So, a Water Leak Happened. Now What?

Leaks happen. Homeowners are actually eight times more likely to experience a water leak than a burglary. And while some leaks can be discovered only through signs like unexpected increases in your water bill or belated ceiling water damage, some leaks are blatantly obvious — like when your basement basically becomes a swimming pool. For the more obvious (and severe) leaks, speed is everything when you’re trying to save on home water damage restoration costs or preserve irreplaceable belongings. But what steps do you take?

Act quickly to prevent water damage and mold.


Shut off the main water supply.

This seems almost as obvious as the huge water leak in your basement, but discovering such a large leak can be a frantic event, causing you to freeze, panic or forget where the shutoff valve is located. So, first calm down enough to think clearly and find a way to shut off the water. leakSMART® does this for you when the valve is installed and the sensors detect water.

Call your insurance company.

It’s important to notify the insurance company as quickly as you can, as they’ll need to come out and assess the damage.

Disconnect the power.

Remove any electronics from the area. Turn off all power that leads to the exposed areas – especially if you see water above them. A lot of electronics, if wet or affected by the water leak, may not be salvageable, so prepare to discuss this with your insurance agent to see what they can replace.

Remove as much water as you can.

Use mops, buckets and towels to remove and soak up as much excess water as you can. Take all the water you gather, and pour it into the sewer system. Using an extension cord, plug in a wet/dry vacuum from another room and suck up the remaining water from the floor. A sump pump is another viable option for cleanup. They are available at most hardware stores. Your end goal is to get the area as clean and as dry as possible.

Dry it out.

Once you have the water mostly removed, it’s time to dry the affected areas. If the drywall in the basement gets wet, it’s best to get rid of it. For wooden areas, such as hardwood floors, you could potentially salvage some pieces, depending on the extent of the moisture and damage. The best way to determine if something is salvageable is to use a moisture meter or an infrared camera to assess the severity of the damage. Yet another drying measure is a dehumidifier, which can help improve air quality and remove excess water from the air. Large fans can also be helpful.


Disinfecting the areas is an important step that you shouldn’t overlook. This will help prevent the spreading of bacteria and germs from the affected areas. The biggest thing you’re attempting to prevent after a water leak is mold. Even an inch of water can lead to mold, so if you’ve had a total basement flood, this step will hold even more importance for you. Mold has serious effects that can lead to ruined walls, poor air quality and health problems. You’ll want to use a strong disinfectant to remove any bacteria that may have been in the water in areas including walls, floor, non-upholstered furniture and any other items that may have been exposed.


Throw away everything that is beyond saving. This means furniture, electronics, carpet, rugs and anything else damaged by the leak.

Cleaning up a water leak or flooded basement will not be fun, but if followed step by step, this list will help you successfully restore most of the affected areas. If you notice remaining water or fear that mold is growing, call a restoration professional to help you make sure the area is safe and clean. You can avoid a leak of this caliber altogether by installing a leakSMART device, which will detect a leak, shut off the main water supply and alert you of the event all in less than five seconds.