We have received hundreds of calls from people all over Long Island telling us they had and in some cases still have, water in their basement due to groundwater. As in most cases, it was not covered by their insurance company. Which means you have either cleaned it up yourself or paid a company like Advanced Restoration Corporation to mitigate the water damage for you.
The basement is now cleaned up and dried. But that brings up the million dollar question......what do you do with the basement now? If it was a finished basement that you used as living space and/or work space, how do you rebuild? Or do you leave it unfinished now not wanting to take on the un-budgeted expense of the reconstruction in the off chance of having to go through it all over again if we are hit with another series of severe storms. That is a choice every Long Island homeowner who was affected by these recent storms has to make. For the sake of this blog, we are going to assume that you have decided to go through with the reconstruction.
Let me start by stating that building materials can get wet. Sheetrock, carpet, and paint are all made with water at some point during their production processes. Usually after the materials are dried they are stronger and more durable than before they were wet. Wood can get wet. The lumber yards are exactly that. Yards. Giant lots of land used to store building materials before they are sold and used to construct homes and buildings. They are not called lumber garages. Chances are the studs that make up your house had been wet numerous times before the builder used them to frame your home.
It is not a question of if something gets wet is it unsalvageable. It is a question of how quickly you react when building materials do get wet. The faster the action the greater the chances of salvaging ALL the affected building materials.
There is something you can do that not many people have caught on to yet and none of the professionals on TV talk about just because they have yet to go through the experience of having their home saturated by water. You can rebuild with building materials that can withstand an intrusion of water.
Of course it is a bit more expensive to rebuild with this in mind and every homeowner is going to have see what works best for their budget and quality of life. But here are some things to think about when rebuilding your basement:
Install ceramic tile as your flooring. Carpet can get wet and be salvaged if dried timely and professionally, vinyl does not absorb the water but traps it underneath so that demolition is inevitable, the same with any type of wood flooring that would have to have a vapor barrier installed underneath The best choice to finish a floor in a basement short of polishing the concrete is ceramic tile. It is not a porous material so it does not absorb moisture and mold will not grow on the ceramic. (Mold will grow on the dirt that is on the ceramic tile but will not start eating the tile away like it would on a porous material like sheetrock or carpet.) And the grout allows the water vapor to escape from underneath the tile in the drying process. Put an area rug on top of the tile that is much easier to remove and have cleaned that typical wall to wall carpeting.
Do not use ANY vinyl. I know vinyl makes it very easy to clean and keep on top off but it is the worst material (short of asbestos) to use as a finished building material. Anything that vinyl covers that gets wet 99.9% of the time has to be removed. Vinyl acts as a vapor barrier that traps the moisture behind it and does not allow the building materials to dry. Which causes mold growth and usually increases the dollar value of the project. Use standard wood base trim or carpet cove base. They can both allow the walls to be dried in place or they both can be easily detached and reset once the drying process is over.
Use Concrete Board for the lower walls. Do not install regular gypsum drywall on the lower walls. Use concrete board that builders use in bathrooms to protect against moisture in the shower / tub areas. They come in 4' x 8' sheets. Just turn them on their side and install them on the lower 4' of the basement walls. The great value of cement board is does not rot, warp, grow mold, or deteriorate, when subjected to water.
* If you decide that you are going to install standard drywall on the lower walls please make sure that the sheetrock is elevated 1/2" to 3/4" off the ground and is not sitting directly on the concrete. If the drywall is resting directly on the concrete floor you will always have a transference of moisture from the concrete to to the dryer sheetrock which eventually will turn into a long term mold problem. See the picture below.
Use Only Flat Paint. Any semi-gloss, high gloss or even eggshell finishes creates a vapor barrier that does not allow the materials behind it to dry naturally in the event of an intrusion.
Use American Clay Earth Plasters as your wall finishes. American Clay Earth Plasters are a natural, environmentally friendly way to finish any interior. Non-toxic and made in the USA, these plasters are an alternative to cement, acrylic and lime plasters, offering superior color, richness, texture and depth not found with other finishes. They also help control the inside ambient temperatures in the room(s0 it is installed on the walls. They absorb excess moisture in the warmer months and release moisture n the environment during the colder dryer months. This also gives it the ability to permit the drying of the building materials it is installed over.