Drying out


Whew. The stress, and rain, has passed. At least for the time being. Yesterday was the most stressful day we have had in quite a while. It began fairly low key, the gray and rain we had endured through the weekend and Monday was a day to hole up inside, dry and warm. I trotted downstairs to start laundry, stepping over damp concrete at the bottom of the stairs. Huh. IM-ed Matt, asking if he had noticed the landing was damp. He asked me to take a picture. There was more water when I went back down with the camera. The carpet on the stairs pooling some liquid too. This is the original picture I took when it started seeping in, after this, things just moved too fast to document any more:


I send of the pictures, IM a little more. What should I be doing? We knew the basement had flooded before. At some point, previous owners had the slab topped with a waterproofing concrete fill, but with no floor drains, making a sealed bathtub. All along the back of the house, which was an addition, the dirt slopes into the back wall, in some places dirt coming above the top of the concrete, filled against the wood stem walls. We knew this was a problem, the whole backyard and foundation wall has poor drainage. We even have an entire water-centric landscaping plan to fix it. Only in talking with our landscaper, it was a choice of ripping off the whole back deck and regrading the back yard before the end of September or after the first of April. Money, time and practicality chose the latter. Now that was perhaps a bit foolish to think we could make small precautionary steps and dig out the back wall a bit and put off our problems until after winter.

No, this is the Dirty Little Secret of this house. You see, the soil percolation is horrid. The entire back half of the lot shoots surface water directly down against the foundation wall, pooling that entire volume of rainfall into a lake under our deck. That water gets into the crawlspace, which makes a U around the stair, then flowing along the sloping floor in the crawlspace, gets into the finished basement. So 20 minutes after taking pictures, Matt asked me to go back down and check again. There is nearly an inch of standing water in the entire Laundry room. He jumps on his bike for home, I start stacking stuff up off the floor. I have also noticed large blisters in the ceiling upstairs where the drywall has gotten wet from above, expanding the gypsum into swollen warts on the bottom surface- there is water in the attic too. Kids get corralled upstairs, I toss on boots and grab an orange Home Depot bucket. All in all, I bailed several dozen bucketfuls of rainwater to the outside, scooping it off the basement floor with a dustpan. It keeps rising, at the deepest 3″. Luckily, the slab isn’t even- the lowest point is at the doorway to the basement apartment. We rip up carpet, roll up towels to keep the flooding contained. It only expands to a 6′ diameter area. Nothing gets damaged.


Matt is digging under the deck in the mud, making troughs in attempt to flow the water around to the sides of the house. We bail the 6″ of standing water in the crawlspace out, but more is flowing in. We really need a Sump Pump, but of course everyone is out of stock as we aren’t the only ones with this problem. I guess the Governor declared a State of Emergency. Tallis eventually wakes up from a nap, so I take both kids over to play with some friends down the street. A friend comes over to help with a fan and several hoses. He and Matt begin siphoning the Lake through about 6 hoses down to the street. I continue to bail and set up two big fans to help dry things out. The siphoning works, the levels go down, the flow slows to a trickle. Thank goodness for quick action, it could have been much, much worse. Regardless, we were out ensuring the hoses were clear until after 11. We ate Jack in the Box for dinner. We fell into bed exhausted.


Today things are drying out. Nothing is damaged. The fans are running on high so mold and mildew don’t start growing. And we had sun peaking through this morning. We can breath a short sigh of relief. Now we need to figure out how to endure the remainder of the winter. I think we may need to buy a few Sump pumps to fire up when inevitably things get backed up again. This is Seattle, after all.


~ by gdesign on December 4, 2007.

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