Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Let's talk basements, standing water, and mold

This is a novel, so skip to the end if you want to see what my question is. Otherwise, grab a coffee and delight in the fact that you got to enjoy your Labor Day weekend.

So our new-to-us-for-2-months house, aka Fort Max, experienced a flooded basement this weekend. We used an exterior faucet to do some cleaning and an hour or two later realized that said faucet had burst due to freezing. Seeing as it's September in Virginia, it had to have happened some time ago. Which means our home inspector didn't catch the busted pipe.

Lesson 1 - Home inspectors don't catch every single thing that's wrong with the house you want to buy.

As soon as we discovered the leak, we shut off the faucet, shut off the water in the house, and shut off the water to the house at the water meter.

Lesson 2 - Know where and how to shut your utilities off. Thankfully the house shut off was in the same wall as the leak and we could easily access it. Thankfully we also know where the water meter shut off was located as well as the special wrench to use (although a crescent wrench works fine too).

We immediately began tossing rags down and moving things that were still dry out of the way. Anything that was wet that could be dried off and saved, we did that too. And we started running the wet/dry shop vac to get as much water up as we could. It was laundry day so most of the dirty clothes caught some of the leaks. Not everything but it did help contain some of the flood.

Lesson 3 - Keep rags handy (ideally large towels) in case of a leak.
Lesson 4 - Store all your important stuff in your basement in plastic totes.
Lesson 5 - If you store items in cardboard boxes, wrap all the contents in a garbage bag.
Lesson 6 - Be prepared to lose anything that's on the floor.
Lesson 7 - Install a leak alarm of some sort.
Lesson 8 - Test all your utilities, like you faucets, right away when you buy a new house.

We were lucky to have two shop vacs on hand. My dad was on his way home so that added some extra help. William, age 7, could help a little but not a lot. Thankfully he could clean up the tools outside that we had been using to clean. Elizabeth, age 10, and my father were more help.

Lesson 9 - Have a clear chain of command when you encounter scenarios like this. The incident leader needs to delegate and communicate with all parties involved.

Once we got a break, we called the home warranty folks and they said a local plumber could come by. The next day. The same plumber we've dealt with before for a leaky toilet who was an ass. We tried to get a different plumber but no dice. The home insurance folks were more helpful and had a tech here in hours to help clean up. He sucked up some water, then set up fans and dehumidifiers. I'm glad I kept checking his work because one of the dehumidifiers had a drain line that fell out of  another drain line and would have just added water to the floor. We also had to run extension cords upstairs because the circuits kept popping from all the fans running.

Lesson 10 - Have fans and dehumidifiers on hand to help remediation start as soon as possible. These should already be a part of your standard issue basement supply list.
Lesson 11 - Check behind everyone's work, especially contractors, to make sure they're doing it right.

The jack-ass plumber came the next day and cut the supply line to the faucet and removed the faucet. He glued a shut-off valve to the supply line so we could still have water in the house. But he did a crappy job of everything. I'm no plumber but I at least know that when you cut a copper pipe, you need to de-burr the end. He didn't. You also need to clean the ends with sandpaper. He didn't. Instead it was a quick glue. Since the home warranty folks didn't want to pay for a pipe that had frozen, we said good bye to the plumber. We weren't going to pay him to do a shitty job. And as far as I'm concerned, he can join my blacklist.

Lesson 12 - Don't be afraid to tell a contractor no. It's easy to just say fix it but if they don't fix it right the first time, you'll be paying for it again later.

With the plumber gone and quick-fix in place, we're now waiting for the insurance adjuster to arrive, the clean-up people to come check on their work, and the HVAC service tech to ensure the equipment is still good. We already got the all-clear from the washer/dryer manufacturer to use the units. The "brains" of them are up high and they're built to be in an inch or two of water. But we still kept an eye on them just to stay safe.

Lesson 13 - After an incident like this, pay attention to any anomalies. This could be the pre-cursor to a new incident.

I know there will be more lessons in the future. But until the final outcome has been reached and everything has been repaired, who knows.

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