How to Stop Your Basement from Flooding with Sewage, and Other Adventures

So. We got a lot of rain last week. Like, 5 inches worth of rain in less than 24 hours.

A year or so ago, we had a similar rainstorm and it was then that we discovered that when we get a lot of rain, the sewer line backs up into the laundry sink in the basement. Our niece and nephew were sleeping over, and I don’t know what made me check the basement that night, but when I got down there, there was about a half inch of sewer water coating the floor and the laundry sink was completely overflowing with yellowish-brown water. Every time the sump pump under the sink kicked on, it was like a geyser erupted in the laundry sink, the basement bathroom sink, and the washing machine drain pipe. It was horrific, but with the help of my dad and his trusty shop-vac, we got it cleaned up within a few hours.

Last week we were not so lucky. I knew we were supposed to get a bunch of rain, so I was vaguely worried that something bad might happen, but mostly I was concerned about the fact that our furnace had stopped working and it was only about 59 degrees in the house. I scoured Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Target for space heaters, but they’re all gone because “it’s the wrong season.” I got home at about 6:30pm and immediately checked the basement. Dry. Just then the sump pump kicked on and a couple gallons of water were pushed up into the sink. My heart dropped and I called my dad to ask him to bring the shop-vac over. While I was waiting, I started scooping water out of the sink and dumping it into the other sump pump (we have 3!).

I basically spend the next 14 hours emptying buckets of sewer water from the sink into the sump pump every 20-30 minutes. I never thought it would last that long, which is why I sent the hubby to bed at around midnight. I figured he needed his sleep because it’s hard for him to take a day off, but I could finish up and then go to sleep and maybe go into work late. To say that was wishful thinking is the understatement of the century. At about 3:30am, I was completely frustrated and probably a little delirious, so I considered actually just letting the basement flood and selling the house. I persevered and managed to keep all of the dirty water contained to buckets and strategically-placed garbage cans. Until 6:00am when all hell broke loose, that is.

I don’t know what happened, but water just started going everywhere and the basement started to flood. I was screaming and on the verge of tears, so hubby called out of work and then called my dad to see if he could come over and help us. Between the 3 of us (again), we were able to keep it under control and somewhat clean until the nightmare finally ended a little after 1:00pm.

We had a plumber come over and he told us that the sewer line was flooded and there was nothing he could do. We called the town and they said that it’s a trunk line issue and there was nothing they can do. I’ve since talked to another plumber and the town again, and we’re basically left on our own. We’re going to have the plumber come and reconfigure the sump pump so that it stops emptying into the sewer (which is apparently illegal – thanks a LOT, previous owners!), which should alleviate the problem a bit. We also need to see about having a back flow valve installed on our sewer line, if we don’t already have one. At that point, the only other thing we can do is buy a plumber’s test plug (which is essentially a balloon that you inflate in the line to stop water from coming in or out) and use that when and if this happens again. I’m thinking that when we go on vacation we should put the plug in just in case. Not only would it be horrific if this happened while we were away, but I wouldn’t my dad or brother-in-law to have to deal with it if we’re not here.

It’s times like these that I really miss renting.

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6 thoughts on “How to Stop Your Basement from Flooding with Sewage, and Other Adventures

  1. This is horrific. We had water too but from a leaking roof. You could see where the old owners painted over water marks but since we had so much snow I assumed the problem was fixed. Until that rain came and we had Niagara Falls in the basement. Thankfully mine was a cheap and easy fix but sewage and plumbing is a different beast. My brother had this happen in his old house once too. Owning is great and all but I really miss renting sometimes too! Less stress! Hopefully this new plan will prevent this from happening again

    • I’m glad you guys got your roof problem fixed! I’m hoping that the plumber can fix the basement – at this point I’m not even overly concerned about the cost. I just don’t want to ever have to scoop buckets of poop water for 12+ hours again.

  2. That is just awful! I’m so sorry you had to deal with that.

    We’re new homeowners. We just had to get our hot water tank fixed because it was leaking and leaving our basement floor all wet. Ugh. -.-

    • It’s always something! We had our hot water tank replaced right after we moved in because it started leaking. At least you caught it before the bottom gave out and you had gallons of water in the basement!

  3. Oh dear — adventures of homeownership, right? I’m so sorry you’re going through this mess, and it has me thinking about the basement we’re about to purchase (along with the rest of the house, of course!). We also have a well and sump pump, etc., and haven’t been there long enough to know what happens in heavy rain . . . though we did drive by to peek in the windows after that awful rain last week. Dry — so let’s hope that continues. Sending you good vibes that this gets resolved soon!

    • If your basement was dry last week, then you guys should be good to go! We specifically asked the homeowners about water in the basement, and because it’s finished down there, we believed them when they said they never had any problems. Maybe they were telling the truth, but I have a hard time believing that this problem just magically started once we moved in…

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