Basement Renovation

On the evening of March 9, 2011, as the winter slowly began its progress into spring, and the snow began melting and the rains started, my basement flooded. You might remember that I have a tenant renting my basement. He arrived home late that night, mopped up as much water as he could, then laid some towels down and went to bed. He contacted me first thing in the morning. I went down to find his bath towels laid out and all were soaking wet. But it appeared that the flooding had stopped for the time being. There wasn’t an obvious area where the water was coming from, it just appeared to be seeping up through the floors (it’s laminate down there). So I told the tenant I would get someone in to have a look at it. I called a ton of people throughout the day and everyone offered a different solution. It was difficult to know what to do. Later that evening, the basement was completely dry, and since I already had a contractor coming to the house on Saturday morning, I decided to leave things as they were until he came. But the rain didn’t let up, and the following morning, the tenant woke up to even more water. Thankfully he was able to go up to Ottawa for the weekend to stay with his fiancée while I sorted out the flood. I took the day off work, went to Home Hardware to buy a shop-vac, and then vacuumed up six large buckets of water. The water was pooling in the lowest part of the basement, and luckily none of the tenant’s things were damaged. I called my insurance company that day (Friday), not even knowing that I had flood insurance, but thank god I did and they sent an inspector to the house. After assessing the damage, it was decided that we would move all of the tenant’s belongings up into my empty living room on Monday and the “clean-up” crew would start their work.

The tenant's things completely filled our empty living room.  We had a narrow path that led from the front door to the stairs and then on to the next room.

What the clean-up crew did was rip up the floor boards and cut the drywall up two feet from the floor (as far as the water wicked up). Baseboards were also removed. Then they set up about 8 industrial dehumidifiers to dry the concrete floor and foundation walls. Meanwhile, as this was going on, I got a quote from my own contractor on having additional work done to make the basement waterproof. All the insurance company’s crew would have done is replace the floor and walls, but that wouldn’t have solved the root of the problem and I didn’t want this to happen again.

Industrial strength dehumidifiers.  Only half of them are shown.

Once the first crew was done their clean-up work, my contractor brought his guys in and they took the rest of the drywall off, scraped whatever parge was left on the brick foundation, and revealed a MASSIVE crack where 90% of the water was coming in from.

This crack is on the side of the house that isn't connected to another house.

This reno cost me a lot, but I’m so glad I did it!! It would have just kept flooding over and over again. Actually, the contractor found evidence of a previous flood that happened before I bought the house. He said you could tell because an area of wall where the water was pooling had already been cut two feet up and replaced. I guess it wasn’t the previous homeowner’s legal obligation to mention this when selling the house??! Well at least I did the right thing and actually fixed it properly. Oh, and insurance ended up covering a good chunk of it - almost half the total amount!

Evidence of a previous flood.

My contractor did an amazing job putting my basement back together. He applied a waterproofing agent called Ecto-Flex that gets painted on the foundation in a very thick layer. It dries into a flexible concrete and is guaranteed for 90 years. It’s used on top of the CN Tower to repair the concrete up at the top! New drywall went up, the new laminate floor was installed, and the kitchen counter and bathroom fixtures were put back into place. I did the painting with a friend to save some money. The whole process from initial flood to the tenant moving back in took a whole month. The basement looks so much better than it did before. It might be hard to tell from the pictures, but when I bought the house, the walls were pink and the floor was a darker brown. Now the walls are pale yellow and I chose a lighter colour floor to make the space seem brighter.

Here are a few more photos, before and after style.  Not the most interesting photos; they are here more for my documenting purposes. 


Exposed bathroom wall, prepped and ready for the waterproofing agent.

Bathroom wall with waterproofing put on.

Bathroom wall drywalled, taped and sanded; ready for painting.

Furnace Room:

Exposed brick foundation wall, after parge was chipped off.

Wall covered in Ecto-Flex waterproofing.

The Major Crack:

This is where 90% of the water was coming in from. 

After waterproofing is added, you would never know there was ever a massive crack in the foundation.  Flood problem solved!

Living Room/Bedroom Window:

Previously, Styrofoam was used for insulation around the window.

Waterproofed wall; Styrofoam removed from window and properly sealed.

Bedroom Wall:

When I first saw this it started giving me ideas about exposed brick walls in living spaces. 

Bedroom wall with new insulation.

Finished Basement:

How the basement looked when I bought the house. 

The floors were very dark and the walls were very pink.

Renovation complete - floors are now a lighter shade of brown and installed width-wise, making the space look wider.  Hard to tell from this picture since it's so dark (I took the picture at night), but the walls are now a soft and pale yellow colour.  Overall, there isn't too much of a difference in the overall before and after.  But there was major work done behind the walls that will for sure increase the value of my house. 

Here are some additional photos:

Water-damaged baseboard.

This is the wall behind the kitchen sink and counter.  The black area is mould from a previous flood.

Oh, this is a "funny" story: After the clean-up crew that was appointed by the my insurance company did their work, and prior to my own contractor coming in to waterproof the basement, I did laundry.  But the first crew didn't properly reconnect my laundry sink (I wasn't even told that they were disconnecting it in the first place), and I had a second flood in the basement, this time due to the washing maching emptying its entire vat of water onto the floor!  I had to get out the Shop Vac and collect another bucket of water. 

A close-up of the new floor.