2004-08-06

Flooding in the Basement

Wednesday I stopped at home depot on my way home from work. I needed to pick up some hardware and board to repair the gate in my backyard fence. The latch, then the hinges had been broken loose by I assume strong winds. Only the closer spring was holding it to the fence. I needed to fix the gate before our home inspection tomorrow for refinancing.

I was waiting online forever. They only had one regular cashier. Of the other two cashiers, one was for contractors only, and the other was at the self-checkout. I like to use self-checkout at the supermarket. But I had some bolts that had no lookup number, so I figured it would make more sense to be online to a full service cashier. We the person two in front of me had some sort of special needs. It must have taken 15 minutes to check him out (well at least ten, it felt like an hour!).

While I was standing on the line, the sky grew darker and darker. I had seen a thunderstorm brewing over the mountains as I drove from work. As the cashier finally finished helping the long-time customer, I heard the wind picking up, and the sound of rain or hail starting to hit the roof. As I moved up to take my turn checking out, the wind picked up to an amazing level. The rain started coming down.

As I finished checking out, I moved to the door to look at the wind and rain. It looks like a full-force hurricane. I could not see all the way across the parking lot. I remember having rainstorms a bit like this back when I lived in New Jersey. Then it could go on for days raining hard. But this was a Colorado rainstorm. There was some serious lightning. But I figured it would let up in about 5 minutes. Well, it took more like 15 minutes. I couldn't help but think that if I hadn't been held up in the checkout, I might have been able to make it to my car before the storm had hit. But amazingly, I wasn't anxious about it. I called my wife to let her know the rain held me up. Then I just calmly waited, watching the rain.

Finally the rain just suddenly cut back to a light rain. It reminded me of an eye of a hurricane. I took my stuff, and braved my way to my car. Hoping that the lightning part of the storm was far enough away. My sneakers got a tiny bit wet from all the water in the parking lot. The whole lot was a puddle.

Driving home was a challenge. As I pulled out onto the main road, I saw cars backed up going the other direction. The road dipped just a little shortly past the light for them. The cars were driving through 9-inch deep water. I thought about my route home, and didn't think I had to go through any depressions. It was mostly uphill.

I turned at the light, heading East on another main road. About a block up the road, I was driving through 3-inch deep water. The odd part was the fact that it was not a depression - it was just before a hump in the road! There was so much water coming down the hills, and across the street, that the water was about 3 inches deep. Effectively there was a stream running across the road. This was repeated a number of times as I drove the mile to my next turn.

The rain picked up again. My wipers were going full speed. When I drove through some of the puddles and riverletts, the water would splash up on my windshield, blocking my view for a few moments. The turn to go uphill was a little nerve-racking. The water was pretty deep through the intersections, and there was a lot of water coming down the road.

While I was driving up the hill, I went through some deep water - maybe 6-8 inches. Twice while I was doing this, my battery light came on, and my engine made noises like it might consider stalling. Between these two times, my wife called me on my cell phone. She said she hoped I was close to home. I said I was - as I was about a mile downhill at the time. The she told me the reason she hoped I was nearly home: she said there was 2 inches of water in the basement.

Well, believe it or not, 2 inches doesn't sound all that bad. If it was 2 inches through the whole basement, it could be a problem. But we have already had water in our basement before. I've had to clean out water in this basement 3 times before already. And I'd seen signs that the basement had a little water leak in during strong rainstorms before. But in each case, most of the water stayed in the unfinished area of the basement.

Two of the little floods in the basement had been caused by my 5 year old. He had left the faucet on outside in the back yard. The kids had started to use it for water balloons and wetting down their sandbox and filling water guns. After the first time, I told them not to leave on the water, and not to use that faucet on anymore. The lesson did not work, because it happened again. Good things I decided to investigate the sound of running water the second time. After the second time, I took the knob off the faucet. This way the water could not be left on by accident.

The water comes down a window well. It fills up the window well, and it overloads the french drains. So each time I've had to take an hour using my shop vac to empty the window well first. Then I have to deal with the unfinished area of the basement. Then I deal with the bathroom and the hall carpet. Unluckily the slope of the basement takes the water away from the drain in the floor, and towards the finished area.

There had been a bunch of erosion from the last few times the water leaked, leaving a significant cut of dirt from around the uphill side of the window well. This concentrated the problem of the water coming in each time. But this time it was not good. We had a house inspector coming the next day to appraise the house. And the time I was supposed to be fixing the gate, I was vacuuming up water.

My eldest son insisted on helping. I really appreciated the help. While he didn't do that much work, the fact that he was willing to help meant a lot to me.

So, cleaning up the water took up most of the evening. I spent a little time after a late dinner straightening up a little on the main floor. The next morning I figured I'd fix the gate and mow the lawn. I figured I go into work maybe an hour or so late.

The next day I got started on the gate. But not right away. I knew I'd be using some power tools, so I didn't want to start too early and make any neighbors mad. I decided to not only put the gate back on its hinges, but also put in a new latch. The latch I had put in was fine for inside the back yard, but outside I just had some wire to open it, and it was not all that reliable about staying in place. Also the gate had started to jam a little when closing, so I hoped to fix that too.

I took out the new latch, with a handle to go on the outside. I got it all nicely lined up. I cut out a spot in the post where the latch plate was mounted. I got the pilot holes drilled for mounting the latch. Then I realized, as I was about to screw the latch in, that the latch was wrong for the way the door swung. If the door swung into the backyard it would be perfect. But the hinges had the gate swinging out. Luckily, I was able to reverse the mounting without too much trouble. The only thing is that it puts the part of the latch I wanted inside on the outside of the gate. I'm tempted to move the hinges to the inside of the gate. But that would mean putting another 2x4 on the gate. So I was not going to do it that morning.

Well, putting the gate back together took longer than I expected. Projects like this usually do take a lot longer than I expect. And not much of the extra time was due to the wrong side. Well, then I thought about the mowing. But it was still a little damp from the previous night's rain. So I took a look at the erosion at the window well that had caused the flooding.

First I worked on drainage. One of the problems that lead to the water going down the well was the fact that some of the brick edging we had added to separate the rock from the grass was higher that the window well. I had gone out and pulled the lowest brick to allow drainage as the first step when I had gotten home the night before. I knew I couldn't leave it that way for the inspection. So I grabbed one of these PVC tubes the kids had lying around the backyard, from a disassembled toy. It was about 30 inches. I cut it into 5 unequal pieces. I stuffed 3 of the pieces through the grass and under where the missing brick would go. Then I added one each under the adjacent bricks, to help kept the height consistent. I pushed the missing brick back into place. I think that should seriously help with the water problem. I moved some of the rock back to cover the pipes a little.

Then looking at the gully that had been cut by the water going down the window well, I decided I had to address that too. So I started moving rock. A lot of rock. The rock was hesitant about moving, what with the dirt packed in with the rock. This spot of the rock we had added to the landscaping was from the bottom of the pile, so it had a lot of dirt mixed in. After quite a bit of work, I managed to clear the spot of the gully of rock, as well as an adjacent area where I wanted the water to flow instead. Then I cut one end of the ground cloth that keeps down the weeds. I folded back the ground cloth, and was able to deal with the gully.

The gully actually went below the line of the window well, as the water found a slot between the window well and the foundation. The gully was about a foot deep along the window well. It was about 3 feet long, and about 2 inches deep at the shallow end. The good news is the dirt around this area was mostly sand. So it was pretty easy to move around. I built up the area around the window well, and created a gentle gully to move the water away from the window well.

Then I put the ground cloth back, and moved the rock back. This time I tried to keep the dirt in the rock back from the area where I wanted the water to drain. When I was done, it looked pretty good. I was tempted to go inside to get the faucet knob to test my work. But I decided that could wait. Besides, I though it might get tested that evening, as the forecast warned we might get the same kind of rain again.

Then I cleaned up the back yard. The kids really like to leave their toys all over the back yard. That took a while too. It was getting late. It was after 11. So I let my boss know I was going to be in late - but within an hour. I decided I was not going to mow. Good thing the lawn wasn't too bad. I popped into my second shower of the morning, got changed, packed some lunch and headed off to work.

It was not a great day to be in late for work. Not so much because of missing something at work, but because of missing hours at work. My week was already short from taking Monday and Tuesday off for camping. Wednesday I had popped out for a long lunch to watch the kids while my wife worked, and we went out to lunch. So my hours for this week are going to be about half of normal. That will not be a very nice check. But you do what you can! :)

No comments: