Every day, someone either wakes up or comes home to something that can be any homeowner’s worst nightmare: standing water on the floor. What makes having water on your floor such a pain? One thing that makes standing water such a pain is that, in many cases, the actual source of the water can be difficult to pinpoint. The water that a homeowner believes is coming from the floor may actually be coming from the ceiling.
Also, if there is enough water on the floor for long enough, it can allow mold and mildew to multiply, cause wood to warp, destroy drywall, and even tear tile loose from the adhesive holding it in place.
Another problem is that if there is enough water, it can short out your electric systems and create a risk of electrocution. If you believe that the flooding is bad enough to reach an outlet or may have passed through your walls, you should not linger in the home. Instead, you should have a qualified electrician verify that the home’s supply of electricity has been cut off and does not pose a threat.
Also, water can be absorbed by porous objects in the home, which can then become heavy and unstable. If you live in an apartment, this can cause the floor or ceiling to actually fall through, so it is imperative that the safety of the building be established before you try to enter it.
Step 1: Find the Source of the Leak
So, before you can do much of anything about the leak itself, you have to track down the origin of the leak. Check your ceiling for signs of water damage. Are there any dark or discolored patches? If so, the leak is probably coming from above your head. If you live in an apartment complex or condominium, you may even be on the receiving end of spillover from an upper-floor tenant’s leak.
Also, remember that water flows along the path of least resistance. Just because the largest pool of water is in your living room, do not rule out other areas of the home as being the source of the leak. Check your bathroom for signs of water leaking underneath the sink, toilet, and bath/shower. Listen for a hollow, steady hissing sound. This noise, if present, can often give you a general idea of the location of a leak. Repeat this inspection for other areas of the home with water fixtures, such as the kitchen.
If, after a thorough examination of your property you cannot find signs of the leak’s origin, you may have to contend with the possibility of a leak underneath the floor itself. For homeowners, this means attempting to pinpoint the location of a leak through their own foundation. However, in the case of a broken pipe underneath a concrete foundation, the homeowner will often have other indications of such a leak before water begins to accumulate. If you notice that you have a bulge in your floor, that is a strong indication that your home has a broken pipe underneath the foundation.
The EPA.gov website has a good recommendation for finding a leak: “Check your water meter.” If you have been unable to locate the source of a leak, make sure all water fixtures in the house are turned off and take a measurement of your water meter. After a couple of hours, check your meter again. If the meter has moved, and you have not used any water, then there is a leak somewhere in the house. If the meter has not moved, then the water is probably coming into the home from an outside source.
One potential outside source for water that is coming into the home under the floor is seepage. If the property lacks sufficient drainage, heavy rains can cause water to pool against the exterior of the building, and this water can then seep into your foundation and begin pooling on the inside of your house.
Even if you do find the source of a leak, do not assume it is the only one. If you have not checked all potential leak sources, keep checking for other leaks.
Step 2: Find a way to Stop the Leak
If the leak is originating from a broken pipe, shut off the flow of water to that pipe. Most bathroom and kitchen fixtures have a local cut-off, or you can use your home’s emergency cut-off valve to completely stop the flow of water to the pipes in your home.
By stopping the flow of water, you create the opportunity for the excess liquid to drain off and maybe even prevent the damage from getting worse.
Of course, if the water is leaking into the home from an outside source, such as a hole in the roof or from exterior flooding, you will not be able to simply shut off the flow of water into your home by shutting off a valve. In such cases, in order to stop more water from penetrating your home, you will have to fix or at least temporarily plug up the leak itself.
As pointed out by many DIY sites, water leaking up from the floor is usually the result of insufficiently-sealed foundations or even the from cracks in the foundation floor. If the leak is originating from a crack in the foundation, you can patch it using a technique featured in the “For Dummies” website that employs a vinyl concrete patch, a chisel, latex, and some appropriate spreading tools that should come with a vinyl patch kit.
Step 3: Dry Out the Home
As suggested by sites such as House Logic, one of the first steps to drying out your home is to begin circulating air. If it is not too humid out, you can open up your home’s windows and doors to let air flow through the home and remove the water vapor to speed up the drying process. Alternatively, so long as your air ducts were not submerged or flooded with water, you can use your A/C system to circulate air mechanically to help speed the drying process.
If there is enough water, you might want to consider renting or buying a heavy-duty sump pump or wet vacuum to help draw off water. DO NOT use regular vacuums, as they are not designed to handle water.
You should also remove heavy, water-absorbent objects from the home and let them dry in the sun. Even if an object is too damaged to be recovered, you should remove it from the home to prevent it from becoming a haven for mold spores in the house.
When the water is low enough, consider mopping the floors to spread out the standing water and pick up dirt and contaminants from the floor.
Step 4: Prevent Future Leaks
Once you have found the source of the leak, stopped it, and dried out your home, you should now try to find ways to prevent future leaks. For pipe leaks, this can be as simple as inspecting and replacing your existing pipes. For a foundation leak, the repair can get very expensive.
If the leak was because of an improperly sealed foundation allowing moisture to bleed through the porous concrete of your home, you may have to excavate the exterior of your foundation and re-seal it. Naturally, this is not a desirable situation because of the expense and damage to your property this can cause.
If the home became flooded because of insufficient drainage allowing water to pool up to your home, then you can prevent future flooding by installing or improving the drainage of your property.