Wet Basement? What now? First, I’m sorry. I feel your pain.
After this week’s hurricane-force rains so many people in Philly and beyond have water intrusions in their homes, huge bummer! This past Tuesday I got a huge burst of rainwater gushing from my basement toilet into my 2-year-old beautifully finished basement and a tub full of murky black water that makes me want to cry when I think about it.
Lots of folks have reached out asking for help dealing with their own wet basement I thought I’d round out a list of resources to help recover and prevent future spontaneous subterranean swimming pools.
What to Do
Contact your homeowner’s insurance company. Find out what’s covered under your policy and what is not. Your adjuster may also be able to help find resources to get you back up and running.
Call a water remediation company like Serv Pro to come to help you remove the excess water, and damaged personal property, clean, disinfect and install industrial dryers and dehumidifiers to prevent further damage. If your basement is finished, they may advise removing a perimeter of drywall for sanitary precautions.
Try to identify the source of the leakage is it coming from the surfaces or the plumbing? This will help determine what kind of contractor will you need to help make repairs.
In your typical Philadelphia home there are 3 ways water can get into your basement:
1. Seeping Through the Walls or Floors
Our beautiful city is located in the Delaware Valley and sandwiched in between 2 major rivers. Plus there are also many underground streams that run towards those rivers in various sections of the city--I’m not making this up here’s more info: phillyh2o.org
It’s very normal for some of this moisture to try to push its way into your home over time. If you’ve got an older home with an unfinished basement it’s a good idea to give it some maintenance every few years to prevent deterioration and water from getting in.
Depending on your home there may be various ways to fix this which you’ll want to discuss with your licensed contractor, here’s a video that explains one common practice: youtube.com
2. Damaged Plumbing
Maybe your water line is aging and suddenly sprung a leak (been there) or maybe there is a clog or a break in your sewer pipe preventing things from flowing (been there too). There may be an issue in the pipes in the sidewalk that would need to be excavated to be repaired, or perhaps your downspout no longer connects to your yard drain. If you don’t already have one you may want to invest in a sump pump which sits in a water collecting pit on the floor and helps eject surface water back into the sewer. Consult with a licensed plumber to investigate.
3. Big Storms
Our city is old, and the sewer lines are old. Constructed at a time when there were much fewer citizens and life was simpler, sometimes the system just gets overwhelmed and the water has nowhere else to go than to back up into homes via toilets, tubs, and drains. In order to address some of the issues of these modern times the Water Department has a program called the Basement Protection Program where they will come out and install a “backflow preventer” free of charge. To find out if you are eligible and to apply visit this link: phila.gov
Other Thoughts and Resources for Ensuring Your Basement Stays Dry in the Future:
Get yourself a dehumidifier and keep it on 24/7/365. Also, a stand fan if you don’t have central air circulating. These two things will change the game significantly.
You can get water and sewer line insurance, which may cover situations your homeowner’s policy may not. For about $95 a year or less than $8/monthly, you can sign up via American Water Resources: awrusa.com/philadelphia/ or 1 (844) 765-7260
Garden! Having soil will help to absorb rainwater and keep it out of the sewers.
Get a street tree to help drink up some rainwater. Sign up to get one free from the city here: treephilly.org/street-trees/ You can also sign up for a “yard tree” here: treephilly.org/yard-trees-2/ These are specially chosen breeds of trees that hopefully won’t have their roots digging up your water lines, professionally planted for you by the Tree Philly folks.
Get a free rain barrel from the city—divert water from your roof/downspouts into a barrel that you can use to water your new trees and plants when it’s not raining! More info here: pwdraincheck.org/
Install permeable pavers instead of concrete in your backyard.
More info on Philadelphia’s Storm Water Management program is here: phila.gov
Check out this digital copy of the Philadelphia Row House Manual produced by the city, see page 31 about basements: phila.gov
Make a point to clear trash and debris from the stormwater grate on your block. Everyone can take steps to help keep our historic, fantastic city clean, and dry and focus on more fun things besides wet basements.
We’re always here to help with questions and make connections, get in touch if you know of any resources to add to this list!