How do you drain a slightly flooded basement on the cheap?
May 6, 2007 8:08 AM   Subscribe

Wetvacing isn't working, are there any less frustrating ways to get low - but still really damaging- amounts of water out of a basement for preferably less then two hundred dollars?

During major storms my basement floods. Nothing apocalyptic most of the time, just a constant trickle. Only problem is, that trickle goes on for hours, and without intervention we get a whole lot of standing water. Every time I google I see solutions for draining basements that were at least four feet under water, but doing this procedure it rarely gets to one inch. My stuff on the ground and my afternoon are still ruined.

I'm seventeen, m, and due to space constraints in my house and dealing with my mom too often I've moved a couple couches and tvs with all my gaming stuff and my computer down there. This usually isn't a problem since I keep everything off the ground and have a linoleum floor laid directly on concrete, but it's really a hassle.

Every time it floods my mom goes through the same procedure to try and drain it: use a wetvac (vacuum for water, basically) to drain a little water from the 17x13 basement, empty the watvac into a small (under two feet tall by 16' diameter) unused trashcan, and get either me or a friend who's staying with us to carry these loads outside for dumping.

I've tried to suggest other methods, but due to cost she refuses to hire a contractor or preform any expensive repairs, citing status as a single mother in a dead-end city government position. The water enters through the EXACT CENTER of the house, through some concrete stairs, so we aren't sure where it comes in. We've sealed a lot of places around the outside of the house, but it doesn't seem to have helped a whole lot.

Once we tried setting the wetvac outside the window and snaking the hose in, leaving it open to continuously drain, but we have gotten a larger vac since then and the hose wouldn't fit through the window. It's the venecian blinds style window, small, sitting right in the corner six feet up, ground level outside, I'm not sure how else to describe it.

Any help with this problem would be appreciated as soon as possible; there is a flood warning in effect for my area for the next day, and a chance of storms through wednesday.
posted by sandswipe to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You can install your own sump pump.
posted by caddis at 8:20 AM on May 6, 2007

Seconding the sump pump... these work like a charm. I'd be looking at busting a small hole in the basement floor to make a bucket-sized pit, create a concrete enclosure (nothing fancy, just to keep mud out). Put this in the lowest part of the basement where water pools the most. Drop the sump pump in... a good $100 pump will have a floater and turn itself on whenever it's needed. The sump pump connects to any regular extension cord; no electrician is needed. There's no way I'd tolerate a wet basement like that when a sump pump is designed for this task.
posted by rolypolyman at 8:27 AM on May 6, 2007

We have a concrete stairwell with a grate leadint to a french drain at the bottom. When the ground is super-saturated, water comes up through the french drain into our basement. That might be what's happening in your basement. AFAIK there's no way to prevent it, you just have to find a way to pump the water out (like with a sump pump).

Do you have a toilet or washtub in the basement? A washing machine that drains somewhere? You could empty the wet-vac into that drain instead of lugging the water upstairs.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:33 AM on May 6, 2007

I'd spend more time trying to reduce or eliminate the water coming into the basement. Are their gutters on the house? Where do the downspouts go? Is there anything you can do to change the grade so surface water runs away from your foundation / stairs?
posted by Good Brain at 8:45 AM on May 6, 2007

Best answer: If you're living down there, you should also have a dehumidifier running constantly in order to help the water evaporate more quickly and prevent mold from growing.
posted by 517 at 8:52 AM on May 6, 2007

Sump isn't the answer here. The water doesn't sound like it's rising from below, it's coming in from above or the side. However, you can get a pump that similiar to a sump that sits on the surface of the floor and pumps whenever it needs to. It can't do all the work since it needs to have a tiny bit of clearance, but you just attach a regular garden hose to the output and that should fit out the window fine.
posted by DU at 8:54 AM on May 6, 2007

Best answer: pumps like this
posted by DU at 8:56 AM on May 6, 2007

I had to deal with this in my last place. Start with downspouts (and to a lesser extent gutters), and perhaps some basic grading. Lowes has a reasonable overview on their site. Those black plastic downspout extension things are only a few bucks and can make all the difference.

"Fortunately, most basement water problems are the result of surface water and roof runoff. These problems are much less serious, and homeowners can go a long way toward solving the problem themselves. The primary concern when attempting to prevent moisture from entering your basement involves directing water away from the foundation. Doing so reduces the pressure placed upon existing sealing systems which are already in place."
posted by idb at 9:11 AM on May 6, 2007

Response by poster: We aren't entirely sure where the water is coming in from, but we know it isn't backing up into the house, and it's not from the roof. There are cracks in concrete on the front and back of the house, and my mom has sealed them both with mixed results.

Missouri (I'm in KC) has soil that is almost entirely clay, and digging more then a few inches is a serious job. Clay doesn't absorb water at all, so it all just sort of flows into my house, which sits on the side of a really gentle hill.

If there is standing water, it usually only gets to a few centimeters in a couple places, as I think some of it flows out through a giant crack in the foundation a couple feet long in the middle of the room, under the linoleum. I just need something to help get it all out faster until I can move out for college next year.

I'll look more into sump pumps and DU's answer, that sounds like a good bargain. Any experience with specific models?
posted by sandswipe at 9:28 AM on May 6, 2007

For your immediate emergency need, check your local hardware for a hose pump. Pumps-a-lot, $20
posted by roboto at 9:35 AM on May 6, 2007

Thirding the sump pump... it has worked great for me.
posted by perpetualstroll at 10:03 AM on May 6, 2007

I've had flooding problems in two family places in the past, with two different solutions:

1st house: cleaned out the window wells and patched a few cracks with expanding foam - never had another problem.

2nd house: Like yours, the yard is pitched downward, channeling runoff into the basement. We had to dig some shallow trenches in the yard and install what were essentially plastic tube "gutters" to channel the water away from the house, which we then buried. This plus patching foundation cracks did the trick. May be a bit more work than you were in for, tho.

I've used something like DU's sugested pump and it worked quite well. Also n-thing the really makes a huge difference.
posted by nevercalm at 11:10 AM on May 6, 2007

Definitely the sump pump, but if you want to take a while to figure out your options there, buy or borrow a cheap dehumidifier (or two) in the meanwhile. They saved our basement repeatedly during some flooding we had last year, before we had the sump pump installed. You do need to empty them out a couple of times a day so they keep doing their thing, but they help a lot.
posted by Stacey at 11:26 AM on May 6, 2007

Sump pumps are great (I have one), but they also treat the symptoms, not the problem. A french drain would be a weekend or two's worth of work, and it'd be really cheap. A simple one could divert most of the water away from your house. Google "french drain" for more info

Don't even bother with trying to seal the cracks in the concrete outside. Nothing is a match for moving water and time.
posted by AaRdVarK at 12:50 PM on May 6, 2007

You will also want to snag a dehumidifier.
posted by iamabot at 3:15 PM on May 6, 2007

you can hire a carpet cleaner to come and vacuum the water out of your basement. you could basically hire any old joe with a vacuum on his truck and pay whoever bids lowest. their vacuums are designed to suck up water cuz their machines spray the carpet with water+soap solution and then the vacuum sucks it up into the truck.
posted by farmersckn at 10:57 PM on May 6, 2007

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