The Woes of Home Ownership: Basement Flooding

In case you haven’t heard, Toronto flooded yesterday. Streets, highways, buses, subways, GO trains, it all came to a standstill in a great big puddle of water.

(Check out the Globe and Mail’s gallery of twitter photos for a little urban flooding craziness. I am grateful I got home when I did.)

Our basement flooded too. I came home to this:

A solid inch of water and mud spread itself out from the front bedroom, pooled in the bathroom, soaked into the pile of construction waste in the middle of the living room, and flowed back into the laundry room. Thankfully, the kitchen and back bedroom – where a friend of ours has set up camp for a few weeks – were untouched. 
We grabbed mops, towels, buckets, and shovels. We got to work. This is what we did.

How to Handle a Flooded Basement

  1. Identify the location of the leak. You can clean up all you want, but if you’re still going to get a torrent of water coming into your house, you’re going to be mopping up all night. It was pretty easy for us. Around this random pipe in our wall, a crack had developed. We knew about it, but, since we weren’t expecting quite so much rain today, we hadn’t got around to fixing it. It was like a tap, rushing water and dirt into our basement.
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  3. Once you’ve identified where the water is coming in, fix it. We used King Plug-Tite, from Home Depot. It’s essentially like cement, but a super fast drying and tightly bonding one. Our fix is, at the moment, only temporary. We want to dig down, figure out what the pipe is, cut it back and cap it so that it’s not sticking out of our wall.
  4. Starting cleaning. It’s going to take a long time, but it’s an absolutely crucial step to getting your basement back to normal. Use mops, towels, whatever will absorb and soak up to water. (Our shop-vac was working great until the power cut out and stayed out for nearly an hour.) You especially want to focus your energy on areas around perfectly good drywall. Mould loves standing water, plus damp, plus drywall; a flooded basement is essentially its perfect home.
  5. Once you’ve got all the puddles absorbed and the mud scooped up and cleaned out, bring in the dehumidifiers and the fans. Another crucial step! Especially in damp weather, basements take a long time to dry out. In fact, there’s a good chance our basement would never dry out without a little help. We’ve got two dehumidifiers and a fan, all running at full blast. We’ll keep them running for a few days, certainly until it stops raining, in order to get it as dry as possible as fast as possible.
  6. Whatever you do, try not to give into despair. Don’t burst into tears at the sight of water gushing into your basement. Don’t turn your back on the mess and completely ignore it. Don’t curl up in a corner with your dogs and give yourself over to misery. 
Trust me. Everything will be all right in the end. A flooded basement is not the end of the world. We’ll still hit our end-of-August deadline for our finished and newly dry, waterproofed basement. 
We’re not worried. Just tired.

0 thoughts on “The Woes of Home Ownership: Basement Flooding

  1. yikes! you poor thing! and they are calling for MORE rain. I heard one of the parking levels in my condo flooded and got into people's storage units. Luckily i think my floor was dry! I dont have anything valuable enough down there to call for insurance if it did flood, but man id be upset too!

  2. Oh yikes! I'm so sorry you guys have to deal with this, how random to discover that pipe behind the wall! Maybe the drywall was protecting us more than we realized before, only letting a little bit of water through. I hope this is the end of the crazy for you!

  3. The pipe actually stuck out a few inches. I'm not surprised you didn't notice it though because it was pretty close to the radiator, so it was already on an unusable part of the wall. The drywall was definitely protecting the room quite a bit! there was styrofoam sheeting and tar paper behind the drywall too, which I'm sure did a lot. Impressively, the back bedroom – which we haven't done anything with – was dry as a bone the whole storm.

    I am just so grateful you guys didn't have to deal with this kind of flooding!

  4. My money is on the pipe being the filler pipe for an old oil heating tank. Seems to be the right shape / height for something like that.

    In which case… be VERY careful cutting it, in case theres any residue, etc.

  5. UGH! What a pain! I couldn't believe those photos. Our tenants never said anything about our house, so it seems to be fine BUT we just dealt with it flooding a couple of months ago after an old pipe outside of the house burst! The whole basement had at least an inch of water everywhere – UGH! We JUST had new floors put in (insurance paid for it), so if it had flooded again, I think I may have ignored all of your advice in this post.

  6. I live in Toronto as well and I was actually thinking of you guys last night because of the basement issues you have already been having. Glad nothing has been made worse

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