Normally, a house shouldn't take on water. Sure, sometimes a roof or a window leaks, but typically you don't see water waterfalling itself into a house.
My house is structured such that maybe 250 square feet of pavement slope towards the garage door. (ideally you would like to have 0 square feet sloping towards any house entrance) A drain outside the my garage carries water to a line that runs to a sump pump (a sump pump that to date I had not understood what it was there for).
Further below the level of the garage is the basement, site of the recently renovated family room. The three week old family room complete with new drywall walls, furniture, and three hundred square feet of new carpet.
After no rain for several weeks my wife's pleas seemed to have been answered. No need to drag out the sprinkler, there's dark clouds on the horizon.
I spent the early part of Saturday watching the America's Cup sailing matches before heading outside to paint some stucco (high above the ground, only reachable by ladder). I saw no need to secure the house for the storm, I thought it was more important to start more work for potential ruin.
Rachel, my wife, seeing the dark clouds and not wishing me to be struck by lighting, came outside and said I should come inside. Knowing the difficulty to paint in the rain, and needing to maximize every second of non-rain time, I assured her the new fiberglass ladder I was standing on was lightning-proof. She reluctantly returned inside as I quickly slopped more paint on the wall.
The rain did start to come down, and come down hard. I was forced back inside.
Of course the kitchen ceiling started to leak. Actually a re-leak, so I crawled out a second floor window to check on the tarp that was supposed to be preventing the ceiling from leaking. The tarp was still in place.
The rain was just coming in too hard.
I came in and dried myself off.
Downstairs I heard a rushing noise. What the hell is it now? It's coming from the basement and the newly finished family room. OH shit. I ran down the stairs. "Rachel! Help, NOW. Flood!"
A waterfall was pouring into the basement from the garage door. The stair platform was soaked. The laundry room to my left was under several inches of water. The family room proper was two-thirds covered in water.
Rachel ran down the stairs. I sent her into the laundry room to move valuables to higher ground and work to get rid of the water.
I opened the door to the garage to see it under a lot of water. Quickly I closed the door.
What to do?
At the time we had no divers or welding equipment aboard, so I went for the next best thing - towels. Up two flights of stairs and back down. I threw them on the other side of the door, then closed it again. They had slowed the water, but more was needed.
I grabbed backer rod and wood shims (backer rod is a sort of long foam tube). I plugged the backer rod under the door. It reduced the inflow of water by 95 percent.
I shouted an order to raise flags and sortie the fleet, but there was no one around capable of doing so. It was then that I realized there was no fleet. It was going to be tougher than I thought.
We were in it alone. A classic duel. Ship versus ship (of course, technically, in this case, it's house versus storm).
I re-stationed Rachel in the family room proper to see what could be done, as the floor drain in the laundry room had clogged.
I felt like I needed some sort of coordinated damage report. We were taking on water in the kitchen. The house was down at the stern and flooding heavily. There was no telling at that point if the pumps were even operational. Two critical questions ran though my mind: Could we return fire? How long could we stay in the fight?
Having no trained crew or incoming data, I needed to check out the damage first hand.
(Again, for accuracy's sake, the house is a only a house and really has no offensive weapons. It's main armaments are defensive in nature. If one wanted to further be a killjoy they could point out that the house is not a ship nor in any danger of sinking. I, not being a killjoy, will point out no such issues. In order to bring some sort of humorous light to this and to keep my spirits up for the massive work that must still be done to remedy this problem, I will view the situation as if the house were in fact a frigate on the open ocean engaging an enemy of much greater size. Possibly a heavy cruiser.)
I had to run around the house in the rain and lightning to gain access to the back of the garage. The water was between 3 - 6" deep. The sump pump seemed to be pumping. It was whirring at least. A squeeze of the hose seemed to indicated it was filled with water.
I next turned to the equipment on the floor. I put the newly purchased gas powered trimmer on the wheel barrow. I put the box for the trimmer flat on the ground and put the lawn mower on top of the box. Of course the box quickly collapsed elevating the mower only an additional three-eighths of an inch off the floor, and still several inches under water (clearly time well spent).
I picked up the belt sander of the floor and put it on a table. I'm now 12 seconds into the garage exploration. I turned back outside. Water is pouring in from a sidewalk behind the garage. I grab the three bags of topsoil that were outside and make a sort of makeshift dam that I hope will push the water into the grass. Briefly I try to bucket and sweep the water out of the garage, but this really does nothing. I put the towels back against the door and head back around to the front.
Running back around to the front I realize my flip-flops are a poor choice of footwear, but I manage not to trip and kill myself. I also ponder the number of home improvement/renovation books I have. Plumbing, electrical, rough framing, finish carpentry, decorating, and a whole slew of others. Looks like it's time to pick up some books on naval architecture. Instead of asking how Villa or Abrams would handle the situation, I could use some advice from Nelson or Halsey.
Back inside the basement I see the backer rod under the door is still holding. Rachel informs me that the cloth screening material that had kept debris from clogging the laundry room floor drain was sucked into the drain and, ironically, was clogging the drain. The two inches of water in the room posed not only a concern to my mental well being, but also to the drywall partition wall I so recently, and painstakingly, built. Fortunately the cloth was no more than my elbow's depth into the drain, and I could just get the necessary two fingers on it to pull it out.
Briefly I imagined my arm stuck as the water rises higher and higher. Rose grabs the keys and dives under to unlock the shackles. I only have one last gasp of air as the water pours over my head and I can only pray that she can find the correct key. But, back in the depressingly real reality that is my life, my arm did not become stuck in the drain and I yank the cloth free. But maybe that's better, because my house doesn't have enough lifeboats for all the passengers on board. In fact, I know that it has zero. Women, children, men - it doesn't matter - everybody's swimming.
In the basement proper (the three week old family room) another painstakingly newly built wall was blocking three-quarters of the sloping access to the second basement drain. I moved Rachel to sweep away the water while I shuffled furniture and delicate electronic equipment to higher ground (there's probably a three inch drop from high to low across the room). Most of the damage to those pieces seemed to be minimal as the carpet tiles acted as giant sponges.
Five minutes in and everything had been done that could be done. Another five minutes passed and the rain eased enough to allow the sump pump to drain the water from the garage (it was in fact working). The house wouldn't be going down after all. Through tough work we had forced the storm to draw off.
A fantastically exciting few minutes gone and soon with it the adrenaline that had been running through my body. I needed a nap. Instead, I started surveying the damage, seeing what needed to be done to assure the same problem did not happen again.
I consulted my wife. Most people view the movie The Money Pit as a just another movie. We're starting to believe it has untapped value as a how-to guide.
I've got to track down a contractor. I'm looking for a hodge-podge group that rolls in on all manner of transport wielding sledgehammers and chainsaws. I need an outfit that isn't afraid to do a monstrous amount of demolition before asking about any sort of permit. Ideal time to complete the project? Two weeks.
If anyone knows of such an organization, please let me know.