My basement just flooded in the latest storm. I can't figure out the source of the leak and now have wet, moldy carpet. I need to dry it out and figure out how to get the moldy smell out of the house. Any suggestions?
Darcy D., Chicago, IL
OK, first things first. Basements that flood after a major storm are always the result of poor drainage conditions at the foundation perimeter. Here is what to check:
Gutters - Make certain you: (1) have gutters; (2) the gutters are sized properly (you need at least one downspout for every 600-800 square feet of roof surface); and (3) that they are discharging far away from your house. While homes without flooding problems can let gutters drop a foot or two away, those with drainage issues need to extend them four to six feet, or more.
The soil around the home must slope away from the foundation. I recommend a minimum slope that drops six inches over four feet. Soil should be well tamped and not too organic. Top soil or mulch will HOLD water against your house and practically guarantee a flood. A better option is clean fill dirt, properly graded and solidly tamped, covered by a thin layer of top soil or mulch to support vegetation.
Solving a wet basement problem is really easier than most people expect. The key is water management. Keep the water away from the foundation perimeter above and your will basement will stay dry.
Next, you mentioned wet, moldy carpet. Carpet is a really, really, really bad idea in a basement! Aside from the leak, the normal basement dampness combined with dirt, jute carpet backing, or any other organic debris that finds its way to your basement provides a perfect Petri dish for mold growth.
So, unfortunately, my advice is to remove and toss the carpet and quickly before the mold really starts to take over. Then, install a hard surface flooring like laminate (which is gorgeous) or engineered hardwood, a high-tech hardwood that is won't warp in below grade spaces. Check with your home owners insurance to find out if any of the expenses can be covered.