Monday, April 1, 2013

"Houston, we have a problem" - the basement flooded

You may remember in my last post that I eluded to some issues with the builder.  Now that we're moved in and we've officially broken up with said builder (ie: we came to financial resolution and a separation agreement and Waiver of Lien was signed by both parties), I think it's time to share some of the things that ultimately eroded our relationship.

Back in November, Seattle had some torrential rain showers.  Rain showers that ended up flooding our basement.  I arrived at the house early on Monday morning to find the builder in poor spirits.  When I asked him what was going on, he said "There's a little water inside."  I almost sharted when I heard the words "water" and "inside" used in the same sentence.  Our hardwood floors had just gone in, and I assumed that there was some water coming into the first floor.  I was wrong...

As it turns out, the water was pouring into the mechanical room, which is in the basement.  I went downstairs to find that the drywall was totally soaked, about 6 feet up on the wall and the water was flowing from one end of the house to the other, much like an overflowing toilet.  In a panic, I called my Dad.  If you've had the pleasure of meeting my Dad, you know that he can do anything.  He has almost every tool known to man, and if you have a problem, he can most likely fix it.  He came right over (the perk of having parental units that live 1 mile away) and immediately took a hand saw to the drywall.  Here's what we found:
Water, pouring down the walls of the foundation.  A foundation should NEVER look like this.  You can shart now.  I did.

The concrete just underneath the black tube is dry.  Everything else is wet.

I think it's safe to say that one doesn't need a degree in construction management to know that we had a big problem.  Our builder proceeded to run around like a moron, neglecting (this will be a key term in this whole debacle) to make contact with the excavation company who poured the foundation and placed the drains that penetrated said foundation.  Instead, it was me, the homeowner, who stood on our front porch and started making calls.  Within 10 minutes, I had the owner of the excavation company on the phone and they were sending someone out to take a look.

Meanwhile, the dirt on the exterior of the house that had been sinking for several weeks (note: our builder said "that's just typical settling") had completely opened up into a sink hole.

Water adjacent to the foundation - this was just the beginning of our problem

The hole, starting to open up.  That's my husband in the hole, running the commercial pump that my Dad rented.  Note: the builder doesn't even have rubber boots or a pump.  Instead, he's standing on the edge of the hole. Just writing this out is making me irritated.

The sideyard eroding before our eyes.  If you look closely, you may be able to see the water pouring out of the dirt, just below the wooden stake adjacent to the large shrub.  

The temporary drain that my Dad and I rigged up to divert water into the driveway.  Note: the builder had nothing to do with this manual labor.  Thanks.

While waiting for the excavation company to come and assess the damage, we learned two important things
  1. The builder neglected (there's that word again!) to put in appropriate drains on the side of the house when the dirt was open during excavation.  In other words, despite being on a hill and a well shown on the documents of the property provided to us by the city planner, our builder did nothing.  All of the water from the torrential rain, coming down the hill and the water bubbling up from the existing well was pouring into our basement, because the builder didn't tie any drains into the storm sewer during excavation.  The existing storm sewer sits just underneath the black drain that we ran down the driveway
  2. The excavation company never sealed the pipe that penetrated the foundation with cement grout.  That's a HUGE problem.  Naturally, any water that sits adjacent to the foundation will seep through an unsealed penetration.  That's why we had water pouring down the wall of the foundation around the pipe.  You might be wondering if the excavation company took any responsibility for this: they didn't.  Neither did the builder.  
After discovering these 2 very important facts, we realized that we had to solve the problem ourselves.  We rented 2 commercial grade pumps and pumped out the hole every 4 hours over Thanksgiving weekend.  This allowed us to mitigate any further damage to the basement by keeping water away from the foundation.  We also put in that black, temporary drain to divert water away from the house.  One of my most vivid memories was mixing cement grout in the basement with my Dad, in a plastic Happy Meal bucket, by flashlight.  Listen readers, I'm not a girly girl.  While I don't mind getting dressed up, I'm much more comfortable in a pair of jeans or in this case: rubber boots and a headlamp.  I'm perfectly capable of mixing up cement grout in a dark basement, but for me it's the principle that the builder was nowhere to be found - and this was a crisis.  

Thankfully, we have a dear friend, Bernard Finney of Lawnscapes who came to our rescue.  Our family has known Bernard since 1989 when we moved to Seattle, and I can personally attest to the quality of his work and his character.  Bernard came out with a crew of guys over Thanksgiving weekend (who does that?) and worked through the storm to install a French drain.  Basically, Bernard saved our rear end (and our basement!).  Thank you Bernard.

You might also recall the installation of our retaining wall.  Bernard and his crew put that in, by hand.  If you need an honest, personable and knowledgeable landscaper in the Seattle area, please visit Lawnscapes and give Bernard a call.  I promise you won't be sorry!

Now let's get back to the flooding in the basement.  Once the French drain was installed, we were able to dry the basement out.  Here's a picture of the wall after the cement grout was installed:
After cement grout installation - see the difference?
Thankfully our flooring was not installed at the time of the flood - otherwise fixing this problem would have been even more expensive and would have required replacement of vinyl, cork and carpet flooring.

In my next post, I'll talk a bit about the cabinet debacle and the fact that our builder was pocketing money for himself and underpaying the subcontractors.  

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