Flooded with problems?

Recovering from summer rains and wet basements

“Wet enough for you?”

There should be a special Hell for people who ask questions like that. I always remember the joke about the guy who went to Hell.

The devil gave him a cup of coffee and was showing him around. As they walked down a hallway, the devil said to the guy, “You will spend eternity in one of these three rooms, but you get to choose the room.”

With that, the devil opened the door to the first room, where demons were chasing people around with pitchforks. The guy shook his head from side to side. They went to the second room and the devil opened the door just a crack, so the guy could see people swimming in a pool of eternal fire. The guy shook his head again and asked what was in the third room.

The devil opened the door to the third room, and there were a bunch of people standing around in cow dung up to their knees, smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee. The guy figured this was way better than the other two options, so he looked at the devil and said he’d take door number 3.

The devil asked if he was sure. The guy said yes, so the devil pushed him in and the door slammed behind him with an unholy thud. As soon as he was inside, someone handed him a cup of coffee and a cigarette, and soon he was happily chatting with the guy next to him when he heard a whistle blow. “Break’s over,” a demon said through a bullhorn. “Everyone back in handstand position.”

Flooded with problems
If your basement has suffered from the torrential downpours we’ve been having, John Frentz has a few tips for you. And if you’ve been lucky enough to avoid any water damage thus far, John has a couple ideas that may extend your winning streak.

Sealing cracks and leaks
is the name you want to remember if you have water dribbling, or pouring, out of a crack in a basement wall. It’s a form of hydraulic cement, that expands as it dries, which means you can apply it right to the leak, while it’s leaking, and it will hold.

Preparation requires two simple steps:

mixing the Quikcrete, which isn’t difficult and must be done in small batches, because it dries so fats; and getting a chisel to opening up the crack just a bit so that the cement has a space to expand into. “You want to chip a “V” and make the crack a little deeper into the wall, on both sides of the crack, so the hydraulic cement will have a surface to stick to,” John says. “Otherwise, you’re just smearing the cement over the surface of the wall, and water will leak through that.”

Draining standing water
If you have standing water, you have three choices:

rent a snake and clear the drain yourself; get a plumber to do it; or, if the water isn’t too deep, is draining, but at a slow rate, you can try a product John has, called Rooto. “You put it in the clean-out – 1 cup at a time, followed by a cup of warm water until the whole 6-1/2 lb bucket is dispensed.

Cleaning up
John doesn’t recommend much in the way of salvage operations because of e-coli. “It’s really going to stink, for one thing, and for another, you can get real, real sick. Even if it’s a nice piece of furniture, throw it out and let your insurance deal with it.”

To disinfect the basement, John recommends Lysol, Pinesol, or even bleach, “but that’s pretty hard on the lungs.”

If your basement is tiled and the corners are curled, they’ll have to be pulled up. John says, “I don’t know of any way to glue them back down.” That means the adhesive that once held them in place will have to be scraped off by sheer force, by using a heat gun, or with a product called, oddly enough, Old Hard Adhesive Remover.

For a large, one piece linoleum floor, John says that if it isn’t bubbled, then water probably hasn’t seeped underneath it. “If it looks like it’s locked tight to the floor, it might be OK, but even if a little water got beneath it, I don’t know how you would ever dry it out.”

As for prevention
Just because water is pouring out of one place in a wall doesn’t mean that’s where the leak is. The source of the leak could be three feet over, but the water is just leaking from the weakest point in the wall. The point: You don’t want to waste time and money patching the wrong leak.

To find the real source, John says check outside your home.

“For example, take a look at the downspout and make sure no water is building up next to the foundation.” He also recommends checking the entire exterior wall, particularly shrubs that are close to the house and have been there for a while.

“Those can hold water against the wall,” John says. “Also, if they’ve been there, it’s possible they’re in soil that is lower than the lawn, which means water is draining off the lawn, toward the house. The way to fix that is to yank the overgrown shrubs and backfill against the house to reverse the water flow.”

While everything is nice and dry, think about DRYLOCK. “It’s a waterproof paint, very thick when it goes on. When it dries, it actually becomes part of the wall,” John says.

Finally, check your sump pump. If you need a new one, bring in the pump and the pipe connected to it. John says that way they can set you up with a new pump and make sure the piping fits the plumbing work already installed in your house.