How to Dry Out a Wet Basement

  • 168 hours
  • Beginner
  • 100-600
What You'll Need
Water pump
Wet/dry vacuum
Mop and squeegee (optional)
Underlayment removal tools (prybar, drill, floor scraper) (optional)

When you’re faced with a wet basement, no matter what the cause, it can be particularly heartbreaking. All manner of personal possessions will be ruined. The first thing to do is to dry the basement, which can be a big task. You need to do it before you can investigate the source of the water there.

Step 1 - How Deep is the Water?

Before you can dry the basement properly, eliminate all of the water. Where there’s deep standing water, you’ll need a pump to remove it. Rent one from a tool rental store or buy one from a DIY store. If there are just puddles of water, a wet-dry vacuum should be sufficient to handle the task. When there’s just a tiny amount of water, a mop and squeegee will be adequate. When the basement is damp, but there’s no standing water, open the basement window and use a fan.

Step 2 - Removing Damaged Items

The water will most likely have damaged to items in the basement, even if it’s not immediately apparent. If the basement is carpeted, remove all of the carpeting and underlay, then throw it away. It is highly unlikely that it can be salvaged.

If there’s a wooden floor with an underlay, take it all up. Take the wood to the garage to dry and throw away the underlay, since you won’t be able to re-use it. Remove drywall or paneling in the basement as well. It’s a magnet for mold and mildew.

Where there’s been contact with water, you’ll need to replace entire panels and not just sections. Go all the way to the studs. Don’t try to save any of it, as doing so will be a false economy that could lead to a moldy, mildewed basement later on.

Remove all of the furniture and clothing until the basement is empty. Clothes and covers should be washed then dried, either in a tumble dryer or in the sun.

Step 3 - Drying the Basement

Even with the water gone, the basement will still be damp. Run a dehumidifier for several days to ensure that it is completely dry. Until the basement is thoroughly dry, don’t make any repairs or replacements. If you have a wood floor with no underlay in the basement, inspect it for signs of buckling and replace any planks that need it.

Step 4 - Checking the Basement

When the basement has been completely dry for a week, inspect it carefully for any signs of mold and mildew, especially on the wall studs or other porous material. If you see any, replace the item. This is the only way to keep the mold from the basement.

Step 4 - Find the Source of the Leak

The leak that caused your wet basement could come from any number of sources, such as a burst pipe or a leaky washing machine. It could be a crack in the foundation or a high water table. It’s important to find the cause of the leak and fix it before you repair the basement. If you’re not sure of the reason, employ a professional to determine the root cause.