Offcuts: Flooded Basement By: Don Heisz

There’s an expression about March that, if it comes in like a lion, it goes out like a lamb. The expression runs the other way, too. Basically, the meaning is if the weather is terrible at the beginning, it will be good at the end or, if good at the start, bad at the end.

This March came in like a lion and left like a drunken, psychotic jackass smashing your dishes as he left the kitchen.

So, last week I told you of the danger of trees covered with ice. Well, I spent a couple of hours with my chain saw and reduced the number of fallen tree bits and pieces on my lawn. That made for an enjoyable Saturday afternoon.

Unfortunately, I awoke on Sunday morning to discover the basement was flooded.

This has happened just once before in this house, and I thought it was due to a pumping station directly beside my house failing to start during a heavy rain storm. That first time, I was alerted to the possibility my basement was flooded by a guy who lived across the street. His basement was flooded, so he said mine might be, too. Sure enough, it was. But when I opened the floor drain, all the water (about an inch) ran down. The basement floor is a bit lower where my workshop is than everywhere else, so only that end had water. The other end, carpeted and furnished, was dry.

This time, however, I walked into two and a half inches of water in the workshop side and every bit of carpet throughout the rest of the basement was complexly saturated. I pulled the floor drain and nothing happened.

It was an early morning for everyone in the household. I woke my wife and got her to start getting stuff off the carpet. In an effort to lower the water level to prevent the further saturation of items in the basement, I started vacuuming the water off the floor in the workshop and putting it in large plastic containers. We have a lot of these containers, luckily, many of which are storing books and other things in the basement. So, very little was actually sitting on the floor and able to get wet. I will now fully endorse these containers above standard cardboard boxes for storage, since cardboard will drink any water it finds.

As soon as I got the water level down to about half an inch, I woke up my kids and started cutting carpet. In a situation where water is invading the house, the most important thing to do is limit the places where it can sit. Carpet is perhaps the worst possible thing to have in a flooded basement. This particular carpet was down there for well over 20 years and never got wet before, but it was just a matter of luck. Carpet and underpad directly on a concrete floor is not something anyone would advise. But, truthfully, I don’t know that I would have wanted anything else under it. If there was a shoddily-built wooden floor under the carpet, I would then have water hiding underneath that for who knows how long.

A couple of plumbers eventually showed up and cleared out a blockage in the drain. I did not get them to investigate what the blockage was, which would have cost too much and told me nothing. The entire run of drain pipe outside is deep under a fully paved driveway. The cost of getting whatever problem fixed would be ludicrous. Anyway, I have four kids. Who knows what they’ve been flushing down the toilet over the years.

Incidentally, there was far too much water on the floor to have come from within the house. I think this incident was a bad coincidence of that pipe blocking and the ice melting all at once the evening before. I am not certain, but I suspect that the ground water is somehow draining into the sanitary and normally runs away but, in this instance, could not so ended up inside the house.

I enlisted the help of my brother John. He came with a pump and we emptied the many plastic containers. He helped with the carpet removal. He’s a fairly useful guy.

carpet removed from a flooded basement

We then set up fans everywhere. John had the good idea of taking the fan of my dust collector and setting it up outside a window to suck air out of the basement at a tremendous rate.

By Tuesday morning, the basement floor was dry. I am now painting the concrete that was formerly carpeted. The paint will make it easier to dry if it ever gets wet again.

My neighbour’s basement flooded, also. But that was due to the power outage. I don’t think he was informed, when he bought the house, that it had a serious water problem, or he would have had his sump pump on a generator. A basement two houses away flooded, as well.

No tools suffered permanent damage in this incident. However, the lathe that has been sitting on the floor upside down since I bought it had to be moved.