Preventing Basement Flooding?

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by GarrAarghHrumph, Sep 6, 2011.

  1. GarrAarghHrumph

    GarrAarghHrumph I can kill you with my brain

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    Hi, All:

    As some may know, my basement, which does not normally flood, got 3-4 feet of water from Hurricane Irene. We'd like to prevent that from happening in the future, and would like suggestions.

    Would a sump pump be able to handle that volume of water, and prevent it from building up as it did this time? The flood appeared to happen in a two hour span, max.

    Our basement doesn't normally flood, but we do get the occasional trickle or dampness around the edges of the walls. The former owners said there was minor flooding during Hurricane Floyd.

    The cellar is unfinished, so that's not a concern. We don't want to finish it, and we don't need it to be bone-dry. We just want to keep the major water from accumulating, and preserve our boiler and washer dryer.

    An official "waterproofing" of this basement is not possible. It's got some dirt walls, some made of piled-up stone. The floor is cement over dirt. It's 100+ years old. We don't need it so it's waterproof. We just don't want it to flood.

    Suggestions?
     
  2. timing

    timing fragrance free

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    I don't know that it is possible to prevent basement flooding in extreme water situations. I've seen water force it's way in between the floor and the walls when the ground was over saturated.

    Making sure the water is directed away from the basement wall outside does help. The ground should be highest at the basement walls and slope away.
     
  3. jeffisjeff

    jeffisjeff Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, I am not an expert, but landscaping seems to be key. There is only so much that can be done to the house itself, so you want to make sure the water doesn't flow directly at the house.

    We live on a hill and the water tends to flow straight down and toward our house. So we did what we could to get the water to stay away from the house, including a French drain, strategically placed drainage systems, and some adjustments to landscaping.

    We did this after my husband finished finishing the basement, including adding a new window and window well in the basement. We were lucky and it all held up to Irene. Fingers crossed for the future.
     
  4. Louis

    Louis Tinami 2012

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    Can you relocate the washer and dryer and the furnace upstairs? All things considered, it may be cheaper.

    Agree with others that landscaping is probably an issue. My guess is that a normal sump pump probably would not have been able to keep up with the volume of water you encountered -- e.g., your statement that your washer and dryer was floating.
     
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  5. Aceon6

    Aceon6 Get off my lawn

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    Agree on landscaping. We're the 2nd house from the top of a hill, and we do get a good amount of runoff hitting the uphill side of the house. We had the landscaper grade so that the water would flow around, rather than against the house. We're raised the furnace and water heater on cement blocks, and have arranged things so we can take 6" of water with no problems at all. We bought a floor pump to deal with anything that accumulates. In the 20 years we've been in the house, we've had 5 times when we got water... 4 with heavy rains (more than 4" in a day) and one from a very quick snow melt.

    A sump pump might be able to keep up with a minor flood, but it's useless if you have no power. If you're considering a pump, have an electrician get it generator ready and make friends with your generator rental company. You may be able to place a hold on a generator rental for a relatively small deposit. If you've pre-reserved, you should be able to get one within 24 hours.
     
  6. FigureSpins

    FigureSpins New Member

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    I don't think landscaping was an issue with the OP, but it doesn't hurt to take a look at the grading. If your house is the lowest on the block, you're going to get flooded before anyone else and there's nothing you can do about that. We had a somewhat damp basement in my house growing up. My dad put our washer and dryer up on a platform. Those few inches kept the bottoms from getting rusty.

    A sump pump will definitely help. It's really useful if it can be located in the lowest spot of your basement, where the water can flow out if there is water inside the house. Sumps are usually installed near the water main/main trap for the house because that's typically the lowest point.

    To install a sump pump, they dig a pit the size of a small trash pail and then fill it with rocks and gravel along with a perforated cylinder. It's installed beneath floor level, so it "attracts" some of the water table as it rises, preventing the water from even reaching the floor level. When the container fills with water to a certain level, the pump is then activitated to "flush" the water out of the pit.

    The tricky part of installation is what to do with the water it pumps out...most municipalities insist that it be pumped out to the yard outside of the house, which means a pipe and a hole through the basement wall that ends in a garden. Landscaping is definitely involved here, because you don't want the water coming back inside - that defeats the purpose.

    In addition, we had a french drain installed along one basement wall, which created a channel to stream the water right into the pit. You could hear the little stream bubbling on really rainy days, followed by a flush every few minutes.

    Our installer ran the output pipe right into the sewer main, which got rid of the water without flooding the yard. Definitely not allowed under code, but so far, so good. The City's concern was that the sewer system would be overwhelmed by the additional water from sumps. The City also banned garbage disposal units for the same reason. Check the code first, especially since your house is older.


    Power outages are an issue, as Aceon points out.
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2011
  7. Aceon6

    Aceon6 Get off my lawn

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    Be very careful about doing this. Our town is tracking these down and will require folks to disconnect and submit a new, code compliant discharge plan showing the impact to wetlands and the like. In addition to the potential for overflowing the system, an interconnect will allow sewage to enter the basement if there is a blockage down pipe. As our town has very old sewer pipes that block frequently, it's not something they want people doing.
     
  8. FigureSpins

    FigureSpins New Member

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    Yep, all valid arguments against doing it, but the people who own the house now haven't had any issues at all. They had the water main and meter replaced, but the inspector didn't bat an eye about the hookup. To prevent backflow, the installer put a special valve on to prevent that from happening. Backups have never been an issue anyway, afaik, and the sewers had been replaced to accomodate a housing development that was blocked by the neighborhood association.

    We didn't ask for that hookup, but the installer suggested it and it works fine. Now, the three other people on the block with sumps all have the white PVC pipe going into their front gardens. Perhaps if they were also piped in, there would be a problem.
     
  9. Rob

    Rob Beach Bum

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    We had chronic water problems in the basement due to the prior owner enclosing a car port and leaving the original basement windows and window wells under the house. They dug up the concrete and landscaped in front of the house, but the driveway slopes down toward the landscaping so the water would run down the driveway -- in normal rains it gets caught by the landscaping, but in extreme rains it would shoot right under the house and fill up the window wells. My husband redid the driveway and put in a drain at the end of it, sloped the sides so some of the rain can run off the sides instead of the end, built up the landscaping in front of the house, and poof, no more flooding.
     
  10. Louis

    Louis Tinami 2012

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    If you're in an urban municipality, you may be allowed to have your sump pump discharge directly into the storm drain.

    In Philadelphia, I had a basement-level kitchen (c. 1800 row house) with this set up and it was entirely legal. All of the rain water from the back of house drained into the sump pit and was pumped into a drain pipe that emptied into the storm drain at the front of the house.

    Legal, yes. Wise, jury's out on that. Having a fully finished kitchen and all mechanicals in the basement is a risk I would not take again. Any water tends to be problematic, and when your replacement cost is about $50k, I don't think a 99% or even 99.9% chance of not flooding is OK.

    I now own an apartment that is comfortably above ground, but if I ever own a house again, my inclination is to buy one that's either entirely above grade or has nothing of importance in the basement.
     
  11. GarrAarghHrumph

    GarrAarghHrumph I can kill you with my brain

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    We know that landscaping is an issue. With others here chiming in on that, I'm thinking that maybe putting some money toward fixing the yard might be better spent there than toward a sump pump.

    Likewise, the money spent on flood insurance might be better put there than toward a sump pump.

    I don't know where we'd put the washer, dryer and furnace if we put them upstairs. The house is 100 years old, so there are no closets. The only place I can think to put them is in the room off our living room, but they'd be out in the open, and blocking the path from the living room door to the exterior door. The only other place would be to take over a bedroom on the second floor, and I'm wary of washers on an upstairs floor due to, well... flooding issues.

    I think no matter what, the furnace will remain in the basement. I am still pondering the idea of moving the washer/dryer to the first floor, though. I need to think more about where they might go. The kitchen is too small. The downstairs bathrooms are tiny, tiny, tiny. The only place I can think of is that room off the living room. We could build a closet - no big deal - but it wouldn't look "natural". It'd look like a bump-out, like we built a closet out from a wall. I've got to think about this.
     
  12. GarrAarghHrumph

    GarrAarghHrumph I can kill you with my brain

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    Thanks for everything you all are writing. You're helping me think through some stuff.


    I don't think it necessarily was an issue in this flood, but we believe that it does cause seepage into the basement normally, so we want to fix it. My husband is actually kicking himself in the a**, because he knows it's been an issue, and he knows what he wants to do to fix it, but he didn't do it yet, and he believes that while it didn't cause this flood, it certainly didn't help prevent it.

    We are the lowest on our street, but I say that with some caveats. Our actual street, the one we front on, did not flood - it's a hill that rises quickly. We're a corner lot, and it's the street to the side of our property that flooded, as well as a path behind our property. Our property is a good 4' above the street and path that flooded. Our yard is actually held up by a 4' tall retaining wall - if you walk down that side street, our yard is at your eye level or higher. The folks across the street from us flood normally, but we do not, because we're up so high. The side street flooded about a foot, so I don't think that's what did it to our basement. But this time, the brook that's 100' from the path behind our property became a river, and spread to touch the edge of our property, and rose up to the top of our retaining wall. We estimate that it rose to at least 10' - 15' higher than it normally runs. That had never happened before. Based on the fact that the walls it knocked over were at least 100 years old, I suspect it hasn't happened in 100 years.

    That's part of why I'm so torn about what to do. I really don't want this to happen again! But at the same time, will it? It may very well not. But then again, it *might*, and so I want to do what's reasonable to help protect our basement.

    Our house is 100 years old, so some things about its plumbing are a bit different from the norm. One of those things is that the main water trap for the house is actually *above* the basement. Our plumbing is basically from the first floor, not from the basement. For example, our washer gets its water from the plumbing above it, and when water leaves it, that water goes up, not down. Basically, when this house was built, it had little-to-no plumbing. The main plumbing was added later - retrofit.
     
  13. Louis

    Louis Tinami 2012

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    We're putting a W/D upstairs now. To prevent flooding, we're installing a drain pan as well as an automatic leak sensor that will shut off the water if a leak is detected. There are options if you go this route. If a co-op board will allow it in a top-floor apartment, you should be safe. ;)

    If you want to do a total relocation that wouldn't look weird, what about turning one of your upstairs bedrooms into a huge laundry room / walk-in-closet with a section that could also hold the furnace? Especially if the house has no other closets, this may be a value-add rather than a detractor.
     
  14. GarrAarghHrumph

    GarrAarghHrumph I can kill you with my brain

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    Since you mentioned the idea of putting them upstairs, I'm thinking of this sort of alcove thing we have off one of the bedrooms. It might work for the washer/dryer (the furnace would remain in the basement.)

    It has a window, so that constrains placement somewhat; and we use it as a closet right now - so we'd then have no closets at all in the house, which I see as a major issue. And I'm not sure the area is wide enough to fit the units. The plumbing and gas lines might not be too bad, because it's upstairs from the kitchen and next to a bathroom. It's an idea, and I'll check out the size of the space tonight.
     
  15. FigureSpins

    FigureSpins New Member

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    If you already bought the new W&D, you should measure carefully. That little alcove might have been intended for a small upright piano, so it might not be deep enough for full-size machines.

    My cousin's house had closets that were unique. They're original (it's a small, 1960's ranch) and I had never seen this done before, but their entire development has them. Each bedroom has a closet on an outside wall that extends beyond the walls of the room. On the exterior, the space is like a "bump-out" from the house - a rectangle that sticks out a few feet. In the back bedrooms, they are adjoining, so the bumpout is wider than the side bedroom. That bump out looks like a chimney, sided to match the house, that only goes to the roof. Odd, but it works.

    When they put the second story onto the house, those 1st-floor back bedrooms became a family room. The closets were turned into a bay window. They salvaged the beautiful varnished-maple closet/bedroom doors for the new upstairs bedrooms. It looks lovely, but the lot is too small for the house, imo.
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2011
  16. nerdycool

    nerdycool Well-Known Member

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    If you haven't bought the w/d yet, you could also consider getting stackable units. Then you just have to make sure the ceiling is high enough.
     
  17. Lacey

    Lacey Well-Known Member

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    I have loved having an upstairs laundry, have had 4 in different houses, the last has been for 7 years, and absolutely have had no problems. After all, upstairs is where most of the laundered clothes live, so love easy put away. Have you thought of one of those IKEA type closet things for your BRs?
     
  18. FigureSpins

    FigureSpins New Member

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    Definitely use wall anchors. I had a friend who put these in her first-floor apartment kitchen. There was a little nook just big enough with the hookups in place, but she didn't want to make holes in the wall. A washload became unbalanced and the unit "walked" out from the niche.