Flooded basements are a headache to homeowners, but they mean high traffic for businesses that offer help.
Remediation and foundation companies reported a high volume of calls after epic rains Monday night and into Tuesday.
Scott Lanning of Kansas City went down to check his finished basement at 3 a.m. Tuesday and saw “water rushing out of my toilet like a heavy fountain.”
It was his third flooded basement in a month, and it was the worst. He and some neighbors were dealing with 2 feet of muddy water.
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“I’ve lost so many personal items,” Lanning said. “My neighbors have lost furnaces and washing machines.”
They are not alone.
“Pulling up carpet today,” one Gladstone resident posted Wednesday morning on Facebook. “Sucks.”
On a normal day, Dry Basement Inc. gets about 30 calls for service. On Tuesday, the Kansas City company received about 700.
“We’ve had this before, but it’s been several years,” said company president Otto Fleck, who has been in the wet basement business for more than four decades. He had to think back to the great flood years of 1993 and 1977 for comparisons.
Fleck said his company is capable of handling roughly 120 appointments a day. But if a flooded basement is unfinished, the homeowner should keep a record of where they saw the leak for repairs later.
Foundation businesses also are experiencing heavy call volume.
“The phones are ringing a lot,” said Bill Carter with Foundation Engineering Specialists. “Yesterday was really crazy.”
Lanning said the problem in his neighborhood near 78th and Ward Parkway is linked to Kansas City stormwater backing up into home sewage pipes. He said a city water crew in the area Tuesday told him city stormwater pipes and home pipes are not supposed to be connected.
“When the water has nowhere to go, it just backs up into the houses,” Lanning said.
The city’s Water Services Department said part of the reason is rainwater getting into the sanitary sewer system, and Lanning’s neighborhood is not the only one affected.
“It can come from residential sump pumps and downspouts that are connected to the sewer system,” said spokeswoman Brooke Givens. “Homeowners can lessen the impact by disconnecting those sources from the sewer system.”
Kansas City has a limited-time Keep Out the Rain KC program to help homeowners find and fix those connections for free. It is part of the federally mandated consent decree to reduce sewer overflows.
Water can find its way into home foundations through cracks, as well. Engineers say it is important that the ground around the exterior slopes away from the home and not toward it. That is particularly true in the Kansas City area, where the soil contains a lot of clay. Wet clay expands and puts pressure on the foundation walls, which can lead to cracks.
“Poor water runoff allows rainwater to collect near foundation walls,” according to Foundation Engineering Specialists. “Clay has about twice the lateral pressure of dry soil.”
Foundation repair, proper drainage and unclogged gutters are important things to address before the next heavy rain.
But people with flooded basements need action immediately.
Experts say the most important thing is personal safety. Don’t just wade into standing water.
“The first thing you ought to do is be very careful about electrical outlets,” Carter said. “You don’t want to go down there and get electrocuted.”
▪ If basement water is deep enough to reach outlets, the first thing is to shut off power — if you can safely get to the fuse box.
▪ Be aware of natural gas leaks (rotten egg smell).
▪ Remove standing water with a pump or a wet vacuum.
▪ Remove carpet and padding before mold begins to grow.
▪ Buy or rent fans or industrial blowers and possibly a dehumidifier.
▪ Unclog the floor drain, if necessary.
▪ Call the insurance company.
Experts also advise homeowners to consider getting a sump pump and testing it periodically.
“I’ve been in basements with standing water where the sump pump was unplugged because it made noise at night,” Carter said. “You’re just asking for flooding.”