The joys of homeownership
January 24, 2019 1:27 PM   Subscribe

Hi y’all, our finished basement currently has about 6 inches of standing water and more is pouring in below the exterior doors. I rented a 3/4” sump pump which is currently running but I’m pretty sure we have more coming in than going out. Is there some type of expert I can call in?

- There was a water main break a week ago. The town already came by and tested the water and found no chlorine which I guess means this is all melting snow and rain and not from a water main break.

I mean, is there anything anyone can do at this point?

- We don’t have flood insurance.

- Our town is been working on the waterlines and I am imagining that the water is being diverted somehow because there is a literal river pouring down the side of my house, into my backyard, and into my basement. So after this is all done we are going to have to figure out some sort of drainage ditch system.

Our town has been working on the waterlines and I am imagining that the water is being diverted somehow because there is a literal river pouring down the side of my house, into my backyard, and into my basement. So after this is all done we are going to have to figure out some sort of drainage ditch system.

But in the meantime - who do I call and what else can I do? Anything?
posted by pintapicasso to Home & Garden (20 answers total)
Call the fire department. They can help with these things.
posted by Melismata at 1:33 PM on January 24, 2019 [3 favorites]

Holy cow! Yes you can do something. What state are you in?

First, I'm pretty sure you have a case for the government to pay any damages. But it could be hard to get, lawyer fees and all. Who knows how long it would take and if you'd actually win. With that in mind, take photos of your house, the river, where it's coming from, and any water main work nearby. Try to document the times things have happened too.

Second, holy cow, I'd try to save your house. It's finished, that's rough. I would call a Fire/Water/Storm restoration company immediately. They are usually on call and can be there within an hour with big pumps and stuff.

Third, is your basement the lowest point, or is there a way you could trench away from your house? Even going to the hardware store and buying sand bags to divert the water upstream would help the problem.
posted by bbqturtle at 1:34 PM on January 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

Also, if you haven't already, cut the electricity to the building ASAP.
posted by bbqturtle at 1:34 PM on January 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

there is a literal river pouring down the side of my house

You seem pretty calm about this. In your position (and I have been in your position), I would be frantically trying to use sandbags to route that river away from my house.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 1:35 PM on January 24, 2019 [3 favorites]

Yes, fire department. They have Big Pumps. (My husband is a volunteer firefighter and if there's an especially bad storm they'll get 5-10 calls over the course of an evening.)
posted by tchemgrrl at 1:40 PM on January 24, 2019 [7 favorites]

Can you get your hands on another sump pump? And make sure the egress hose is long enough that the water isn't just soaking back into the ground and pouring right back into the basement.

Start digging drainage routes now. Even a trench, a few feet away from the waterfalling basement wall, leading to the lowest point in your yard, could make a dent into the amount of water finding its way into your basement. (It won't divert all the water flowing in, because your basement is still a very low spot, but it'll do some)
posted by Grandysaur at 1:41 PM on January 24, 2019

Yeah I am unclear based on your tone how much of an emergency you have here. It sounds like kind of a serious one? In that case yes, call the Fire Department—they have big pumps. Then later you will need a general contractor to come and install a French drain system, possibly re-grade your lot, and re-finish your basement. You may want to get ServPro in there first just to get your shit dried out and all the nastiness ripped out before mold sets in, they're very good at that.

Also I would for sure be documenting this and out walking around trying to find where this river of water is coming from. I assume it has rained before and your basement has not catastrophically flooded, right? If the town did this through their carelessness in redirecting water flow away from the area where they are working, I would absolutely go ahead and sue them. Not all lawsuits are frivolous! Not all lawsuits aren't worth fighting! If you can clearly document what's going on here, you might have a pretty open-and-shut case for getting the town to pay for the damages.

And do call your homeowner's insurance, I know you don't have flood insurance but it's not going to hurt to call them.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 1:42 PM on January 24, 2019 [4 favorites]

My apartment just flooded. Cut water supply (it could be adding to or causing this, you don't know for sure; if it isn't, turn back on later). Cut electricity and call the electric company or an electrician to check for any risk/damage to electric. Take pictures and video with your phone. Back that up. Call a water remediation company. Call your insurance. Document everything. Best of luck.
posted by sockermom at 1:46 PM on January 24, 2019 [3 favorites]

And yeah as soon as you've gone and walked the route of the new river, taken photos and video of where it's coming from and what it's doing to your house, and possibly yelled at the construction crew (if there's anyone on hand to yell at) about re-redirecting that water flow, I'd get out there with a shovel and start redirecting it myself. Look for a likely spot somewhere in its path where you can cut a good trench and get it to flow out into the street where it can find a storm drain or something. Possibly it should be flowing into a storm drain but the drain is blocked by leaves or trash, in which case clearing that drain may resolve the problem. Get to it!
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 1:47 PM on January 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

Oh also! I lived in an old house that had been there long enough that the nearby river and flood plain had changed, and so our basement was flooded from March-June... make sure the sump pump inflow filtery area is clean! Ours would get clogged with silt and basement shit every 12-24 hours.
posted by Grandysaur at 1:49 PM on January 24, 2019

Any approach to dealing with this will start with the source of the water, and stopping that.

It is unclear to me what and where this source is.
posted by humboldt32 at 1:54 PM on January 24, 2019

Sorry to worry everyone - we live upstairs so our living space is not in danger. Just a bummer because my husband replaced the drywall in the basement when we moved in and fake tiled the floor. There’s nothing of value down there. No appliances or anything.

My husband has been taking pictures of the river. It’s suppsed to stop raining at 8pm. The door to the basement is literally at the lowest point in the yard.
posted by pintapicasso at 1:55 PM on January 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

Nthing the suggestions to document extensively and notify the city. At the very least, you want to insist the city engineer pay an on-site visit to evaluate your problem and provide a statement as to what he or she believes is causing the problem. Even if they are liable, you might have trouble getting them to acknowledge that, so anticipate having to work with an attorney to pursue compensation from the city (hence the documentation, copies of emails, photos of city work crews etc).

You might also want to conduct a pre-emptive maneuver: call you local media and have them come out and film your flooding debacle. My brother's repeated flooding issue was not addressed by the city until the story, complete with on-site video, made the local television news. Incidentally, in his case it was mainly due to the city granting a permit for a substantial grade change to an adjacent property. The city tried to claim it was thus that property owner's responsibility, but since the city permitted the grade change, they were also responsible, and ended up correcting the problem. I mention this just to caution you that the city might disclaim responsibility even if they are liable to some degree.
posted by Lunaloon at 2:03 PM on January 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

Basement water damage is not necessarily a flood for insurance purposes. I had a pipe break in a wall and ruin carpet and drywall and I called my insurance company and they had a repair company come out and fix it. You should call your insurance company as they'll know of specialized companies that handle stuff like this.
posted by GuyZero at 2:04 PM on January 24, 2019 [3 favorites]

Go to your local equipment rental place and get a bigger pump. Consider the size and weight, and the volume of water it needs to move, to choose one that is big enough but not to big to move to the site.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 3:10 PM on January 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

I could call ServiceMaster first to just get it all dried out. They just zoom in and take care of it with pumps and giant fans. Then think about your next steps.
posted by nantucket at 3:10 PM on January 24, 2019 [5 favorites]

+1 to melismata's suggestion of the fire department. My boys are volunteer firemen in town here. They routinely pump out people's basements.
posted by AugustWest at 3:11 PM on January 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

I get a good amount of water in my basement every couple years, and am currently experiencing the kind of weather likely to bring it on: frozen ground and a whole ton of rain. So if you're getting that weather too, this may indeed be unrelated to the water main work.

In my experience, insurance does not cover damage from external water, but your policy may vary. (Mine do usually cover damage from burst pipes.)

As other have said, diverting the weter from outside as much as possible and getting access to bigger pumps (such as through the fire department) is your immediate need. After that, lots of big fans (and dehumidifiers/ air conditioners if available) to dry things out. After that, regrade the soil to slope away from your house, install drainage, and install rain gutters.
posted by metasarah at 4:56 PM on January 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

I just want to point out that if you cut the electricity, you're going to need a pump that runs off a generator (or a battery maybe?) as well as a generator.
posted by slidell at 5:37 PM on January 24, 2019

Something for the near, though not immediate, future: if you anticipate needing to sue your municipality for damages, go to a lawyer very early. Many jurisdictions require some sort of "notice of claim" to be filed against a municipality or state QUITE early (like, within six months) or you can lose the right to pursue the claim.
posted by praemunire at 9:07 PM on January 24, 2019

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