Basement Flooding

For the past week and a half, water has mysteriously appeared in the basement collecting in small, scattered pools.  Fortunately, the basement is unfinished except for a somewhat painted and sealed concrete floor, but the kids use it as a play area and a lot of their toys are down there.  Again, fortunately, I have somewhat learned my lesson about water damage after the sump pump jammed one year and left about an half-inch of water throughout the entire basement.  (A half-inch may not seem like much, but it is a big basement and a lot of stuff then was at water-level.)  I see that episode as something of a blessing, though, because it got me to clean things up, start painting the floor, unload stuff I never used, put in some shelves, tables, and plastic bins for storage, and install a water alarm on the sump pump.  Of course, over a year later, the “big basement cleanup/organizing project” is still incomplete, but it’s a lot better than it was and there are big clean areas for the kids to use instead of the living room.

The water I was faced with this time was clear and odorless, but I set to disinfecting everything that could have touched it and mopping the floor with water and bleach just to be safe.  I planned to really try to find the leak, but a couple days later and before I got around to that, William let me know that the basement floor was wet again.  This time it was less than before, (and I had put away some of the toys that had been on the floor the first go-around making it less of a project).  But so starts another round of disinfecting and mopping.  The good news was: I finally discovered the source of the leak!

Flush with the floor is the top of a PVC pipe with a screw-top on it.  The screw top and the sleeve it screwed into had popped up out of the floor.  The pipe below it curved down into the depths under the basement floor presumably to meet up with some other pipe carrying stuff to some unknown destination.  (Ever see that movie Brazil?)  The big question I had was: why was the sleeve with the screw top not glued to the pipe it fit into?  Was this on purpose as some sort of safety valve, (like if it doesn’t give, something much worse could happen), or was it something overlooked by the builders?  I probably should have researched this more, but happened to have some PVC primer and glue handy and set to work.  Now, the glue was several years old at this point and more of a gel than the fluid goo I remembered, but I gobbed some on the sleeve, put a full paint can on top of it, and hoped for the best.  The next day, the sleeve seemed firmly attached to the connecting pipe and there was no water…

For some reason, this reminds me of when I got my first computer.  My dad set it up and was reading the manual.  I guess he got to the part about the disk (disc?) drive, (the 5 ¼” variety—rare in those days and I’m sure my dad had no experience with them).  I imagine the manual said something like, “to use a disk you must first format it”.  Well, the only disk my dad had on hand was one that came with the computer.  Unfortunately, the format command didn’t work on that as I assume it said in the manual.

OK, some background.  In those days, blank disks that you bought came with one or two physical notches cut out on either side depending on if it was single or double sided, (double sided meaning you could flip it over and have another whole disk of storage).  They also had little pieces of tape you could apply over the notches.  If you put the tape on, you could only read from the disk and not write to it.  (A “format” is a type of write as it makes it look totally empty for the type of computer you’re using—it’s not really blank, but it looks like it.)  Say you bought a game or word processor or a computer with a disk of utilities preloaded on it.  Those disks didn’t have notches in them to “protect” you from erasing what you bought.  Well, my dad was/is sharp and figured out the whole “notch” bit, physically cut a notch in the utilities disk that came with the computer probably with scissors, and was finally able to successfully run the format command.

I don’t know what was on that utilities disk because it was formatted, but kudos to my dad for his ingenuity!  This was well before Google.  What does this remembrance have to do with water in the basement over two decades later???

Well, a day after the glue was “confirmed” solid the kids were showering in their respective bathrooms upstairs I was wandering about picking things up a floor below.  One time as I passed the basement door, I heard a weird hissing noise and went down to investigate.  Long story short, the glue wasn’t a total solution…

You know when you have an outside garden hose without any nozzle and turn the water on full blast it still looks like a lazy flow out the end, but when you cover most of the exit point with your thumb it turns into a targeted blast?  Well, I had a targeted blast coming out of the basement floor.  I imagine this was due to my shoddy gluing attempt.  I’m sure it’s shower water because it’s warm and run upstairs to tell the kids to “turn it off!”  “Why” they both ask as they should, but thankfully do without more arguing.  When I get back down to the basement, the stream turns slowly into a gurgle and then nothing, but for some reason, the amount of water on the floor was much more than before.  Time to clean up…

I break out the mop and bucket, but it seems to pick up a tablespoon of water at a time and just push the rest around to new undesired locations.  The next attempt was much better—a beach towel.  Now, I don’t know much about fishing, but I felt like a fisherman with a net.  I grabbed the towel on the corners, tossed it on the floor, pulled it toward me then up above the bucket, and wringed it out.  That actually seemed to work really well.  I used to have a better solution in a “wet/dry shop vac”, but that was a causality of the sump-pump jamming fiasco.  After the fishing towels was another round of disinfecting and bleach mopping, followed by a call to a professional to come in the next day.

On Saturday (!), two professionals arrive and wheel some heavy equipment downstairs.  They get the problem better than me, but no luck solving it on the first round.  They bring in some heavier, (longer snaking), equipment for an extra charge, but have the same results.  We then wander across the street and pull up a couple manhole covers to see if it’s a city problem—one water and one sewer, (I’ve never seen what was below a manhole cover and it’s weird), but again no luck.

At this point, I’m stuck with a huge bill and no solution, but they seem invested and stop charging me for some reason.  They call in a second truck with more equipment making the street look like a HAZMAT site.  This truck had some tricks like a cool camera that you can feed through pipes.  With this, they finally see the blockage and they say the best way to clear it is a massively expensive procedure, but that they’ll try something first.

Again long story short, but they cleared things with a hose connected to my hot water heater and a balloon, (the balloon was inflated early in the pipe so water wouldn’t flow back up the floor and they used water pressure to break through the blockage.  They glued/sealed my pipe connection properly, disinfected, and said it wasn’t a final solution… But what is?

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