Buy This House: The basement held up okay

I’m reminded of the flood of August 2001. I had just bought my house a few months before and my finished basement was a land of wet carpet and soggy walls. I pulled the carpet out, commiserated with my new neighbors, who had worse damage, and happily took cleaning supplies from the Red Cross.

This afternoon, while at the hairdresser, I got the blaring flood warning on my phone. I ignored it. Got a text from my landlord*, told myself I’d get to it later. Ignored voicemails from my husband. And then a neighbor came to the shop to tell me to contact my spouse because the unit below us flooded.

Like 2001, the units with basement bathrooms had water coming up through the pipes and water flooding in from the outside. I highly suspect the drains near the basement door sent water inside the units.

Our basement, did okay.

We got some dampness along the wall, thankfully. We are the first basement in the row and so ours is the first house water hits. Thankfully, the drain outside the basement door held and did not blow off due to water pressure shooting out of it like in 2001. The drain is the black dot in the photo. I should note, water from the gutter shot off the drain attachment.

I don’t want to brag because that’s just asking for the Fates to teach humility, but we’ve done several things to prevent a flooded basement like 2001. When we had the basement renovated we put in three French drains. Those catch the water coming up and divert it to the sump pump. On the advice from a neighbor we bumped up the horsepower of the sump pump. That has helped. Now the only problem is when we lose power. Without power the basement is up poop creek. Another big help is that we don’t have a basement bathroom. Water would have to come up 4+ feet through the washer drain for us to get something. We don’t have a laundry sink, so the washer is the only plumbing down there.

So the basement is just one example of where we put in all the unsexy but practical investments in the house. You won’t see the drains, or notice the sump pump, and the dehumidifier comes with the house. Upstairs there is unseen insulation and all the pipes and wires are all 21st Century. Unsexy and unseen.

Buy this house it’s worth it. Oh, and be awesome. The current residents are awesome and great and we need someone awesome to replace us.

*While our house is on the market we are renting.

Things to do before your basement floods again

Water in the basement

So there was that storm several days ago and we’re fine. After many years of getting a little to a lot of water in our basement, for a variety of reasons, we’ve learned some lessons and we’ve shared them with friends and I’ll share them with y’all.

A retired former co-worker of mine thanked me for recommending having a hand pump (go to Amazon and search “hand bilge pump”) on hand. She used it to deal with her flooded basement because the water overwhelmed her sump pump. I’ve used mine when we got a storm that took out the electricity. No electricity, no working sump pump. This didn’t do the same job as the sump pump, but helped a bad situation not be worse.

Another thing that helps are sandbags. I once loaned some sandbags to a neighbor… who never returned them and when we got a big rainstorm, water that filled our basement well came through the door. I had loaned the neighbor bags that had hung out in front of the rarely used basement door. So after that little basement flood, we got some more sandbags and sand. So there is a decent number of sandbags at the door and sandbags near the rain gutter outlet diverting water away from the house.

As I mentioned, we’re fine. We also have a basement flood alarm, and in never went off. We got lucky. If we weren’t lucky, we would have dealt with the flood with things that we have on hand, below is a list of things to have when water gets into the basement.

  • hand pump
  • box fan
  • newspapers (and stuff to hold down the newspapers as the box fan goes)
  • dehumidifier
  • wet dry vac
  • towels
  • sandbags

If water has a bad habit of getting in your basement these are a few things to have before the water comes, because neighbors may not be able to loan you these things. It is wonderful when they can and they are not dealing with water problems in their own house.

Remembering the Flood of 2001

Pics of flooding from 2001Yes these aren’t the best, but I didn’t have time to scan them. They are photos my aunt took back in 2001 a few months after I had just bought my house. I had moved from an apartment and didn’t have a whole lot of stuff so there wasn’t much to be destroyed in the basement but a few things, and the crappy carpet that came with the house.

It was worse for my neighbors who had full basements. The sewer and runoff were one and so the rain overwhelmed the system and water (with other icky stuff) came through basement toilets and tubs. At the time I had no plumbing in the basement, but I did have a drain outside the cellar door that backflowed sending water into the basement. And I got a little water near the interior water shut off valve on the other side of the house.

Fast forward to this year in 2017, DC Water ( @DCwater) had made some infrastructure investments to deal with runoff and around the neighborhood our drains are not as clogged with trash and greenery as it was when we were more ghetto than gentrified. So a little less damage, but damage still. Our sump pump was only 1/2 full when a mighty river decided to breech our cellar door. The drain outside the cellar door wasn’t draining the water that came down. The Help (my lovely husband) had to jump into action to clear the drain during the thunderstorm.

Another difference, it looks like Truxton got Bloomingdale’s flooding. What do you think?

Snowed in the City

I really like living in a walkable neighborhood and the worth of living here proved itself after this blizzard, snowzilla or the Blizzard of 2016 or whatever the kids are calling it these days.
Friday, I showed up to work for the Department of Fight Club with the idea that they’d kick me out of the building around noon. The spousal unit, also known as The Help, decided to join me for lunch in the Penn Qtr/Fake Chinatown area. We dined as he (my back was to the window) watched the first flakes fall and crowds for the pro-life march wander the streets.
Then after lunch we took a slow.
metro ride to Mt. Vernon Sq. to stop by the Giant for Halos, shallots, and whatever. It was crowded and completely out of yeast. But there was lots of wine. I bought a Riesling.
RStsnowedin4.jpg We walked home and the snow had not stuck enough to be a problem. The blowing wind, blowing snow in my face, that was a problem.
After we got home our neighborhood became a jewel. We decided to go to BKK at the corner of NJ and R St for dinner. The staff lives close by and they welcomed diners via their Twitter account so it made sense to us. I think Big Bear was open too. I figured there wouldn’t be a lot of people, people started showing up for dinner after happy hour.
Saturday was the height of the storm and we stayed put. Sunday we ventured out for mass at Immaculate @ 8th & N. About 90% of the attendees were Floridians trapped in DC for the march for life. The Floridians after mass played and voluntered to shovel. I’ve been in DC too long, as a Florida native, snow no longer is this foreign magical fluffy stuff. It’s annoying cold crap that falls from the sky. After mass, we wandered into the Giant. It was way less crowded than Friday. No spring onions, no shallots, but lots of potatoes, raspberries, and wine.
Our way to mass we walked along Q St where there were sections where people shoveled a path in the sidewalk and stomped down a path where it crossed an alley. On our way back we took Q then after 6th took R. R was okay in parts but it was just easier to walk in the streets.
During the last big blizzard, snowmageddon 2010, I was snowed in way up in Booneyville, MD with friends. I was able to drag myself to a mass and that was it. The nearest restaurant was 1/2 a mile away and not open. The nearest grocery store, about a mile away, also, not open. The Help and I were able to walk to a friend of his, who was also snowed in.
I’ll take my hood over the suburbs of Maryland (we don’t cross the river so Virginia is not an option). On Sunday after the blizzard I had shopping and dining options even though metro wasn’t running.
Also this snow storm people have been great. When it typically snows I hate my fellow resident, because many of them don’t bother shoveling. I was able to find routes to where I needed to go. Many people were out shoveling. People who never bothered shoveling in years past, had someone from their household do a little or a lot. Even the old guys who hang on the corner were out doing real work shoveling.

A few things revisited

a grocery store in ne
On the Eckington listserv there is all this back and forth about the old Safeway and hoped for replacement. Please take the Harris Teeter off the list. According to an old press release HT is scheduled to open Winter 2010/2011. According to a recent DCMUD post (hat tip eckington blog), that date could be November 2010.
Honestly Eckington/Edgewood area, I don’t see what that area has to attract the kind of store y’all think you deserve. The two favorites according to Debbie Smith’s poll were Trader Joe’s (which tends to like small spaces with hidden parking) and Wegmans. What no Balducci’s? I left the Logan Circle are a few months after the Whole Foods opened, and from what I remember the civic authorities of that area showed how the population of Logan/Shaw (and Dupont) could support a Whole Foods. The Soviet Safeway, the O Street Giant, and the no-name grocery in the area were no competition for the kind of shopper that would support WF. If y’all can prove that a national or regional grocery chain can thrive there despite a Giant nearby that happens to be very convenient to a metro station with many buses, go for it.

and regarding sidewalks and the problems for those in wheelchairs (from Scott Roberts list)

See this 2/17/2010 message from ANC 5C04 Commissioner John Salatti:

Bloomingdale does it again: another resident is helped!

Once again, Bloomingdale residents have shown their concern for their neighbors and done it with more than just words. This past weekend I heard from Angela xxxxxxx who uses a motorized wheelchair to get to and from college in Rockville, MD. She makes that daily trip using Metro. That trip is long and difficult on the best of days (Angela has some hairy stories of having to drive her wheelchair down Michigan Avenue from the Brookland Metro Station when the buses have not run), her trip became impossible after the snow storm because she could travel barely 20 feet from her property before the sidewalk became impassable for her wheelchair.

After meeting with Angela and hearing her situation and what she needs to go back to school, I called on a number of residents for a major operation: get Angela from her home in the xxxx block of Flagler Place to the bus stop at North Capitol and W Street, about a third of mile. And once again Bloomingdale responded. Many, many thanks to Sara Kaufman and Mike McNeil of the Unit block of W Street, and Dodd Naiser, Alastair Pakiam, and Brandon Skall of Flagler Place for joining me to widen the path on the sidewalk and for chopping out a lot of ice so that Angela could make her way safely to the bus stop and back. We went with her on a test drive back and forth. She couldn’t believe that people would do so much to help her.

Thanks everyone!

Please clear the sidewalks.

From- Subject: [MPD-5D] Neighbors Who Are Unable to Get Around

Because me knocking on some strangers door while I’m angry is not a good idea. My neighbors and I have shoveled our street, but the routes to the Giant, the Metro and most bus stops are ice covered danger zones for the elderly who walk with canes and have basically shut in the wheelchair bound.

Haven’t you noticed fewer or almost no motorized wheelchairs around lately? So my sympathy is for the people who have been trapped in their homes because others are too lazy or too cheap (there are 10 yr olds w/ shovels looking to make money) to shovel their sidewalks.

Look around at who is getting around and notice who is missing.
This morning mothers are having to lead their small children through small icy trails of yellow lined paths to get to school.
The wrongness of it angers me because pedestrians deserve better and they deserve justice.

The preceeding was in response to this regarding ticketing for lack of snow removal on the MPD 5th District listserv:

Yes, businesses should be ticketed, but have you knocked on the door of your neighbors and asked why they have not shoveled?
> Maybe there is a sick and shut in person or someone not physically able to move the amount of snow that is out there. I have lived in my neighborhood for eight years and my husband and son are very vigilant about keeping our space shoveled. However, during this last storm, our shovel broke and although our area was shoveled for the first storm, he could not shovel with his hands and he could not even get out of the parking space to look for one. My neighbor came to the rescue and let us borrow one until we were able to purchase a new one.
> I am tired of the snow more than the next person, but be neighborly and see what the circumstance is before begging to give someone a ticket. This is an unusual storm and unless you are young and very able, the ice is very difficult to move even for the strongest man right now.
> Calm down people and have a little patience.

Parking Gets Ugly

Well I just called 911 to tell them not to bother as the fight broke up.
I was just about to shut down for the night when I heard yelling. Yelling beyond the usual drunken guy walking down the street or crazed teen yelling. Looked out the window and saw loudmouth buppie lawyer in his usual loudmouth form yelling at someone. It took me a while to figure out what the heck he was screaming about. A parking space. Another neighbor, let’s call her ‘skinny Jewish gal’ or “SJG’ (she has a name but so does Loudmouth Buppie Lawyer) in the car behind his SUV, being yelled at. This goes on a bit too long when another neighbor comes out and tells him to cool it. Then Loudmouth Buppie Lawyer dude turned his verbal abuse to the neighbor dude who I can’t think of a good name for, and then they are in the middle of the street yelling at each other. Sometime in this I call the cops. Neighbor dude’s wife come out and says something, then more neighbors appear in their doorways. Next thing I see neighbor dude and loudmouth buppie lawyer are yelling and are chest to chest.
All over a friggin parking space.

Clear Path

Okay I guess the credit would go to DC Rec and KIPP and a ‘few’ homeowners along the way. But if you are going east to west along P Street the path along the Kennedy Playground on P is nice and big and clear. It continues along the church on P and 6th, and then it get’s icy. You have to cross over to the KIPP school where it is also big and clear and at NJ it is a icy walk. NJ is when I turn and it’s okay enough, not clear of ice but walkable.


With the temps hovering around a wee above and below freezing…. mainly below, the ugly nasty multicolored snow is going to be with us for a while. Some blocks are awesome and well shoveled. Fourth St, parts of Q, parts of 8th, the sidewalks are passable, it’s just bad when you go from well shoveled to a few deep footsteps leading to the slushy road. Hey DC gov, I’ll not walk in the street if you actually cite people for not shoveling. When there is some sort of pathway, I’ll stick to the sidewalk, so the advisement’s to not walk in the street is pointless when your law (is it a law or just an impotent regulation?) has no teeth.
You make people change sides of the street during street cleaning or move their cars for rush hour. And regardless of health, vacation or what have you, people find a way to comply. Why? Because when you enforce it with ticketing, it gets done. Back when DC didn’t bother ticketing anything on my street, cars would sit for weeks without moving. There were signs saying move, but they were ignored. Then the city started seriously ticketing, and now neighbors will move your car (if you ask nicely & give gifts) if you can’t because of vacation or weird job schedules or the fact that you’re in a 1/2 body cast. So until the city actually backs up the admonitions of not walking in the street and pleas to owners to shovel their sidewalks with real money fines and liens, there is only shaming. Here are a few blog posts of shame in Mt Vernon, Georgetown, and on Georgia Avenue.
I’m pretty shoveled out but I see a few bus stops I may want to use in the coming days (as this crap will still be around) that need shoveling, as I have no intention of walking the .25 mile to the station in yellow snow lined icy paths.

So far, so good

After chatting with neighbors on the phone and passing by with the old snow shovel (but we’re running out of places to shovel it) I found out I’m okay comparatively.
1- I haven’t torn anything in my leg and thusly I’m not crippled like one poor soul.
2- My roof, so far is holding. The folks down the block suffered a partial roof collapse.
3- And the furnace still works. Last I spoke with another set of neighbor’s whose heat went out. Hopefully they can get it back up and running again.
4- Luckily no one expects me to be at work as the Federal gov’mit is closed. Unfortunately, a good friend of mine who is a contractor, (lowly paid, not the big money type), can’t work when we’re closed and will have to find a way to eat the week of non-work he’s not getting paid for.

I cleaned off the roof of my first floor kitchen and knocked off some of the ice icicles from the safety of a window. There is a big hunk of ice weighing down one section of the gutter that I couldn’t reach safely. Sigh. I’ll try to deal with that tomorrow. I’ve been checking some of the old cracks in the kitchen ceiling and so far no change. My next door neighbor is very worried about his roof and shoveled it. I’m just trusting that the equally spread out weight and some fixes after the gut job renovation helped.
Here’s to praying for sun and above freezing temps.