Come Hell or High Water ...
As reported in my last post, our bedroom ceiling is leaking profusely--I just counted 11 pots and plastic tubs arranged to catch the leaks--so we planned to spend the night down in the basement. A little after midnight, I woke up because Bobby had turned on the lights in the basement hallway. I asked what was going on, and he said he thought he'd found another leak because the carpet was wet.
Turns out it was worse. Much worse. A ceiling leak in the basement didn't make much sense, and opening up the laundry room door revealed where the problem was coming from.
When we bought our house, the home inspector noticed that our basement did not have a sump pump to remove water in the case of flooding. The previous owner--whom I have taken to calling The Lying Sonofabitch, or TLS for short--pointed to this old rickety thing outside the outdoor door to our basement, at the bottom of the outdoor stairwell. It needed to be switched on by hand--not a problem for him, since he worked from home out of his ugly living room with all the deer heads. Anyway, TLS assured us that the basement never flooded--despite a cement stairwell outdoors with no way to remove water--which we believed for about -2 seconds.
It's also important to remember that one of the repairs TLS had to make before we agreed to buy the house was mold remediation through the entire basement ... but only to about 2 feet above the floor. There was no mold problem above that point. So we figure the basement flood in a major way at least once.
Anyway, lo and behold, when TLS finishes the repairs on the house, it turns out he's installed a proper sump pump at the outdoor entrance to the basement. Out of the goodness of his heart, right? More like the first time we had even a little rain and the basement flooded, he was worried we'd sue the pants off of him for failing to properly disclose such a serious problem with the house.
The sump pump he installed has worked fine for the four years we've been here. We haven't had an unaccounted-for drop of water in the basement (except for the water leaking down from the cracked bathtub that he also lied about!) Last night, that changed. As I noted in my last post, we have had extremely heavy rains for the past two days. As of dinnertime last night, we'd received almost 5.5 inches (13 cm) here; our CoCoRaHS gauge shows that we've had an additional 3.25 inches (8 cm) since then ... but I digress. We've had a lot of feckin' rain is the point.
When Bobby opened the laundry room, there was about a half-inch (1.25 cm) of water on the floor. It quickly became apparent that the sump pump was not working. Bobby touched it, and it was burning hot; we figured the motor burned up from running nonstop the past two days. Therefore, all of the rain falling into the outdoor stairwell was pouring into the house.
Bobby and I started bailing. He took the wet vac and started sucking up water, and I found a bucket and started bailing and hauling water up the steps by hand. Despite our efforts, the water kept rising and began to spill out into the finished part of the basement and onto the carpet. It was pouring rain all the while. We quickly realized that a floor drain that is supposed to drain water out of the basement and to the sump pump was the source of most of the water. I tried several tactics to block as much of the water as I could from coming in. Bobby went to work in the outdoor stairwell, thinking that if we could clear that area of water, then perhaps the drain would work in the proper direction again and help us to remove some of the water.
For a while, this worked. I was barefoot and marking the height of the water by where it rose on my feet. When we started, just my toes were covered. By this point, it was past my toes about an inch (2.5 cm), and there it seemed to be staying. Of course, Bobby was wet-vaccing buckets full of water out of the outdoor stairwell, and I was hauling about 2 gallons per minute up the stairs in buckets. By this point, we had been working about an hour, it was 1:30 AM, and I was starting to get really tired, mostly from climbing the stairs with the buckets heavy with water. My shirt was soaking wet with sweat, even standing with cold water over the tops of my feet. After an hour and fifteen minutes, my legs were shaking so bad that I was slamming the bucket into my shins, so I told Bobby I was taking a two-minute break and sat on the stairs. I could feel the blood pounding in the palms of my hands; I am out of shape right now, but I think I hung in there pretty well, kept moving by anger at TLS and a hearty dose of adrenaline. Before I sat down, I pressed my fingernail into the top of my foot where the water level was so that I could see how it had changed or not when I went back to work.
When my two minutes were up, I sloshed back into the basement. By now, the carpets were soaked through the entire basement, and I had to move several items up off the floor so they wouldn't become damaged. When I went back into the laundry room, the water had risen an inch (2.5 cm) above the mark I'd made on my foot. We were fighting a losing battle.
I called out to Bobby and told him. He didn't want to give up. I thought it was time to start looking around the basement and moving what we could either high up or upstairs. He was white with exhaustion but wouldn't give up. Finally, he decided to call my dad to see what he recommended.
Dad agreed with me. We had to save what we could and see where we stood in the morning.
At 2:30 AM, we were soaked with rainwater, sweat, and the nasty-smelling water we'd been bailing for almost an hour and a half. We were both thirsty--ironically--and exhausted. We got into the shower to wash off the mess and laid down on the couches in the living room to try to sleep. To help us out, I gave us each some of Grandpa's Sleeping Medicine: a hefty shot of Irish whiskey. It worked and we both did sleep for about three hours.
This morning, we woke up and Bobby assessed the damage. We have about 4 inches of water throughout the entire basement. It is ankle-deep. Alex has already gotten into it twice and splashed around in it; at least someone is enjoying it.
The good news ... yes, there must be good news, even when one is sleep-deprived, still damp, and has an indoor swimming pool in the basement. Bobby called Mike the Builder first thing this morning, and he is here now, pumping out the water and replacing the sump pump. Bobby also called our insurance company, and all of the damage is covered under our policy. Bobby spoke with a claims adjustor up in Hanover, and she said she's been swamped (pun intended!) between Irene last week and Lee this week. Also, we will have her look at the ceiling in the bedroom as well and see if that might also be covered.
I just got an email from Justin Ready, the Carroll County delegate, reporting flooding throughout the county and road closures. At 1040 feet and a hop, skip, and a jump down the road from the highest point in the county, we don't worry about flooding, but it goes to show the extent of damage from this storm, which seems to have snuck up on us in the wake of Irene. Bobby also just hollered in to me that he saw on Facebook that our friends Tristan and Don, and my Aunt Lois and Uncle Jim, also have flooded basements. I'm sure that's the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
Mike the Builder says that the sump pump was installed completely wrong, which is why it burned up. *shakes fist at TLS* I'd like to take those deer heads off his wall and throw them at that half-assed bastard!
Needless to say, I did not go into work today. Bobby texted our principal at 3 AM last night. Much as I love my students, they're not the kinds of kids you want to work with on three hours of sleep.
Before Mike the Builder pumps the water out of the basement, Bobby took some pictures. Actually, it looks like the water has started to recede a good bit from this morning.
The rug has floated over to the bookshelf:
When I looked downstairs this morning, firewood had floated from the laundry and into the hallway. The fire-proof moose hearth rug has floated over from in front of the woodstove. To bad it is not water-proof!
This post was originally posted on Dreamwidth and, using my Felagundish Elf magic, crossposted to LiveJournal. You can comment here or there!