October 5, 2013
I know many of you have been through various water troubles - inside and outside - at your home because of these recent storms. My best advice is to not make any major changes. That is, keep what we've been through in perspective.
These storms were extraordinary in their intensity and duration. And, thankfully, they are rare. The last time we had such precipitation was the spring of 1999, when many areas received a year's worth of moisture over a weekend. Same thing this month. Houses that never have had water issues suddenly have started sprouting leaks on all floors.
These events have exposed the vulnerabilities of the drainage systems around our homes. That's why I'm always encouraging you to walk around the house once in a while during a rainstorm to check out things. Clogged gutters and downspouts and flat or even negative sloping soil next to the foundation are the usual culprits for sudden water leaks. Also, if there is any "ponding" in your yard, you've got some work to do. Add dirt in low areas or cut a deeper swale (V-shaped ditch) to carry water toward the street.
Window wells, as some have discovered, are quite susceptible to excess water flow. Other not-so-common weaknesses include flashing around the base of your chimney, wind-blown water saturating brick walls, inoperable sump pumps and pesky skylight issues.
All of these deficiencies are relatively easy (and cheap) to repair or adjust to avoid troubles. Landscape contractors and roofers are your best allies, but remember that they are swamped right now. In the meantime, you can buy some of that black, plastic flex piping, stick it on the end of each downspout and run the ends far away.
Interior leaks that you fix quickly usually don't cause long-term problems. Roll back wet carpet, discard the pad and blow air underneath. Sheetrock that has gotten wet typically will dry out spontaneously. Keep an eye on these areas for a couple of weeks. If mold appears, you can scrub it with bleach and water then apply KILZ primer before you repaint. Of course, warped, bubbled or torn Sheetrock will need to be replaced.
Bottom line: Don't panic and spend gobs of money on systems or infrastructure. The infrequency of these storms means you have plenty of time to formulate a strategy.
Let things dry and then step back and take a look at the basic drainage and water-handling elements around your home. Some minor and common-sense repairs to what you already have likely will get you through next time.
Dear Ken: I have a musty smell in the basement after these rains. How can I get rid of it? Also, should I test for mold? - Gail
Answer: Mold testing is problematic. Spore colonies - if they are present - move from place to place so you might get false positives when you test. Plus, it's kind of expensive. Remember that mold that you can't see is not part of the indoor air environment.
Whether it's a crawl space or a basement, a fan blowing outward through a window or crawl space vent will draw dryer, fresh air from the opposing vents and windows, which will freshen and dehumidify the air. Sometimes it can take several weeks to dry saturated crawl space dirt. The good news is that it's relatively warm, so this process won't waste expensive energy.
If your house is older with small basement windows, it's a good idea to install permanent ventilation to help eliminate that musty smell. Buy a cheap bathroom vent fan, run its duct outdoors and plug it into a timer. Let it run about 2 hours each morning. That will draw several thousand cubic feet of "new" air into your basement each day.
Moon is a homebuilder-turned-home inspector in the Pikes Peak region. His radio show, "Around the House," is carried on KRDO (1240 AM and 105.5 FM) at 9 a.m. Saturdays. Go to aroundthehouse.com to contact him.