Can wet carpet in a basement be saved?
To decide what to do if your basement is flooded, go by these rules: If
the floodwater was clean (broken pipe,
burst washing machine supply hose or
a foundation leak), you can probably
save the carpet (the pad is “iffy”). But
you've got to act fast. If the carpet isn't dry within 72 hours, it'll start to grow
mold. However, if the floodwater was
dirty (sewer backup or washing
machine drain water), you need to call
in the pros (see “Call in the Pros” below).
For this article, we'll assume the basement was
flooded with clean water, the water is now shut off and the cost of the carpet
is less than your insurance deductible
(or that you simply want to do it yourself
to avoid a claim). Before you set
one boot on that squishy carpet, heed
this warning: You must turn off the
power to the basement. If you're not positive which breakers power the basement receptacles,
flip the main circuit breaker in the garage panel. If your electrical
panel is in the basement, call an electrician to turn off
Next, remove any extension cords and power strips from the
floor and unplug or switch off all electrical appliances (washer,
dryer, HVAC). Ask the electrician (if you hired one) to
repower the upstairs (to keep the fridge going) and inspect the
basement receptacles to determine whether it's safe to repower
them. If not, you'll have to buy several GFCI-equipped
extension cords and run power from upstairs receptacles.
Then it's time to extract the water from the carpet. Don't
waste your time with a wet/dry shop vacuum—it simply
doesn't have enough power. Instead, rent an extractor (if available)
or carpet cleaner, an air mover fan
or two and a large commercial dehumidifier. Rent the largest dehumidifier available.
The big ones can remove up to 30 gallons per day, compared
with 4 gallons for the largest home units.
Extraction is 1,200 times more effective than dehumidification.
You'll want to move the extractor slowly across the
carpet to suck up as much water as possible. Don't rush this
step! Once the water is out, peel back the carpeting (watch
out for those rusted sharp nails on the tackless stripping)
and remove the wet pad. Cut the pad into strips, roll it up
and haul it outside. If the weather is hot, dry and sunny, you
can try drying it yourself by rolling it out on your driveway.
If that works, you can reinstall it by taping it back together.
Just be aware that new carpet pad is cheap, so don't waste a
lot of time trying to dry the old stuff.
Lay the carpet back on the floor and fire up the air movers
and rental dehumidifier. Keep the basement temperature at
or below 75 degrees F. You might think hotter is better
because it will dry everything faster. But a higher temp will
accelerate bacterial growth and turn your basement into a
While the carpet is drying, check the condition of the wall
insulation. If you don't have insulation and you dry out the
basement quickly, you don't have to replace the drywall. But
if the insulation is wet, it's gotta go (wet insulation cannot
be saved). Snap a chalk line, cut the drywall with a recip
saw and toss the wet stuff. Replace the insulation and install
Finally, if your appliances or furnace was under water,
call in appliance and HVAC specialists before plugging any
of them back in.
Save Your Stuff
Most people leave their valuable items
in the basement while they dry out the
carpet. Big mistake. The longer your
items sit in the basement, the more
moisture they'll soak up. And that
means mold. So get them out of the
- Move all electronic gear upstairs (high
humidity can corrode electronic components.)
- Take photos and artwork off the walls
and move them to a dry location.
- Place valuable wet books in your
freezer until the “freeze-drying” effect
removes all the water from the pages.
- If you can't move furniture out of the
basement, place aluminum foil under
Call in the Pros
If you had a sewer backup, washing machine drain water
spill or river flood, you need professional help. Pros are the
only ones with the proper equipment to get your basement
dry and disinfected in the shortest possible time.
To find a certified water restoration professional, search online
for “Water Damage Restoration.” Look
for IICRC (Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration
Certification) credentials in the company information (Servicemaster is one
company that is fully certified). Or, go to iicrc.org and click
on “Locate a Pro.”
Be aware that pros can give you a rough price estimate
(the average cost of a basement cleanup is $2,500), but
the final cost depends on how long it takes them to dry out
your basement. There are just too many variables beyond
their control (inside and outside temperature and humidity
levels) to give you a set price up front. Be wary of any company
that gives you a set price over the phone.