Water in basement! Should I enter?

I was doing an inspection today as a friend, so it was just a walk and talk through with no report. The Basement was roughly 24’ x 30’, and the basement had an 1.5-2 inches of water from wall-to-wall, the electric was shut off so the sump pump’s were not working. So I thought to myself if this was an actual client should I have had rubber boots in my van so I could have entered that basement and inspected thoroughly? I did not enter the basement but just went down the stairway.

I had a few other photos just did not feel necessary to post but if this was an actual paying client this would be the best I would have to go off of to write a report if I did not enter the basement, is that acceptable to not enter the basement?

image image

Only if you have a canoe or other personal water craft, approved personal flotation device for your jurisdiction, a pleasure craft license, if/when an outboard is lager than 10HP. Other that that, I would not. Risk of electrocution or other safety hazards.

Observation: Standing Water in the basement.
Recommend: A licensed plumbing contractor service the sump pump and discharge standing water in the basement to the appropriate gray water discharge line.
Limitation: Significant amount of Standing Water in the basement.


Would I go in the basement?

Let’s see, power cords in the water.

Nope. Not even a close call.


Absolutely not - it is safety hazard.

Ahh,…NO! :flushed:

OK thanks for the replies, I kind of had a sense of guilt that I did not do a thorough inspection in the basement, and I kind of felt that maybe I should have fought the circumstances and completed the inspection. I am glad to see the answer to this question is lopsided with do not enter. Safety was on my mind and also I did not want to get my work boots wet, I like to do as much as I can for a client during a home inspection but I was not looking forward to that.

Greg, you did the right thing!
Every day we take some measured risks, even before step out on the busy street. Stepping in a flooded basement however is a risk which I’d guestimate to be fatal in 1/1000. So, if you take similar risk in every fifth inspection the odds are that you will not survive to retire.

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Is it allowed to NOT enter a basement, crawlspace, etc standing water … HELL yes, you are the Home Inspection Guru on jour jobs - NO ONE ELSE

YOU decide what gets done for YOUR safety

YOU know the rule … “I’d rather be judged by 12 THAN carried by 6”


Only barefooted

Next time don’t stick your metal tape measure in the water either.


Yah, you got me on that one! Seriously though good looking out, I never gave that a thought. I always use my tape measure when I try to specifically point something out in a picture. I will remember your advice. But Chuck while I am responding to you: In the other thread about taking the electrical cover panel off I am totally confused here in Ohio. If you lived here in Ohio would you take the cover panel off? I hope there is a simple yes or no answer to this because I am going nuts trying to know what is right or wrong.

He mentioned in the post that the power was shut off. If you could confirm by seeing that the meter had been pulled or an outside disconnect was off, what kind of electrical hazards could there be besides tripping over electrical cords/cables?

He could slip and fall on the wet slippery floor, for one, but you’re free to go right into the water. :roll_eyes:

Someone could turn the disconnect on while you are down there. Same theory as to why remote equipment disconnects are required when out of view of the breaker/panel.

That actually happened to me once 10 years ago. A customer flipped the switch ON to check how works the newly installed light fixture in the kitchen, while I was installing the next one in the living room. I got lucky to not be touching the bare wire at the moment and I heard clearly the CLICK, followed by the light turned on in the kitchen.

I’m rarely using bad language, but I wasn’t able to suppress it at this moment.

Correct there power was off, the house has been empty for a year now. I was confident I would have been safe from electrocution so I would have walked through a little bit of water but 2 inches would’ve made the rest of my day miserable with wet shoes and socks, I don’t think the situation would have been unsafe it just would have sucked. So that’s what I was wondering if I should have just dealt with it. But overall I am feeling like I made the right decision by not entering.

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This will be rather long but I thought that you would want to know more about the hazards of open standing water. If your not up for that hit next.

I have given talks to construction supervisors about the “sneak current” pathways that are sometimes present in electrical service connections. A fair number of construction workers die each year from unrecognized electrical hazards. Although a sneak current pathway is not the most likely hazard an HI will encounter there are some out there.

The most common of those are Meter Shunts. Those are bypass conductors, both portable and built in, that will pass current in spite of the absence of the Utility’s meter. The portable ones are often carried by electricians to do testing and provide work lighting on a job. Their use by persons other than the employees of the Power Utility is unlawful but very common anyway. When an electrician does not have any they will bridge the jaws of the meter mount with regular wire with a stripped end shoved into the jaw grip. The presence of an opaque meter blank would prevent you from seeing them. Even if the meter blank is transparent you will need a strong light to see them even on a sunny day. The built in variety of meter shunts will usually be found only in meter mains assemblies such as those found on commercial buildings and multi-unit dwellings. A single lever engages the shunts to bypass the meter and release the locking jaws which hold the meter in place. That is installed so as to avoid exposing utility staff to a possible arc flash during the connection or disconnection of an in line meter under heavy load. Most of those cannot remain engaged with the enclosure cover closed. The worker who is removing the meter first closes the shunts (meter bypass switch) thus unlocking the meter jaws. They then can remove the meter without drawing an arc. They then open the meter shunt; the contacts of which are fully enclosed and fitted with arc chutes; so that the lever returns to the position which allows the cover to close or be reinstalled. But surprise! I have seen the bypass operating lever cut off so that the assembly could be closed with the meter shunt still engaged.

It is possible to test for electricity flowing through fresh water with any good quality Volt Ohm Meter or Multi Meter. Set the meter to it’s lowest range for AC voltage and engage the peak hold. Drop one lead in the water close to your location and the other probe as far away as your inspection stick will reach. Move the furthest probe in an arc around the close probe. Since water without salt or other conductive minerals is not a good conductor any current flowing will cause a measurable voltage gradient through the water. The peak hold will tell you how many volts might be present across the length of your stride; that is called step potential; or through your comparatively conductive body if you were to fall into that water.

Did everyone notice the soil piping (Black Water) passing through the standing water. If those joints are the old tamped Oakum and Lead sealed bells do you want to bet your life that all of them are perfectly water tight? When the Urban Search & Rescue Teams (USART)s are wading through flood waters they wear the waist down portion of a Tyvek® coverall to prevent contact with the water because such contact can be fatal if there is even a small break in the skin. They also carry non contact voltage detectors that are rather sensitive and have no automatic off.

Even Firefighters, whose risk tolerance is rather high, would not enter that water. They have been taught that water proof boots are often quite conductive. The would lower a double insulated submersible de-watering pump into the water. They would not cross that floor until the water was gone or at least down to Water Vac. depth.
Salvage Master Water Vacuum

Tom Horne


Good reply Thomas. I have Inspected vacant houses in the inner city of Cleveland with the meters pulled but with Meter shunts. Good and correct advice about rubber boots also. I carry rubber boots in my truck but only for walking around the house when it is muddy/wet.
Greg, keep a wooden yard stick in your truck for situations if you want to record water depth in questionable spaces.
Above all, be safe my friend!

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I missed the point about the power being off when I made the tape measure comment, however based on Tom Horne’s post, it’s still not advisable.

Regarding Ohio and panel fronts, I would read all the applicable standards and regs carefully. I would totally ignore or debunk Mr. Parks claims as he seems to intentionally mischaracterize definitions and the scope of home inspections (e.g., readily accessible in the SOP). IMO Parks is incompetent to set limitations on the home inspection process or inform home inspectors of what they should or should not do in the course of their profession. As far as I can tell, he is not a member of InterNACH, not a qualified home inspector, and not in any form of regulatory or legislative capacity. He also does not appear to be an attorney, yet he is making public interpretations of the law and informing an entire profession and misinforming the public as to what Home Inspectors are not permitted to do according to regulations that he has neither a role in authoring, implementing or enforcing. My impression of him is that he is a hack who hopes to profit by intimidating home inspectors from performing activities which are well within the scope of home inspections. He has an obvious ulterior motive. He should not even be permitted to post in these forums. I also think InterNACHI should send a cease and desist letter or file suit against him for making uninformed statements to the public, via his website, which are misleading and harmful to the home inspection profession.

I would remove panel fronts at this time, however, being that regulations are in somewhat of a state of flux, I would be pressing for a definitive answer from legislators and enforcers and asking InterNACHI to get involved, if I felt it was needed. Hope that is direct enough for you.

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