Whether caused by a burst water pipe or a rain-driven flood, standing water in your home is always bad news. It can destroy anything it touches, including personal possessions and even the very structure of your house.
In this scary situation, you always want to call a water removal specialist to assist the clean-up. These companies have tools that can ensure the space is thoroughly dry afterwards, as well as the industry knowledge to assess whether structural damage has occurred or dangerous mold has begun to grow.
But you don’t need to wait for a professional to start removing standing water from your home. “The sooner the better” always applies when it comes to having water where it shouldn’t be. As long as you’re sure that there are no live wires pushing electricity through the water, use one or more of the following strategies to begin removing it.
Before you start, take a few photos to document the extent of the damage. This will be important if you intend to make an insurance claim, and can also help your water removal specialist understand the extent of the damage.
1. Bailing with buckets
The fastest way to get started is simply to bail water out with buckets. It will be a time consuming process, but only requires willing hands and a few large containers. One way to make the job go faster is to set up a human chain of volunteers to pass the buckets along. Be sure to have your helpers rotate positions in the line every so often so that no one gets fatigued by doing all of the bending or dumping.
2. Wet/dry vacuum
A wet/dry vacuum, also called a shop vac, can suck up water through a hose. This saves you some heavy lifting, but the tank will still need to be emptied repeatedly throughout the process. Hauling the heavy vacuum out to a safe dump spot and back can be tiring. Luckily, most shop vacs are on wheels, but that might not help if the ground outside is sodden by rain.
3. Homemade siphon
Siphons can be tricky to get started, but if you succeed, the water is drained by suction and won’t require much effort beyond monitoring it to make sure it keeps working. We will describe a couple of different methods to create a homemade siphon using a garden hose or any other flexible tube that’s long enough.
Suction method: This is what people usually think about when they imaging staring a siphon. To do it, fully submerge one end of the hose in the standing water. Pull the other end out to where you want the water to drain. You’ll need to apply suction to the free end of the hose long enough to get the water at least halfway through the hose. However, since garden hoses are seldom opaque, you won’t know when you get to that point and may need to pull the water all the way out to be sure the siphon starts properly.
Using your mouth is one way to apply suction and this works pretty well for shorter siphons. But when you’re talking about a long garden hose, the effort could easily exhaust a person. There is also the risk of getting some of that standing water in your mouth; this is dangerous because all kinds of water-borne toxins may be present.
If you have an air pump that can pull as well as push air, try using that. Your wet/dry vacuum might also be able to do the job provided you can get an airtight seal around the end of the garden hose.
Submersion method: Another way to get a siphon started is to entirely submerge your hose in the water. Watch for the bubbles that indicate the hose is taking on water. This method will only work if the hose becomes completely full of water with no remaining bubbles.
Once the hose is full, crimp one end of it by folding it over and hold on tight. Make sure the other end stays fully submerged as you move the crimped end to your chosen drainage spot. Once you release the crimp, water should begin flowing. If it fails, it is likely that there are air bubbles somewhere along the line.
Remember that gravity also plays a part in a successful siphon. If you are able to position your siphon so that water drains to lower ground than the standing water, it will work better and faster. Of course, depending on the location of your flood, this might not be possible.
Provided you can do so safely, it is always wise to begin bailing out standing water as soon as you can. Just remember the cardinal rule of dumping that water: it must flow away from the house. Water dumped right next to the home is likely to seep back in.
The other important component of the process is ventilation. Once the bulk of the water has been removed, open windows and run as many fans as you can to speed up evaporation of moisture that lingers in corners and has seeped into the walls.
A water removal specialist will have industrial water pumps and high powered fans to do the job thoroughly. It’s always best to have a professional complete the job, and if one can get to you within an hour (or you’re unsure if the water is electrified) feel free to wait.
But if the flood occurred due to weather, chances are high that the company will be very busy. In that case, use one of the methods above to get started on removing the water. The sooner it gets out, the less overall damage you will have to repair in the aftermath.