My House Flooded!

Cyclone Bomb

They are calling it the “Cyclone Bomb”. Wow. Talk about trying to get page hits, Weather Channel. The weather is so thick, you can barely see Sioux Falls on the map. That spiraly-thing over Kansas does look a bit like something that will bring you to Oz. In reality, it’ll just bring you pain.

My wife really wants to get chickens. I like the eggs. I was in ACE hardware today getting some keys duplicated and they had a tub of chicks. A literal plastic tub of baby chickens. This is South Dakota, mind you, so it wasn’t very surprising but I decided I would surprise her and the kids by showing (not buying, mind you) them. When they got home from school, I bundled up the kids and wife and we went to the store.

The reality is that once it gets to this point, you should have already prepared, or you have a wet basement. Captain Hindsight aside, flooded basements cause a huge amount of consternation in my part of the country. It seems there is a run on sump pumps about once every year. Yet we love building basements in our area.

At this point I’ll get off my high horse and tell you about my flip house. It was built in 1903 and has a basement. The foundation is quartzite stone. It has been shored up in places with cement. I went over there today not knowing what I would find. Luckily it wasn’t as bad as I thought. The building has an unfinished basement. There was moisture on one of the walls. Was I prepared? No. But I’m not sure what could have been done. I was able to diagnose a low spot on one of the walls and I will fix that when Spring finally arrives. If that basement was finished, it would have been 2-4 thousand dollars in damage.

But I have insurance

Good job. You really do need to have that. There still is an awful lot of work to do, lining up contractors, dealing with insurance, and crying into your drink. A better way would have been to have an inspection before you bought it. Not guaranteed to spot a problem, but usually there are some signs that water has been in there before. Perhaps another thought would be to make sure that if there is a basement it has a sump and a pump (if you are in a wet area). Make sure you are not in a flood plain. Check out FEMA’s website Keep in mind this website won’t guarantee you are out of a flood plain but it is probably correct if it says your prospective house is.

Observe the outside of the house and look for any obvious low spots around the foundation. Make sure that the downspouts are clean, undamaged, and direct water away from the house. Downspouts that are damaged or not installed correctly are the most common cause of basements flooding in my experience. They are just waiting for that heavy rain or snow melt, or both at the same time to put water in your beautiful basement.

A person can fix the down spouts fairly cheaply. If there is a low spot, have some dirt moved in to raise the grade, then landscape over it. This is a fraction of the cost of fixing the basement. Another tip is to avoid purchasing in flood areas.

By this time, the rain had been coming down all day. The scary ‘cyclone bomb’ had gone off. We had about a foot of snow still and that rain had been quickly melting the snow. There was water all over the roads. We got in the hardware store to find a scene straight out of Mad Max, the tub of chicks sitting on the floor like the last one on earth, but oddly ignored by wet, irritated people bumping into each other.

We arrived to see the last sump pump get sold. It was unimaginable. There were people in tears. I was worried about the safety of my family. My daughter wanted to protect the chicks. I wonder what an enterprising fellow would make selling sump pumps on the street like they sell ‘Kandy Korn’ out of the back of a flatbed truck in the Fall here. Apart from the outcry of gouging, a person with questionable ethics might just do well. Financially.

There’s not really a moral of the story here today. Make sure you check those pumps twice a year. If you don’t have a basement then you are a very wise person, indeed.

As far as the hardware store: We managed to leave without any baby chickens or sump pumps or bruises and went home to count our blessings and tell the property manager to contact our tenants to remind them to check their basements.