What’s Next For Our Basement?


Just over a month ago, our entire basement flooded with sewage water. You can read more about that saga right here. In short, we had a wild storm here in Chicago and the city sewer system overloaded and the pipes sent sewage into basements all over our neighborhood. It was not pretty and was quite smelly.

Our basement flood

We were just about to embark on a basement remodel (here were my original plans, RIP), but it was going to be more of a budget-friendly cosmetic upgrade. Well, that has since turned into a very pricey home renovation project. However, I’m trying to see the bright side, realizing that we will now have the opportunity to make the space work better for us in the long term, even if it’s going to cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Our basement flood

Over the past month, I’ve had a bunch of experts come out to survey our basement. I talked to a mixture of plumbers, waterproofing experts, and then a few contractors to give me estimates on the rebuild. Even though we knew the source of the sewage water, we needed to figure out a solution to prevent it from happening again. The last thing I want is to finish the entire basement and have another crazy storm ruin our hard work. Nope.

Here’s a list of all of the companies I had come out to see our basement. I realize this isn’t super helpful if you’re not local, but maybe a few fellow Chicagoans will appreciate the list.

I quickly realized that the waterproofing companies (Atlas and US) weren’t the best fit for my issue. They focus mostly on groundwater coming into your home and fixing your foundation. They checked out our basement and luckily, found that everything looked good and we didn’t have any water coming into our home. That was a relief.

The other companies can help with sewer line problems and all three recommended doing a camera scope of the entire drain, from our house to the sewer in the street, to look for damage, tree roots, and more. That was everyone’s first priority.

That’s actually happening today, so I’ll try to share a behind-the-scenes look on Instagram stories and I’ll keep you posted on what they find. Even if the line is perfect (which I highly doubt), we still have to put in greater preventive measures to keep this from happening again. This brings me to…

Exterior Sewer Backup System

We decided to go with Perma-Seal and their exterior sewer backup system. And guys, I’m not gonna lie, it’s drastic and very expensive. I kept hoping that these experts would tell me that there was a cheap and easy fix, but sadly, that wasn’t the case. In order to protect our basement from flooding with sewage water again, we are putting in an entire sewer backup system in the front yard.

exterior sewer backup system
Image via Perma-Seal

I’m not the best one to explain how this exactly works, so I included the diagram above or you can read more about it here. Essentially, they put a valve in between the city sewer line and our home to prevent the water from overflowing into our basement. It’s a big job that will take about two days and it requires ripping up a portion of our front yard. It also requires permits from the city. Ugh. The work is scheduled for December, so stay tuned for that.

Rebuilding The Basement

We'll be installing an exterior sewer backup system to protect our basement

This project has multiple parts, with the first being fixing the plumbing problem. The next is actually rebuilding the basement, because it’s still an unusable construction zone. I had a few contractors out to check out the space and give me quotes for the work. (My go-to guy is booked up until next summer, so I had to look elsewhere.) Here’s what we’re having the experts tackle…

  • Remove wall & re-frame area for Finn’s office
  • Add electrical to the new office area
  • Drywall entire basement
  • Install sub-floor
  • Install new carpet
  • Install new doors
  • Install baseboards, trim, and casing
  • Build a bench under the front windows to hide the water main line

Essentially, they’re getting it back to square one so I can then come in and finish up the cosmetic work. I’m not having them do any painting, which saved me at least a couple of thousand dollars. Instead, I’ll tackle that myself, with a big paint sprayer marathon!

The Costs

This new scope of work for the basement isn’t cheap. Here’s a look at the costs for everything…

  • Water Remediation ($9,300): This included ripping out all of the subfloor, carpet, bottom two feet of drywall, removal of all of our belongings, mold remediation, and five days of fans to dry out the space. Luckily, we had a $10,000 insurance policy so this was all covered.
  • Exterior Sewer Backup System ($10,000): This includes the drain scope and the installation of the flood control system in our front yard, with a lifetime transferrable warranty.
  • Rebuild ($16,000): This includes all of the labor listed above. It does not include the cost of the millwork or paint.

Obviously, we weren’t looking to spend anywhere near this amount of money on the basement. I always viewed it as the last project that we would do on the cheap. But, alas, the universe had different plans for us. We are very grateful that insurance at least covered the remediation portion of this big project.

At this point, we’ve literally redone every single floor of this home from the windows, to the floors, to the HVAC system. Whoever buys this house is essentially getting a brand-new home!

Other Basement Plans

Our old basement bathroom

My budget bathroom remodel was ruined by the flood, so that’s a project that I plan to take on myself in early 2023. For now, I’m having the contractor drywall the space and hook up the old vanity so we have something to use. But I want to re-tile the floor, install a new vanity, and paint everything. That will be a fun project to look forward to next year. For now, I just need to get the basement to be a usable space ASAP for our family.

The Timeline

The status of our basement

As mentioned, the drain scope happens today; the exterior sewer backup system will be installed in December; and the rebuild should start in the next week or two. The contractor said it should only take about two to three weeks, so I’ll then be able to get down there and start my own projects. I eagerly await the day!

Of course, I’ll be sharing the process right here with all of you. This certainly isn’t what I imagined sharing this fall on the blog (I thought I would be knee-deep in basement DIYs by now), but I’m doing my best to go with the flow. It will all work out in the end.

Casey


The Year of Casey

Hey there!

I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m married to Finn & mom to Rory and Ellis. Together we’re creating our dream home in Chicago, one DIY project at a time.