Flooded Basement & The Fluid Mechanics Of Beer Can Displacement

Ahhhhh, the joys of home ownership have begun.  A dry basement is tough to find in the part of Wichita we live in so when we bought this house we knew there was always going to be some H20 issues from time-to-time.  The big upside was that our basement doesn’t flood (thus far) it gets a little inch-wide dribble from the west wall to the east drain when it rains really hard.  Sure enough…first hard rain and there it was.  No big deal.  This week, it has been pouring for days…harder than I’ve seen in Wichita for decades.  The roughest part is that the torrential downpours have just been constant, hardly any respite.  All this is a recipe for disaster in older homes because the Kansas dirt has been so dry this winter from no snow that there simply isn’t anywhere for all this rain to absorb.  The water is seeking a new home…like my basement.

On Monday my wife Kate called me home because there was “water coming in from the east wall.”  When I got home I saw the new rivers of rain water running across the unfinished basement floor and tracked them back to their source: the east wall window wells.  The N.E. well was filled with water above the lower sill so the issue was clear.  The S.E. well was also full but the water was coming in from somewhere behind the wall.  A few whacks of the sledgehammer, tugs with the pry bar, and some flashlight peering quickly revealed there was a hidden crack in the foundation spawning from the well and stopping in Kate’s painting studio.  I proceeded to take down the sheet rock and oak paneling around the leak and was relieved to see the crack wasn’t massive and would be able to contain once things dried out.  I bailed out the well, tacked 2×4’s to the brick above, stapled on some tarp scraps, and bricked the bottom so no more water would get in.  Kate and I cheers’d and began planning solutions we could try this weekend once the rain stopped.

Last night I settled in to my Wednesday night alone at home.  Kate has an engagement on Wednesday’s so its my day to hang with my son Max, rent a movie with explosions, and eat microwave food.  I love it.  Wednesdays alone have been consistently robbed from me by various last-minute emergencies so I was adamant that this Wednesday night would be mine.  That was when I heard Kate say “Do you hear water dripping?”

In the basement where I had torn open the wall water was now slowly flowing in, running along the electrical junction box, and then dripping to the floor.  Fun!  I went outside and opened the tarp’d wells and guess what?  They were both full to the brim again!  This was when the realization started to set in that the water wasn’t getting in from above…it was getting in from below.  The lawn was so saturated that there just wasn’t anywhere left to go but up.  Saturation the culprit may be, water in the well was the cause of water in my basement so I abandoned my Wednesday alone (again) to solve the immediate problem.  This was where classic DIY manhood took over.

PROBLEM

  • Water in basement

CAUSE

  • Water in window well

SOLUTION

  • Remove water from window well

STEPS TAKEN

  • Call best friend Joe and ask to borrow electric pump
  • Joe says “be there in 15”
  • Joe arrives 45 minutes later
  • Joe and Ryan stare at well
  • Ryan and Joe have a beer
  • Joe unpacks pump
  • Ryan runs cable
  • Pump does not fit in N.E. well
  • Ryan and Joe scratch their heads
  • Joe puts pump in S.E. well – it fits
  • Pump doesn’t work
  • Ryan and Joe scratch their heads
  • Ryan and Joe have a beer
  • Joe takes pump out of well
  • Ryan fetches a screwdriver from workshop
  • Joe takes pump apart
  • Ryan holds flashlight
  • Water still in wells and basement
  • Pump still not working
  • Ryan and Joe scratch their heads
  • No more beer in fridge
  • Ryan and Joe go in garage
  • Ryan and Joe stare at broken pump
  • Joe discovers Ryan has 100’s of beers in corner of garage
  • Ryan explains they are warm and skunky
  • Ryan and Joe stare at warm beer
  • Ryan and Joe have a warm beer
  • Ryan fetches 2 solo cups
  • Ryan and Joe begin scooping water out of wells
  • Ryan complains about cold water
  • Joe makes fun of Ryan
  • Joe puts beer cans in window well
  • Ryan and Joe stare at well – finish warm beer
  • Ryan and Joe have a beer from the window well
  • Beer is much cooler than last one
  • Water level goes down due to removal of beer cans
  • Joe and Ryan discover fluid mechanics and “displacement”
  • Joe and Ryan use displacement over the next hour
  • Slowly water ebbs in well

Fluid mechanics and displacement to the rescue!  Every can you take out of the well and drink makes the water go down a little more!  Eventually we bailed all the water out of both of them and just hung out in the garage by my work bench and drank.  We didn’t find a solution to the window wells but we sure put a dent in that 24 pack.  Joe’s well (N.E.) filled up with water again only 15 minutes after being bailed dry, proof that the water is coming up from below, so we decided to call it a night.  The S.E. well did not fill up again which is great since that is the one with the crack which now I can see from outside.  Today is supposed to be the last day of rain, then spotty tomorrow, and Saturday should be sunny enough to help dry up the top soil enough that I can dig out the well and work on patching it, setting a new barrier, and inspecting the drains.  This is what sucks and is great about home ownership – I have to deal with this problem right away…but I don’t have to ask anybody for permission.  That wall needed to come down, and it did… because it is my way.  My wall!  Ahhhhh, the joys of home ownership!

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One thought on “Flooded Basement & The Fluid Mechanics Of Beer Can Displacement

  1. Hilarious, and educational re: environmental science, engineering, construction management, and problem-solving!

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