Tag Archives: basement

Collective Groanings from Central NY

September 8, 2011


What is it with our region lately? We’re being targeted with rain. Stupid hurricanes.

Yeah, we got more rain, more flooding. We only just swept Hurricane Irene out of our homes and basements and roads. Tropical Storm Lee decided to take the highway straight up from the south. Look at that line. Crazy! In case you didn’t know, I’m smack dab in the center of Upstate NY, right where that yellow-glob is.

That is a satellite photo taken at around 10pm last night.

I’m not sure how much rain we’ve had. It’s been raining straight– fishhooks and hammer handles– since early Wednesday morning. The weathermen said yesterday that we’d probably see upwards of 4 inches. But when I checked a rain barrel last night, when we were only halfway through the storm, it was 4 inches.

This is the new satellite photo, taken at about 8am today. I can’t believe this thing, it’s a monster with more energy than a 2-year old. It just keeps churning and churning.

Sorry if I am a bit incoherent. We were up a good portion of the night. One of our 3 sump pumps gave up the ghost, and the husband had to run to Home Depot (who stayed open all night on account of the emergencies) and re-pipe a new pump. Unfortunately, it’s a smaller horsepower pump, so the water in the basement isn’t going down as quickly as we’d like. At least the yard flooding has slowed.According to the satellite, though, we’ve got another day of this, probably.

My neighbors just 15 miles north of me have it bad. Neighborhoods have been evacuated– emergency teams have had to call in hovercrafts and boats. Schools are closed on their second day of school today. And the fire sirens just keep sounding. It’s unreal.

In the county next to me, reports are “flooding” in of schools filled with water. Cobleskill college had a foot of water in the dorms, with muddy waterfalls flowing down the stairs. Another neighbor had 4 feet of water in his basement. And of course, some folks’ homes have been inundated.

I know these things happen all over the world, and Louisiana is suffering from massive flooding, too. But here in Central NY, the biggest weather events we get is snow. We don’t get constant streams of hurricanes and tornadoes and earthquakes (all of which we have had in the past 3 weeks). Our infrastructure isn’t prepared for it. We’ve had five “100-year floods” in 5 years. That’s just….. nutty. Yeah, I’m frustrated. What’s worse is that states like Texas need all this rain much more than we do. I wish I could send it over, I really do. Oh well. It’s the weather. Thank God we’re still doing OK even though the losses are bad. And I’ve seen God make lemonade out of lemons with stuff like this. I just need to keep reminding myself of that while I watch the waters rise.

I will be getting a canoe, though. Seriously.

When I was a girl, we suffered a lot of rain one year. That year was actually a record-breaker for Central NY, our year of the most rainfall in 12 months. I canoed in my front yard during that time. Boy, it was fun!

Well, I think we have surpassed that old record of rainfall. And I realized that my kids don’t know how to operate a canoe. They need to learn. No time like the present. LOL.

I seem to be talking about the weather a lot on this blog lately. Sorry. I wish I could talk about my latest renovation project or something. But yikes, we can’t seem to get a hammer in edgewise with all this rain. ALL YEAR LONG.

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My Little Cupcake

May 3, 2011


She’s such a sweet baby. šŸ™‚

Livvy Cupcake

I didn’t want to have those flood photos up as the first post, anymore. :-p I’m sick of the mud and rain and cold. I have this terrible longing to hop in the car and drive far, far away… to some warm, sunny beach where I will sit on the sands and watch the ocean waves crash on the rocks. ***sighhh***

We’ve got good news: our insurance will cover the basement cleanup and damages. We have water back-up coverage, THANK GOD. Unfortunately, some of our neighbors do not, nor do they have flood insurance. šŸ™ Please keep them in your prayers. It’s bad enough slogging through mud and more water… it’s horrible to have to pay out of pocket for the damages.

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We Interrupt Our Normal Broadcast…

April 29, 2011


I’m going to skip Find the Kitty Friday this week. We kinda have other things on our plates. We had flooding yesterday, and my house was hit.


Good news is that all the water is out of the basement, and the oil spill is completely contained. Today, we have to scrub down the walls and floor, and haul all the damaged stuff away to the landfill.

All the water is out, and the next job is cleaning.



The oil spill ruined everything in the basement, except the furnace! We were smart when we installed it after the last big flood in 2007– this time, we installed it on a metal stand, a good 2 feet up from the floor. The flood waters came within ONE INCH of the furnace! But it’s OK. Oh thank God!

But everything else is gone: my woodwork, my power saws, my maple flooring that was stored down there, various car parts and toys and patio furniture…. I’m not too sad, it’s just stuff and we can replace it. I’m sad about my power saws, though. I am hoping my insurance covers them.

So we have no hot water until we get a new tank. Looks like the insurance may not roll in a check until next week. I’ve convinced my husband that we can install it ourselves. šŸ™‚ The need for hot water is a great motivator. šŸ˜€

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I Told You We’ve Had Too Much Rain

April 28, 2011



The husband woke me up at around 7:30 this morning, telling me he needed my help. The basement had flooded.

If you have followed this blog for any length of time, you’ll remember that my area has severe flooding problems. It’s actually a sharp bone of contention in my town, as many of us think that super-over-development of surrounding rural areas has created a stormwater crisis. We suffered severe floods since 2000, with 2006 and 2007 being the worst. After the kids and I dug a dry well and we installed a second pump, the basement has rarely flooded in excess of a few inches for several years. We kinda hoped our flooding days were over. During last year’s renovation, I had to store a lot of stuff in the basement (we were using our garage as a living space): power tools, wood, everything from the garage, really. So while we always checked the basement when it rained, it has been dry thus far. And I haven’t had a chance to clean the basement and put the garage back together yet (I was going to do that as soon as the weather got warmer, which, incidentally, happened yesterday).

But we have had a heck of a lot of rain this month. Last I heard, the weather guy said that out of 28 days in April, we’ve had measurable rain for 26 of them. Earlier this week, we’ve had 6 inches of rain total for April. But last night’s torrential rains upped that a bit, I’d say.


To those who knew what was happening this morning: Thank you SO SO much for praying. I know it has helped. We had a complication this time, and I was very afraid of what would happen.

Unfortunately, we had stored in our basement–a lot of stuff: old engine oil waiting to go to the hazardous waste facility; paint; tools; etc. All that was washed up in the water that came surging in through our sump well. It coated everything and made water removal impossible.


The fire department came to help, but when they saw the oil, they had to call the DEC. It was pretty scary for a while, as I envisioned tens of thousands of dollars in bills from a HAZMAT team… but after it FINALLY stopped raining, we surveyed the damage. The DEC guy said that the oil spill was not large and therefore would not require a HAZMAT team (nor expensive bills). He said we could hire a professional cleanup crew to clean this up, or I could do it myself to save money. Guess which I chose…. he gave me a run down of what to get and how to clean it up, and how to dispose of the waste…. lots to do this week!

Anyway, we still have water in the basement. We have to control it carefully as we pump it out, because we cannot allow any oil to flow into the municipal water system (and the nearby creek). As the water goes down, we are mopping up the oil with large absorbent pads. Once the water is all gone, I begin the long process of shoveling out the sediment, removing the debris, junking the debris, and washing the walls and floor. My insurance will pay for a new water heater and for my ruined tools and power saws, thank God.

The yard is a disaster, filled with several layers of thick sediment from the flood waters. My house sits at a low spot in the general area, and seems to collect all the neighboring flood waters, so we bear the brunt of the flooding. I’ve got a lot of cleanup on my hands. I’ll have to take a few days off from work to care for this.

If you ask what we need pray for, it’s NO MORE RAIN. Please, no more rain. I know so many people have it worse off than us, so pray for them, too. God is a big God, and He cares even about my small problems. šŸ™‚

Thanks for your support, friends. It makes things like this more bearable. God bless you. šŸ™‚

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Basement Window Filled In

December 2, 2010

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I got this done in the nick of time. Winter is fast upon us. If you recall, I had to close up this window because the original 1855 window had finally rotted away, 155 years later.


We have water pipes and some drain pipes in front of this window. It was imperative that I either find a new window or seal up the hole. Since this was such an old window with a unique size, and since I didn’t think I could handle a huge window installation in such a short period of time (and my foundation is cut stone, not cinder block), I opted to close off the window. It’s situated in a horribly soggy section of the yard (the driveway is three feet away, so water from the roof splashes off the driveway and into the window); just close it off.

Basement Window2

Old window removed...


First row of cinder blocks, mortared together...

Basement Windows Filed In

Sealed with mortar. I will parge the surface in the spring...

You’d never know there was once a window here.

Of course, I’m in the long, slow process of parging the basement walls, inside and out. The stones are in good shape, but after 155 years and countless generations of chipmunks (the critters pick at the mortar to create nests in the stone crevices), and high water table to boot, I need to seal the walls. You can read my tutorial about how to parge basement walls. It’s not a difficult job, parging– But it’s very time-consuming. And BORING.

As for this window area, I was only able to parge a small section around the old window, due to winter’s impending approach. In the spring, the kids and I will go on a parging blitz. Huzzah.

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Plugging Holes For Winter

October 19, 2010


I’m busy trying to get all my Internet writing work done these days, and at the same time, scrambling around trying to winterize before the snow falls (which, they say, will occur Friday morning). Eeep! I’m not ready for winter. I mean, I’m READY— there’s nothing I’d like more than to cozy up in front of a toasty fire, cuddled up with cat and blanket. But we have a LOT of loose ends to wrap up before anything cozy goes on in this house. For one, there’s this:

Basement Window2

Yes, that’s a hole in my basement window. The window fell out.


That’s the original 1855 basement window. The old cut nails are still in it. It had been patched at some point in the past 100 years or so, but I’m amazed it’s lasted this long. We have a few other ones that are seeing their demise, now.

Rather than figure out how on earth to replace the window (and figure out how we’d afford the custom craft), we decided to close off the window. This area of the house is extremely soggy, and water tends to pool beside it. Instead of exacerbating a water problem by keeping a hole here, closing off the window will seal out the moisture. Next year, we’ll remove all the top soil and lay a slab of concrete, to further direct water from the roof from collecting here.

I’ve got some kids who help me haul the concrete, and mix it. Yay!


I lay a thin layer of sand mix to give the cinder blocks something to grab as they sit in there. After the first row of blocks, I fill them with concrete. Then I slather another layer of sand mix, and add another row of blocks. I will eventually smooth out the entire side, to make the wall look seamless.

This is just the first row of blocks. I have since added two, and need to wedge in a narrow third before the window is entirely sealed off. Problem is, I’ve been SO swamped with work that I haven’t been able to get back out to the project.


I’d better hurry. We have a mass of water and drain pipes right in front of this hole. God forbid they should freeze.

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Parging The Foundation Walls

June 29, 2009


I have been in the process— oh, for about THREE years now!! — of parging the foundation walls of my home. Most new homes since the 60s and 70s have concrete block or poured concrete foundations. But waaaay back in the olden days (as when my house was built), foundations were built from field stones or cut stones. My home has cut stones. Over the 150 year span that my home has been standing, the field stones are still in excellent condition– it’s just the mortar that stinks.

Stone foundations have limestone mortar. It is water-permeable and over time and rodent-chewing (chipmunks are notorious for chewing away the mortar to build nests between the stones), the mortar begins to fail. In severe cases, this can cause foundation failure. In less severe cases (such as mine) this can mean a pocked, ugly appearance and some water leakage. Parging is the application of a thin coat of sticky cement over the wall surface. I’ve got about half of my interior basement done– what a job! My basement is huge and has 6′ high walls– and about 1/3 of the house’s exterior foundation wall (about 2 feet high).

Dig Down

The mix you use for parging must be special– it has to be sticky (that is, it must stick to a vertical surface without plopping down and off) and must remain stuck to the walls after it is dry. I had one dummy at Lowe’s tell me I needed mortar mix for the job, and me- being the dumb homeowner– listened to him and bought $200 worth of the stuff. Only to find that this is the WRONG stuff and crumbles off over time. :-p What you need to use is something call Sand Mix. It’s a combination of sand and portland cement. It should not crumble off if applied properly. There are even some acrylic additives you can add to the mix to make it even stickier- the additive is a lot like Elmer’s glue and comes in tall bottles. You pour it in to your Sand Mix mix. I didn’t use it. I’m too cheap (the additive is very pricey). I mixed up the Sand Mix and so far, it’s been working well. This is what I did about four years ago, and it’s holding up great:

Older Parging Job

To make the mix, you add water to the Sand Mix. You should only mix up as much Sand Mix as you are going to use in about 30 minutes. Otherwise, it will start to harden and won’t work anymore. Here’s what you will need for parging your walls:

  • Sand Mix
  • a bucket
  • water (hose or watering can)
  • spray bottle filled with water
  • cement trowel
  • cardboard or kneeling pad for your aching knees

It’s important to mix the Sand Mix *just right*– not too soupy or not too crusty. When mixed properly, you’ll be able to make M’s or S’s in the mix and they will stay in shape.
Mix Sand Mix

Before spreading on the stuff, make sure your wall is free from crud, like spiders’ webs, frass, and loose mortar. You will also want to dig down in the dirt a little, so that your parging line will not be seen should the soil shift around your foundation. I usually dig down about 3 to 6″, depending on the soil and the wall itself. Some folks go much deeper down.

Now, get your spray bottle and moisten the wall. This helps the parging mix to stick onto the wall. Don’t saturate your wall with loads of water– just get it wet.

Spray the Wall

Now lay your parging mix with your trowel, in 1/4″ to 1/2″ thickness.

Parge It On

Corners and around windows are the hardest, so take your time. Parging isn’t a difficult job, it’s just tedious. While parging, I found a few areas where moles and/or chipmunks had chipped mortar away. Grrr. I filled these holes in, to keep them out. Parging helps keep out water, too.

Parging Progress

Click to enlarge any photo.

Parge Progress

I am not too fussy about how smooth my mix goes on. Just laying on the mix is a 100% improvement!

Wall Parged

Allow to dry for 36 hours before moving the soil back into your trench. The parging mix will change color as it dries, to a light gray. You can leave it this color, or paint it with some waterlocking paint, or exterior concrete paint. This job is so easy that you can even have the kids do it. You just have to make sure that they are consistent with the thickness and apply it so that everything is covered completely.

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Too Much Water

August 15, 2008


I wrote about our power outage earlier this week. Power outages are rare for my neighborhood. My block is on the same grid as much of the commercial district, so the power company has extreme measures to keep this grid up and running. However, Monday we had a severe thunderstorm and we lost power for several hours that morning. Power outages give me the willies because we have two sump pumps in our basement that absolutely MUST stay on. If they are off for more than an hour, my basement floods.

Here’s a photo of our predicament Monday, when the water started to rise from the sump well. GULP.

Basment Sump Flooding Aug 2008

Thank God, the power was restored before the water got too high. We’ve seen water rise up to three feet in that basement. It’s a constant worry, and I’ve seriously considered selling the property because the flooding causes me such anxiety. I just cannot live in a house and on property that floods when we have moderate to heavy rains. We are in the process of (slowly) dealing with the problem, but a large part of the problem has to do with my property is the only greenspace in a large area of asphalt parking lots, and there has been a lot of over-development in the lands up the hill from me. My yard seems to be the depository of all the run-off water, and my lawn can only soak in so much. So we have a high water table and it seeps up through the basement.

Anyway, all is well today. But I’m off to clean the basement floor again before it starts to smell like a pond!

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Winter Woes

December 12, 2007

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Grr. I don’t know what it is about winter. Our basement has been flooding again!

All summer long, the sump pump hardly went off, due to our severe shortage of rainfall. I have to say, I was so thankful for the dry summer. My basement was dry!

Now all of a sudden, ever since the first snowfall a few weeks ago, we’re dealing with water in the basement again. I woke up to find 6 inches of water this morning. My poor cat was stranded on top of a box until we rescued him.

We found out that one of our pumps had died. My husband waded in ankle-deep, freezing cold water to pull out the dead pump. Off he went to Home Depot to get a new pump.

I don’t know what it is, or why it is. I’m thinking it has more to do with run-off water than a high water table, because the precipitation hasn’t been heavy enough to warrant a a lot of underground water.

At any rate, my discouragement at seeing water in the basement again was back to an all-time high. I really don’t like living in a house that floods regularly, like this.

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