How to Pump Out a Flooded Basement / Don’t Rush

Do you know how to pump water out of a flooded basement?  The first thing is don’t start too early or too fast.

How to Pump Out a Flooded Basement

Prior to beginning any work take pictures, plenty of pictures.

The following are steps that will allow you to safely remove water from a flooded residence or business basement. After surge of flood water recedes to ground level the water on the ground floor will stream out of the structure. What remains is the water in the basement as well as mud and any debris that was in the flood waters. If the yard in the area around the home or business contains standing water it is still too soon to pump water out of your facility.  The first reaction of many people will be to pump the water out of the basement as fast as they can. Depending on how deep the water in the basement is it may be too soon to begin pumping. If the water is inches deep rather than feet deep then began pumping.  Pumping out a flooded basement quickly that has two feet or more water is a big mistake. This can result in structural damage as well as collapsed walls of the foundation. The hydraulic pressure on the outside of the foundation exerts an enormous amount of pressure from the outside and directed to the inside of the walls. When the ground outside the structure is saturated with water it exerts massive amounts of pressure on the basement walls.

The water that is inside the basement serves to equalize the pressure and keeps the water outside from collapsing your basement walls and foundation. Any sudden decrease in this pressure could result in a domino effect that could collapse the whole structure.

If the power is live, turn it at the breaker or distribution box. Even if it is off turn off disconnect the breakers that supply power to the flooded area.  Put on some safety equipment, rubber boots, masks and or work gloves.  Then assess the damage and the level of water in the basement. Determine the best type of pump to use and the source of power that will operate the pump(s) if electric service has not been restored.

How do you know how much water to pump out from a totally flooded basement? Pump out about 1 to 1.5 feet of water the first drop.  Make a mark on a wall of the water level after the first pump. Check the mark in 24 hours. If the water has returned and covered the mark the ground is still saturated with water.  Then pump out another foot of water and make another mark on the wall.   If after another 24 hours the water level returns to the mark then rinse and repeat. If the water doesn’t cover up your mark again, then you can pump two or three feet of water out of your basement and wait overnight, remember to mark your new spot to make sure you aren’t pumping water out too fast.

After you have done the above steps, just repeat until the water is gone, and you only have what amounts to a wet floor. After the submersible pump has removed as much water as it is capable of removing, use a Shop-Vac or mops and buckets to remove the rest of the water.

Renting versus owning is always up for discussion. Renting equipment gives you access to professional contractor grade equipment for a fraction of the cost. During natural disasters such as hurricanes, storms or floods renting can be a challenge.  Owning allows you access to equipment whenever the need arises.  Owning has an initial upfront cost as well as the cost of maintenance, however the equipment is yours, and it is an investment.

The links to various products are for informational purposes.

Types of Pumps

Transfer Pump

Transfer pumps are available in small ⅒ HP 110-volt models and range up to the very large gasoline powered 300 HP motors and have a maximum flow of over 4000 gallons per hour.

The small electric transfer pumps are used to move limited amounts of water. This type pump is more of a general purpose homeowner pump. A typical use would be draining an aquarium or moving water off of a pool cover. Large transfer pumps also known as trash pumps are self contained gasoline powered equipment and are capable of moving water that contains mud and debris. These transfer pumps have high-speed motors that deliver high flow capacity and can be used to pump water from flooded basements empty boats, drain stock tanks, drain ponds and much more.

These pumps can move hundreds of gallons of water per minute. These pumps are utilized commercially as well as on farms and construction sites.

Submersible Utility Pump

A submersible pump is the preferred pump for removing the water in flooded structures. They are lightweight, portable and are electric powered.

These pumps are available in different sizes. The size pump that works for many flooding situations is a ¼ horse power pump.  An example of a ¼ horse power pump is one manufactured by Pentair, the model is Simer 2310-04.  The pump has a small footprint, it has an aluminum shell with a sealed electrical cord.

The pump will move the water outside through a garden hose or a sump pump discharge hose. A garden hose will move a small volume of water while a discharge hose will pump over 4 times more water than a ¾ inch garden hose.  A discharge hose requires an additional fitting attached to the pump and a hose clamp to connect the hose to the fitting. Discharge hoses are made of flexible plastic and are available in 24-foot lengths. Joining sections of hose requires a coupling and with a hose clamp on each side of the coupling. The additional expense may be worth the increased speed of ejecting the water. The larger the hose, the more quickly the pump will remove the water.

The 1/2 horsepower pump is an average commercial pump, it has a 2-inch threaded discharge pipe.  This pump will remove more water than the smaller pump from a couple of inches to a foot or two of water to remove water from the basement or a commercial building this pump is a little bit larger than the usual homeowner pump and it will move remove water faster.

The submersible utility of pumps can operate in less than ⅛  inch of water. Or it can be completely submerged in areas with deep water. These pumps are not self powered.

There are several brands of submersible utility pumps that will operate on 12 or 24 volts DC.  Tsurumi L4000 – 66 GPM 12/24-Volt DC Submersible Utility Pump is just one.


A Shop-Vac with a pump is a multipurpose tool.Shop-Vac is a trademark and the name is used to describe all types of wet and dry vacs that are used primarily in garages and workshops. This tool uses a garden hose as its discharge hose and will pump up to 6 gallons per minute. It is electric powered.  The best feature of the Shop-Vac and pump is that it is lightweight and has dual purpose. While its performance is not comparable to the submersible pump it does its job.  Unlike other Shop-Vacs this pumps water and does not store it in its drum. You will have to use the wand with the suction hose because it is not a submersible.  However, if you own one if will be a good supplement to a submersible pump if you have a large job.

Discharge Hoses

To increase the capacity of the ¼ HP submersible install 1 ¼ inch sump pump discharge hose. Kits can be purchased at the big box hardware stores. Here is an example, Everbilt 1-1/4 in. x 24 ft. Sump Pump Discharge Hose Kit. Remove the garden hose fitting and install the 1 ¼ inch fitting and connect and clamp the hose.  A 1 ¼  insert coupling is used to connect multiple hose lengths.


2 inch inch gas powered transfer pump will require a 2 inch discharge hose.

So, if renting this type of pump the hose may not be included and you will need to rent or purchase your own lengths. These hose ends are threaded so no couplings are required, just screw the end on to the discharge side of the pump and thread the other end onto each new length of hose.

A submersible 2 inch pump also uses a 2 inch discharge hose. This “lay-flat” hose is a standard hose often used. The downside is that it tends to kink as it bends at the top of the pump and this limits the amount of water that you can pump out of the basement because you want to get this much water out as fast as you can. An alternative to lay-flat hose is an extraction hose used for carpet cleaning.

The use of an extraction hose requires a 2 inch fitting to screw onto the top of the submersible pump. One end of the fitting is threaded and the other end is barbed. This end connects to your hose and is secured with a clamp. The carpet extraction hose does not kink and you get the full amount of water out of the end hose and you make maximum use of the pump.

Cost Analysis Buy or Rent

Water damage occurs from a wide range of reasons including flooding drainage issues clogged gutters burst pipes and sewage backups therefore repair cost vary widely depending on the cause and the circumstances that have caused the damage for instance it is less expensive to restore a basement or dry out a basement that has an inch of clean water then to try and dry out a basement with three foot of sewage backup the price of drainage repairs can increase up to greater than $10,000 more depending on the size of the space and the extent of the damage so when you are damage includes contaminated water river flooding sewage backup it’s best to budget more for your project

The table shows approximate rental and sales prices of the equipment to pump water and to dry the area. The costs were taken from national rental companies and big box retail rental departments. They may vary by geography. These estimates do not include the rehabilitation of the area; carpet, drywall, cabinets, vanities, painting, furnace, washer, dryer etc.

If renting longer than 3 days a weekly rental is more cost effective. In addition, if you have no power and do not own a generator a generator rental expense is also factored in.

1/4 HP Submersible Pump Purchase Daily Rental Weekly Rental
Submersible Utility Pump 120 v 1/4 HP 3/4 inch 110 24 96
Generator 3000 Watt 250 62 248
Sump Pump discharge hose 1 1/4 inch 12 12 12
Couplings for sump pump discharge extra hose lengths 5 5 5
Fittings 5 5 5
Fuel 20 20 100
Floor Fans 70 25 100
Dehumidifier 1400 44 176
Total W/ Generator 1872 197 742
Total W/O Generator 1622 135 494
1/2 HP Submersible Pump Purchase Daily Rental Weekly Rental
Utility Pump 1/2 HP 2 inch 350 42 168
Generator 3000 Watt 250 62 248
2″ x 50′ Discharge Hose 45 6 15
Fuel 20 20 100
Floor Fans 70 25 100
Dehumidifier 1400 44 176
Total W/ Generator 2135 199 807
Total W/O Generator 1885 137 559
Trash Pump 2 Inch Purchase Daily Rental Weekly Rental
Transfer / Trash Pump 2″ 260 63 252
Generator 3000 Watt 250 62 248
2″ x 50′ Discharge Hose 45 6 15
Fuel 20 20 100
Floor Fans 70 25 100
Dehumidifier 1400 44 176
Total W/ Generator 2045 220 891
Total W/O Generator 1795 158 643

How to Pump

When using a submersible utility pump here are some steps and equipment needed to begin pumping the water out of your basement.

If the electric utility service is turned off at the service box, turn on one 15-amp outlet on the upper floor. Connect the pump to a heavy-duty extension cord.  If the water is deep use a piece of rope to lower the pump.

Tie or secure the extension cord to the floor joists so it is not in contact with the water.

If the water is only inches deep locate the pump in the area with the deepest water, and do not let the discharge hose bend and kink up.  It can be tied to the floor joists as well.

Connect the extension to the power source, either plug it into the receptacle or start the generator and then plug the pump in.

The transfer pump steps differ in that there is no electric power source, it operates on fuel.  After the discharge hoses have been connected place them into the water and secure them into place.   Check your fuel and oil levels and start the pump.  Monitor its performance.

The pump vac requires manual labor to hold the wand and to suck the water up.

Secure the discharge hose, plug in the pump and turn on the switch.

After Water Removal

Before you can restore your home, you have to clean up the disaster. Always when working on any project, think safety first. There are molds and bacteria and there are dangerous. Anyone working in the area will want to wear personal protective gear (masks, gloves, footwear, etc.). The first order of business is to clean up. Receding water leaves a mess. Mold and bacteria begin to multiply. Wear protective wear, masks, gloves, rubber boots or protective footwear.


Make a safety inspection. Check for any hazardous situations, which include structural damage, electric hazards, pathogenic bacteria, mildew and mold. Address the found hazards immediately.


Remove all water-damaged items. Furnishings, cabinets, paneling, drywall, carpet, trim, doors etc. were touched by water demo them. The work is labor intensive, time consuming and dirty.  Make the decision whether you will be a DIY or hire a professional. When hiring water migration professionals budget your costs, they can add up quick. On the other hand, a restoration professional’s opinion is of considerable value.

Get the Air Moving and Drying Out

  • Move air naturally, open windows and doors for air circulation.
  • Move air mechanically, with the use of high-powered floor fans.
  • When the air is dry, it will wick moisture out of the walls and floors.

Temperature, moisture level, paper, drywall and wood contribute to bacterial and microbial growth.  This can begin forming in 48–72 hours.  Allowing mold, mildew to grow will increase remediation costs. So start the drying process as soon as possible.

Box fans and most dehumidifiers cannot compare to professional ones but they can help. Use what you have and place them throughout the affected area. The water granules will become airborne and aid in evaporation. A dehumidifier will remove this humidity from the air.

Sanitize and Disinfect

Remove water damaged and other damaged items. Remove anything that dirty water has contacted. Drywall must be flood cut, carpeting, wood trim, doors, water heater, paneling are materials most likely destroyed.  Once removed clean up the affected remaining areas, floors and walls with a good disinfectant. When everything is clean, disinfect a final time.

It is a regular practice to use a bleach solution for disinfecting.  There are a number of green products that are effective and safe to use. Always read the labels and ensure you are wearing protective gear.


Preventing flooding from a natural disaster is not an easy task; many believe it is cost that is beyond our means. While the upfront costs of a product named the Aqua Dam or an earthen levee are considerable they do outweigh the cost of gutting or replacing an entire structure.  

There are other not so costly steps to take to help prevent and mitigate flood damage.

Flood Insurance  

The majority of homeowner insurance policies do not provide flood damage coverage from external sources. Most policies offer comprehensive protection against a wide range of losses, including sewer backup and water damage. But, not many policies currently protect against flood damage.

In the United States there is the National Flood Insurance Program, operated by FEMA.  Its goal is to lessen the effect of flooding on private and public structures. The program provides reasonable protection to property owners, leasers’, renters as well businesses by advising and supporting communities to adopt and enforce flood management policies.   The UK also provides flood insurance to its residents. The UK program is Flood Re, a joint initiative between the Government and insurers. Its goal is to make the flood coverage part of household insurance policies more affordable.

In Canada “overland flood “coverage is offered by private insurers. At this date there is no government subsidized program to cover flooding.  Water damage coverage is still a concern because overland flood is not available at affordable rates to hundreds of thousands of Canadian homeowners, mainly because they live in areas deemed by insurers to be at a high risk of flooding,

Flood Proofing  

This is a combination of structural changes and adjustment to properties which can be used in new or existing construction. Action includes seepage control, protective coverings, elevation or raising the structure from grade level. 

There are also small flood proofing measures that you can take to help prevent, or minimize the impact of flooding to your home or business and its contents. A few examples include:

  • Elevate your furnace, water heater, washer, dryer and other major appliances.
  • Install “check valves” to prevent flood water from backing up into the drains of your home.
  • Construct barriers such as sandbagging to stop floodwater from entering your home.
  • Seal walls in your basement with waterproofing compounds.
  • Grade the ground so it directs away from the structure.
  • Clean gutters and be sure they are fastened and correctly pitched.
  • Install a battery operated backup to the sump pump.
  • Install window wells around basement windows
  • Clear drainage ditches and culverts of all debris to keep water flowing into sewers.