Our basement from hell: need advice

marytwitApril 9, 2014

We've been living in our 1939 Florida home since 1974. It's rare in our location but we actually have a tiny basement that used to hold the furnace, but now is home to an air handler. There's a sump pump that has handled excess water perfectly well all this time. One major flood during a hurricane but otherwise it's stayed pretty dry and we haven't had mildew or mold problems.

However, three years ago the sump pump failed and a rainstorm led to a lot of water in the basement. Because we were traveling for several months our house was closed, and we returned to a bad mildew/mold problem (I'm not sure there was mold) on the first floor of our house.

Florida property insurance policies exclude damage from sump pump malfunctions, so we replaced the sump pump, paid to clean the furnishings on the main floor and cleaned the mildew on the stairway walls and shelves leading down to the basement. We got an estimate to clean the whole basement for $5000 (based on a remediation specialist's finding of a little mold but needing to follow federal protocols), but we decided not to do it since the specialist told us he thought we really didn't need anything that extreme.

So here we are. The basement is a mess, as you can see from the link at the bottom, with some water leakage after rainstorms, and it's dirty. There's a powdery mildew looking substance on most of the the ceiling support beams but it's hard to clean them because there are lots of nails. But the basement doesn't smell and I think/hope/pray that for the most part (except for a couple of specific areas where wood is rotting) there's not any mold, though places look black in photographs.

Since we close our house during the summer months every year and head north, I'm trying to decide what steps to take to reduce the chance of this happening again. This forum looks like a great place to get some advice. I have tried to locate the source of the incoming water but haven't yet found it. We are going to install a dehumidifier that will discharge directly into the sump pump container, and I want to get some safe electric outlets put in since right now we're stringing wires across wet floors.

What I'm hoping is that some of you who are experts in basements (Worthy, your name comes to mind immediately) can give me some advice about what sort of assistance to try to get to help us identify the leak and figure out how much cleaning we need to do and how to do it without the assistance of insurance. My husband is hoping that the dehumidifier alone will be enough but I fear that without some more specific cleaning we may have to deal with more mildew/mold when we come back in the fall.

Here is a link that might be useful: Basement from hell

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I should add that my husband thinks the water is probably coming up from the floor -- the water table is really high right now; some of our favorite walking paths around town are flooded.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 2:53PM
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Most of the densely populated parts of Florida are so barely above sea level (see map below for an indication) that it always surprises me to see any basements there.

Retrofitting a foundation to resist water tables that exceed the level of the basement floor would rarely be effective. (That's why sump pumps are used to to drain water inflows.) Exterior waterproofing, though, could be used to eliminate water entry from the walls; from the interior, crystalline spray waterproofing would also be effective.

As for the cleanup: remove anything that provides food for mildew and mould. If you haven't seen it already, the linked FEMA booklet describes cleanup methods. If stachybotrys atra was identified, be especially careful.

You might want to consider installing: at least two sump pumps with battery backups; and wireless flood detectors that would notify you by messaging or cell that flooding had been detected.

Here is a link that might be useful: Dealing with Mold and Mildew in Your Flood Damaged Home

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 11:23AM
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You right running a dehumidifier will really help eliinate molds and mildew but you also have to clean if you see there's a formation of these molds, try using borax or vinegar in eradicating molds and mildews, if you don't clean it, surely it will come back.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2014 at 1:21PM
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