it. If you’ve experienced more significant flooding, you may need to rent a water pump to efficiently get the water out of your home.

If you have a lot of water in your basement, you shouldn’t remove it all at once. Instead, pump out about a third of the water per day, as the water in the ground that surrounds your basement can cause the floors to buckle and the walls to collapse from the sudden loss of pressure from the water inside.

Dry It Out

Because mold can start growing in as few as 24 hours, you’re going to need to be proactive and work fast in drying out the affected areas.

Setting up a few fans can help, but if the damage is over a larger area, you might want to consider renting a large dehumidifier and letting it run for as long as necessary.


Everything that came into contact with flood water will need to be disinfected. If the water contained sewage or other hazardous materials, you should discard any porous materials it touched and make sure everything else is thoroughly sanitized. Do this as soon as possible to prevent mold growth.

Figure Out What Can Be Salvaged

Unfortunately, you may find that most of your stuff won’t be salvageable from flood damage. Water can permanently damage certain materials pretty easily, so you may have to part with the majority of personal items that were in the flooded or water-damaged area.

Some things may be able to be thoroughly dried out and cleaned. Soaked upholstered furniture may not be able to be restored, but you might be able to save wood furniture that hasn’t been sitting in the water for too long.

You may also need to remove any damaged carpeting, drywall, insulation or other similar materials and replace them.

Ultimately, the level of damage will determine whether you need to hire a professional or not. Dealing with substantial flood or water damage can be a scary and stressful time for a homeowner; bringing in an expert can help mitigate a lot of uncertainty. However, if you’re able to do at least a little bit of the cleanup and restoration yourself, in conjunction with a professional, you may be able to save yourself some money.

Do you have a good method for dealing with water damage? Share your tips in the comments.

This Post Has 26 Comments

  1. Thank you for mentioning the various types of water that are involved with a flood, as homeowners often forget the hazards of black water. Excellent info.

  2. Searching so many blogs for this explanation. The idea’s you mention to deal water damage are really helpful. Thanks for sharing this information.

  3. I liked that you mentioned you need to figure out where the source of the water is coming from. I’ve had a leak recently and it took me longer than I want to admit to find the source of it. It ended up being a slab leak, I should keep a professional at slab leak detection just in case this happens again in the future.

  4. Bought my home less than two months ago and got sewage water backed up into my downstairs from the main sewer line. I called a mitigation company who came out and completely gutted my downstairs and sent my insurance company a bill who another expert feels is overcharged. My policy limit isn’t enough to pay for the repair. I could use my HOA’s insurance, but my current policy limit doesn’t meet their deductible and the HOA claims their not responsible for damage from a pipe they maintain. Any suggestions? This is my first home and this situation is truly heartbreaking for me as my dream home is no longer livable.

    1. Hi Kim:

      I would carefully check your HOA agreement. If it says they’re responsible for the pipe in an area, they’re responsible for the pipe. At that point, you could take a look at legal options. The only other avenue I could think of is to see if it’s possible to pay the difference between what your insurance will cover and the total amount of the repair. I’m not a lawyer or an insurance professional, but those are the people you should probably talk to her about options.


  5. I’m in the insurance adjusting biz, and we just got a crop of sump pump claims due to heavy rains. I send our policy holders to this site for more info on mitigating damages. Awesome site, Thanks for the info!

    1. We’re glad you find the article to be so useful, Gary! We wish luck to everyone dealing with flooded basements right now. It’s not easy.

  6. Hello.
    If your home incurs water damage, flooding.
    You have three choices:
    1. Purchase a Shop-Vac with a pump
    2. Purchase a low cost submersible pump
    3. Call a professional.
    Should you chose one of the first two consider the time and effort to remediate water damage.
    Tear out.
    Remedy any mould
    Replace damaged water heater, furnace, doors, trim, carpet etc.

  7. Hi,
    Everything is very open with a clear description of the issues. It was definitely informative. Your website is very useful. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Thank you so much, Parker! You’ve made our day. I didn’t write this. Shane did, and it’s awesome!

    1. Hi Lenny:

      The best advice I can give you is to find a restoration company that specializes in water damage. You’re going to have to have some things dried out and probably repaired.

      Kevin Graham

  8. Shane DeMott you have written a great and informative post. Water damage causes a lot of damages like furniture, electrical appliance, and other things as well but if we don’t remove the water quickly it will create a mold which would be dangerous for your health.

  9. I agree a lot with the idea of removing damaged items and disinfecting the area. I think those are the first basic steps to restoring the water damaged area. I also agree a lot with the idea of getting air moving around there so things can dry out.

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