What Should You Do If Your Bathroom Floods?

Sloppy, slushy, smelly, messy, and expensive. All the things you think of when water is pouring into your bathroom. And even worse–running down the hall and into the basement.

You may be running to turn off the water. Not me. I am running to turn off the power. Yes, you need to stop the water. Soak up the water. Dry out the room (house). Make repairs. But you don’t need to be electrocuted doing any of it.

A flood in your home is never fun. Some ways of dealing with it are more effective than others. Drying, clean up, and repairs should be quick and efficient.

There is a logical and organized way to deal with a flooded bathroom. We will help you do it right.

Stop Bathroom Flooding 

Before stopping the water, turn off the electricity. Just go to the main breaker and kill it all. Yes, I know you will have to reset some clocks and things. Beats the alternative. You can always turn some or all of it back on once you are certain it is safe. 

If you see sparks, flames, smoke, or smell gas–get out of the house and call emergency services.

Note: Don’t be the person who can’t find the main breaker. Make sure everyone in the house knows where it is and how to use it.

Where to Look

You can’t fix it if you can’t stop it. Some of the causes of bathroom flooding include:

  • Clogged Toilet. A clogged toilet combined with a running valve can pour a lot of water on the floor.
  • Stopper in Sink or Tub. Someone leaving a tap running with the drain stopper in place.
  • Broken Water Pipe. Broken pipes inside the wall or supply lines to sinks, toilets, or tubs.
  • Sewer Backup. Can be caused by too much rain, collapsed sewer lines, tree roots, or something else.
  • Leaking Roof. A leak in the roof can show up anywhere–not just in the bathroom.

These are some of the more obvious culprits. 

8 Steps to Recover From Bathroom Flooding

Once you have found the leak and stopped it, get started with the cleanup. Get on it as soon as possible. (This means sending someone else for the beer.) Subfloor, baseboard, drywall, and cabinet contents will absorb water. Dry out the room and contents as soon as possible.

If you have any floor penetrations like plumbing pipes, try to stop the water from running through. No point in having two rooms to clean.

Take Pictures and Make a Phone Call

I know I just said that time is of the essence. But someone has to pay for the cleanup and repairs. It might as well be your insurance company. Keep a pictorial record of what happened, what you are doing to fix it, and the damage. Call your insurance company.

If the damage is substantial, the company may want to send someone to inspect it. Tell them to get a move on because you have no intention of waiting around watching mold grow.

Then if it looks really bad, or beyond your abilities, you or the insurance company might want to involve a fire and flood restoration company. 

Take a Few Minutes to Plan

Assess how bad it really is. Many leaks–if caught in time–can be contained and cleaned up with a mop and bucket. These are small leaks like a cracked pipe or a few quarts of water overflowing the tub.

Significant leaks involving gallons of water standing in the bathroom or flowing into other parts of the house require more effort. It is a dirty, messy, no-fun job.

Corral the Water

If at all possible stop the water from spreading. Roll up towels or rugs to keep water from spreading. The further it goes and the longer it sits, the more damage it will do.

Clean out the Flooded Bathroom

Cleaning and drying the floor, cabinet, and contents is much easier if everything is out of the way.

  • Clear the Floor. Get everything moveable off the floor. If it needs to drain and dry, just throw it in the bathtub. Or put it into the washing machine. 
  • Empty the Vanity. Take everything out of the vanity. Quite often it contains absorbent products like toilet paper. Throw out anything that is not salvageable. 
  • Protect Furniture. Wrap the legs or feet of anything you cannot move with plastic wrap or aluminum foil to restrict the absorption of water.
  • Electrical Appliances. Take every piece of electrical equipment out of the bathroom–even if you are certain it remained dry. (Eliminates the urge to plug it in.)

Remove all Standing Water in the Bathroom

Mops, pails, and towels are the usual “go-to” clean-up items. To remove a lot of water in a hurry use a wet/dry shop vacuum. If you do not own one, almost any rental outlet will have them available. (The beer run person can bring one back.)

Note: Do not turn the power on in the bathroom. Power the vac from another room.

Dry Vertical Surfaces

Walls, doors, casing, baseboards, vanities, and other furniture can also be wet if the water got high enough. Make sure you wipe it all down to help the drying process. Dry the undersides of door slabs and vanity kicks.

Get the Moist Air Out

Mold and mildew can start growing in less than 24 hours. Getting the room and air dry as quickly as possible is essential. Turn on the bathroom fan. Open the window–if there is one. Keep the bathroom door, vanity doors, and closet doors open.

Set up any fan you might have to move air into or out of the bathroom. A simple cheap box fan will move over 2000 Cubic Feet of Air per minute (CFM). The more air passing over and around wet floors, walls, and fixtures–the quicker the drying process.

You can also rent commercial dehumidifiers to get the moisture out of the air quicker. Allowing more to evaporate.

Repairing and Refinishing a Flooded Bathroom

A bathroom flood can range from a small puddle on the floor to 2 inches of flowing water. If the flooding is bad enough some of the repairs you may have to consider include:

  • Flooring. If water sits on a floor long enough it will eventually find its way through. Subfloor and underlay may have to be replaced because it is soaked, swelled, or moldy.
  • Baseboard. Much of the baseboard installed today is MDF–a combination of sawdust and glue. Another word for it is “sponge.” Any more than about 4 drops of water and it will swell like I do at Thanksgiving dinner. It will need to be replaced.
  • Casing. See Baseboard.
  • Drywall. Water will wick up into drywall. Quite often you will have to cut out the bottom foot and replace it. If the water has been sitting there long enough you might have to replace more than one foot.
  • Insulation. Wet fiberglass batts lose all insulation value. If left open with sufficient air movement, the batts will dry out. But it can take up to a week.
  • Vanity and Closets. Vanities and closets are often made of MDF. MDF will soak up water and swell. You may have to replace them.
  • Disinfecting. Mold–especially black mold–is harmful to people’s health. It grows quickly and stinks. Microban and bleach are popular products used to disinfect flooded bathrooms. Spray everything liberally to be sure you got it all.

End Notes

Make sure you do your cleaning safely. Especially in the case of sewer backup. Wear rubber gloves and rubber (or at least water-resistant) boots. If you are particularly sensitive add an N95 mask or a respirator and a hazmat suit (less than $20.00 from Amazon).

Call a Flood and Fire Restoration Company

You, or your insurance company may prefer to hire a restoration company to do the work. Most of them are very good at what they do. Quite often insurance companies work with specific companies. Let them take the lead. They are paying for it. But you have to live with the result. Make sure you are happy with the quality of the work.

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What Should You Do If Your Bathroom Floods?
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