My Basement is Flooding What Do I Do?
This video was recorded live on Facebook after Memorial day in 2019. At that time many people in the Des Moines, IA, area were having trouble with water in their basement and even basement flooding. We cover basement flooding causes, what should you do when the basement leaks after buying a house, wet basement waterproofing, and even suing seller for non disclosure. You can read the cliff notes here below the video:
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO WHEN YOU GET WATER IN YOUR BASEMENT?
Especially if you get water in the basement of the house you just bought? Oh, that's the worst for sure.
So should you totally freak out?
Maybe. It's easy to say, “don't freak out.” I would freak out. So I get that.
Should you become a water detective?
Absolutely. And I've got some tips on exactly what you should do for that.
Should you call "Judge Judy", and demand a court date because you've got someone to sue?
Maybe. Let's talk about this.
First of all, with the historical rains we had in 2019, it’s entirely possible that someone has lived in a house for 20+ years and never had a wet or flooded basement.
As wet as it was - it’s entirely possible they experienced their very first wet basement event. Because the ground just can’t take any more water and it’s got to go somewhere!
If you just bought the house and thought it had a dry basement, having a wet basement feels like the worst thing in the world to happen.
So what should you do first?
If you need to freak out, take a moment and do so. Call me and I’ll talk you off the ledge, no problem.
But then, you need to CLEAN IT UP.
Do not under any circumstance, let that wet carpet sit there because it's going to get moldy. Get the water out of the house. Dry everything. It's a lot of work.
If you're worried about needing proof for insurance, or for "Judge Judy", take pictures. Definitely do not let that water sit around and get stinky and gross and moldy. Yuck!
There are companies you can call to help with the clean up but they can be expensive. We’ll talk more about that later.
You can decide what level of cleanup needs to be done. A carpet cleaner might be able to clean the carpets and put a treatment on the carpet to prevent mold. But it needs to get 100% dry too so you may need fans.
If your drywall gets wet, you might need to cut a portion of the drywall out.
Your first priority is to get everything DRY. If you let the carpet pad stay wet and yucky, then that's where smells come into play and it might affect allergies and different things. Mold grows from water so clean it up.
So you’ve freaked out. And you’ve cleaned up the water. Good. Next step:
Become a water detective.
Where is the water coming from? Is it possible that your gutters are clogged? That’s an easy fix - clean your gutters.
Did you have a downspout that maybe the wind blew away? Or if you have a naughty dog (like I do) maybe they moved the downspout away from the gutters. The downspout makes the water go away from the house but if it's not there, the rain water may be pouring straight down your foundation and causing basement flooding.
Is the yard flooded? For example, during the storm/flood we had at the end of June 2018, Jess (who's on our team) had a flooded basement because her yard flooded and water came in the basement windows. This is bad luck and there’s nothing you can do to prevent it. Hopefully it’s just a once in a lifetime event.
Is it possible that the water is coming from the ground? Entirely possible. In 2019, with the historical rains, the ground was just so saturated there was nowhere for it to go.
So once you have figured out where the problem is coming from, then you know what to do to fix it.
To recap: You freak out. You clean it up.You determine where the water is coming from. The next step is to:
Fix the problem.
Hopefully your detective work indicates the solution is simple. Replacing a downspout, cleaning gutters - those are simple solutions.
However, you might need to hire a professional to help. There are several companies and lots of contractors who can help you determine what the problem is.
You might need to bring in some top soil to address the grade of the landscaping so the water runs away from the house instead of into the foundation. You might need a landscaper or someone with the skill and the will to do that work. If you need recommendations, let us know.
You might need to call a waterproofing company or contractor who can do waterproofing. But how much does that cost?? Well, it varies. Now there are some companies who will come out and their quote is instantly at least $10,000, possibly $20,000. That’s expensive.
But there are alternatives.
The biggest and most expensive waterproofing company in town isn’t the only solution. For example, I used American Perfection to waterproof a wet basement. It cost around $4,500 and worked like a dream. They spend half a day digging a trench in your basement, adding sump pump(s) and a french drain - and I never had a wet basement problem again. That was a lot more affordable than $10,000 or even $20,000!
There's likely contractors who can identify exactly what needs to be done. Maybe you only need a sump pump. Maybe you need the foundation to be trenched. Maybe you need a different solution.
I sell houses, I don't build them. I don't waterproof them. I know enough to be dangerous, and I'm passing that knowledge on to you.
At the very least, you now know to call multiple people to get quotes and to find out exactly what needs to be done. Hopefully it's an easy solution. Like just doing a little bit of landscaping or cleaning out those gutters or something, but don't fall prey to the biggest price ticket possible out there.
Then, once you have fixed the problem...
What if you feel like you've been lied to?
For example, that house that I waterproofed - the day I closed on it there were INCHES of water in the basement. The previous owners said, “No, we've never had a water problem.”
Seems suspicious. I have no idea how they didn't know but they didn't. If I knew then what I know now, I might have taken legal action.
Instead, I fixed the problem myself. I dealt with having a wet basement for a few years and then I finally fixed it by waterproofing after I'd saved up the money.
So how you deal with feeling like you've been lied to is 100% your choice.
If you need to call “Judge Judy” and go to court, and sue everyone you can think of, I totally support you.
Here's how that works. Obviously, I am a real estate agent, not an attorney. So that would be my first recommendation - get an attorney.
The problem with suing people (in my opinion), is that the onus of proof is on the buyer. And that sounds like legal terms, but I swear to God, I'm not a lawyer.
The onus of proof is on the buyer. That means that you have to prove in court to “Judge Judy”, that you were lied to, and that's difficult.
So, how do you know that the previous owner didn't have water problems? How do you know that this historical rain is not actually the very first time the basement has flooded? Maybe it never happened before.
A lot of times people talk to neighbors who can be the best resource in helping you determine if the seller lied when they told you there was no water in the basement. A casual conversation where people say, “Every summer, this whole street, everybody including your house, we all have our carpets out in the driveway drying off from the rain. Anytime it rains more than two inches in a day everybody gets water in their basement.” Neighbors usually know what's going on.
If you take the time and the money to invest in some form of litigation, arbitration, mediation, or other legal action then you’ll want to have that to support your case. Because your opinion may not get you very far with “Judge Judy”, if that makes sense.
It could be a difficult fight, but it might be worth it. Sometimes people are reimbursed for the cost of waterproofing. Sometimes they may walk away with nothing and feel like they wasted a lot of time and money.
Not everybody is completely honest. And that's really unfortunate, but that's how it is. So it's entirely possible the seller mistakenly disclosed that there was no water. Or perhaps they intentionally did not disclose the basement water problems. It’s hard to say for sure.
Taking legal action is the last step. You definitely have to clean up the problem. Find out where the problem is coming from and fix it before you go to court.
Whatever you do, do not leave yourself living in a house with a wet basement, while you wait months for the legal system to work on your behalf.
That's that's my two cents today on what you should do if you have a wet basement.
And, here's a third cent.
Now that you own the house, this is 100% your responsibility to fix. You might think “well, I’ll just sell this and get a new house that doesn’t have a wet basement.” but it’s going to be difficult to sell a house with a wet basement, especially if it’s made a big mess.
Maybe you bought the house and the disclosure said there’s a “trickle of water during a heavy rain” but now you’ve lived there and you know it’s actually a LAKE of water when it rains. Unfortunately, now you will have to disclose that material defect.
Some people might be ok with a wet basement as long as you’ve properly disclosed it. But some people might be discouraged from buying it which might make it tricky for you to sell.
That’s my two cents plus a bonus cent. If you need anything, if you have any questions, or you want some names of the contractors that I would recommend - send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get you hooked up.