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“I recently moved into a basement apartment and this morning, I found that my floor was covered in water.”

by Prince Of Petworth February 4, 2016 at 2:20 pm 26 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user John Sonderman

“Dear PoPville,

I recently moved into a basement apartment and this morning, I found that my floor was covered in water. I don’t think there was a flood, rather, intense moisture and condensation that resulted in standing water all over my floor, soaking belongings (including my floor lamp, which I then unplugged from the wall). This is my first basement apartment, so I was wondering if this was a common issue with basement apartments and if there was anything I can do to remedy the problem (such as purchase a dehumidifier). I really do not want to have to move again, but I’m afraid of ruining all my possessions! Thanks.”

  • oldhouselover

    As the former resident of a basement apartment, this seems way out of the ordinary and certainly not likely the result of condensation. I would re-examine any flooding possibilities, including the possibility that the water is coming up through the floor!

    Things in my old basement were certainly humid at times (and I definitely recommend a dehumidifier), but standing water is beyond the pale.

  • megmu99

    Is your water heater closet down there with you? I had a backed up hose that caused a leak — and it leaked under the floors of my basement apartment. It was so so wet – water would flood up when you stepped on one of the floorboards. Also definitely get a dehumidifier – that will help a lot in the swampy summer.

  • Jwetz

    If there is standing water, you are beyond using a dehumidifier to correct. This is a a problem that the landlord must fix either way.

  • arrnold

    The snow melted, plus lots of rain, the weather peeps said the ground was already too saturated at this would lead to flooding. Is that the cause of the problem?

  • MuGw

    This sounds like groundwater that has come up through the floor, which wouldn’t be surprising with all of the snow and rain we’ve had lately. Does the basement have a sump pump? If so, have you heard it running recently? I had repeated issues with groundwater coming into the basement after every hard rain and had to tear up the floor and install a sump pump. Since then, though, it has worked like a charm. You should also look to see if you have any exterior drains near a door to the basement. The drain may have backed up and caused water to come through the bottom of the door.

    • K

      I’d second MuGw suggestions.

      I lived in a basement apartment for years and if the exterior drain ever got covered in leaf or debris then our apartment would flood. The drain was just out our back door at the base of the stairs leading up to the backyard. I just made it a weekly choir to sweep it off. If it was clear and draining then we never flooded.

      Now I own a home where the basement will flood if the subpump isn’t working properly. After a heavy rain or a significant snowmelt you can hear the subpump chugging away.

      I’d also suggest checking the downspout. I have a friend who lives in a basement apartment and her unit will get a little flood if the downspout isn’t properly directed away.

      Basements are below grade. They can flood easy if things aren’t all in perfect working order.

      • AdmoDan

        This has happened to me before. The drain right outside the door joins with the roof downspout, and when leaves clogged the drain it went into my apartment. Hopefully a snake is all you need, not tearing into the flooring and installing a sumppump…

  • Moisture and condensation is not going to cause standing water. What did your landlord say? There are lots of possible causes – water heater leak, sewer back up, snow melt backing up and coming in under a door, leak from above.
    Whatever the cause, you need all wet drywall cut out, and if the floor is laminate or anything besides tile, the flooring replaced. A good reminder that every renter needs renter’s insurance, but especially in a basement apt. You have to expect that any basement anywhere is going to have some water issue sometime.

    • lisa

      I second renter’s insurance.

      • west_egg

        Thirded. And remember to specifically ask your carrier whether it covers events such as sewer backup and flood — with many policies this is *not* included and a rider must be added.

  • Also, you can buy a water sensing alarm at Home Depot as well as absorbent berms to place around basement drains.

    • Angry Parakeet

      I have one of those and once in the middle of the night it started its loud beeping – but I could find no water. Closer examination revealed a garden slug had crawled onto the activator wires.

      • Well, better a slug false alarm than a missed actual flood! I once accidentally bit into a slug – it was pretty horrible.

        • megmu99

          Wait. We need to hear this story!

  • CVR

    I’ve lived in my basement apartment for 12 years and I’ve had flooding issues a couple of times. The first the wall that abuts the alley had to be waterproofed which my landlords quickly had done. The other was when an external drain was blocked by debris. So to answer your question, no it’s not common. Make sure you let your landlord know right away in case they need to do anything to ensure the issue doesn’t lead to structural damage. Also, make sure everything dries completely so that mold doesn’t become an issue. If you have carpet you’ll want to ask for it to be replaced.

  • zed

    If the water is originating from the baseboards on non-shared walls (walls adjacent to soil), this is probably ground water making its way in along the foundation. The ground is saturated from the recent snow melt and rain. A buildup of ground water along the foundation will find its way in due to hydrostatic pressure.

  • AmyM

    Contact the landlord right away. I occasionally had humidity issues in my basement apartment, but never standing water. Could be an issue with the water heater, or the sump pump. Either way, this is filed in the Not Your Problem Department. Tell the landlord and put yourself in the loop.

    After they figure it out, demand a mold check. When I moved out of my apartment (a week ago) I discovered a ton of moisture in the lower corners that corresponded to outside walls. God only knows what I was breathing in for a year.

    • artemis

      +1. Don’t mess around with mold. It can make you so, so sick.

  • jdre

    Big A, little a, bouncing b.

  • Greg McE

    Step away from the computer and call your landlord ASAP.

  • Capt’n Obvious

    If I’ve learned nothing else this week, don’t flush tampons down the toilet…

  • CLO

    I heartily agree with the comments already stating that this is highly unlikely to be just condensation. I currently live in a basement apartment myself, in an old townhouse near H st. Firstly, I learned VERY quickly that a dehumidifier is crucial. They are a bit pricey, but so worth the investment. I run mine every day all day during the summer and fall, and as needed during the winter when it’s warmer out, raining or a ton of snow is melting. Right now the ground is soaked – the water table and sewers are full of all the melting snow and rain we had this week. PLEASE tell your landlord about this and have them get a plumber in to determine in 1) you need a sump pump installed or 2) if there is a leak in the foundation/flooring.

  • Rob

    This is your landlords problem. You need to document everything emails, pictures. It it is standing water it is not humidity / condensation. It could be a leaking hot water heater, pipe in the wall, backed up drain. You will have to dry everything ASAP or you will have a mold problem.

  • neighbor

    Lived in a basement for 3 years, and I’ve never experienced random standing water. There is always a cause.

  • A Landlord

    Speaking as a landlord I’d really, really hope a tenant called me — the amount of damage water can do is astounding and it really needs to be addressed head-on.

    • Bloomingdalian

      As another landlord, I couldn’t agree more. I’ve had to pay the price for tenants ignoring the problem or “not wanting to bother me” several times. All this despite living next door and explaining that a quick text (even with something that seems benign) when something out of the ordinary comes up is a must. In the end, it’s almost never the tenants fault (and even if it is, proving causation is futile/nearly impossible) so have the landlord/management company on speed dial – it is the major perk of renting in the first place!


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