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Goodnight, Irene: It's Time to Reclaim Your Basement

Our thoughts and prayers go out to family, friends and everyone else affected by Irene, a storm that left devastating flooding in its wake. If that includes you, here are some tips for getting that water out of your basement and getting on with your life — plus some inspiration for making the basement better than it was.

First, before doing anything, make sure it's safe to venture back into your house and down into your basement. Contact the local authorities, utility companies and your insurance company before attempting any cleanup and restoration.
What Irene lacked in hurricane force she more than made up for in size and rain.
by Bud Dietrich, AIA
The storm surge has caused rivers to overflow and streets to flood. Unfortunately, there's not much that can be done until after the storm waters recede. This may take a few days. In the meantime be careful not to endanger yourself or cause more damage to your property by staying in your home if you don't have to.
by Bud Dietrich, AIA
Once the storm waters outside have receded, it's time to get rid of the water in your basement. Don't try to pump out water until the ground water outside is nearer to normal conditions. Water pressure on the foundation walls can cause serious structural damage if you pump out the water inside when there's still water outside.
by Bud Dietrich, AIA
Once you've gotten all the water out, it's time to clean out the debris, muck and damaged personal belongings.

Toss everything, including carpeting, wall finishes and furniture that's too far gone. Then strip out all of the water-damaged basement construction, including drywall and wood framing. Anything left that's been waterlogged can be the source of future mold growth and all of the problems that can cause.
by Bud Dietrich, AIA
Dry out the basement using portable fans and dehumidifiers. Make sure everything is dry before attempting any restoration. Use cleaning agents such as bleach to get rid of any water stains and mold spores.

Once the basement is dry, test for air quality and any evidence of damp areas and possible mold spores. Use bleach or something similar to clean up any remaining areas of concern.
by Bud Dietrich, AIA
Though there isn't anything that would prevent the kind of flooding caused by Irene, there are some simple things that can be done to keep a basement dry 99.9% of the time. It involves taking a "belt and suspenders" approach — not just one drain tile system, but two.

There's a little underground "roof" to shed ground water away from the foundation (see diagram). And there's making sure the sump pumps are on a backup power system such as batteries or a generator.
by Bud Dietrich, AIA
Once the crisis has passed it can take some time to get life back to normal and replace any essentials your basement once held. If budget allows, you may even begin dreaming of the basement game room, spare bedroom or home gym you've long wanted.

Maybe add a few windows or make the ones you have larger. A neat basement window product is the Bilco Scapwell.

Read on for some basement design ideas to get you started — whether you want to jump right on a project or are still just dreaming for now.
by Peregrine Design Build
Create a nice seating area for the big-screen television and share light between rooms to keep the basement light and bright.
by LDa Architecture & Interiors
Create your own private casino.
by Beaugureau Studios
And what's a basement playroom without a pool table?
by Synergy Design & Construction, Inc.  
There's always the ubiquitous water meter, electrical panel, etc. So integrate built-ins with these requirements to get a custom, seamless look.
by Case Design/Remodeling, Inc.
Oh, yes. Definitely a hockey area for the kids to practice. Just make sure the walls are padded and soundproofed.
by Feathered Nest Interiors, LLC
Future creative genius here. Hope nobody ever tells him to stop writing on walls.
by From House to Home
Doesn't every home have a basketball court in the basement. All that's required is a little more digging!
by Debbie Wiener
Bar, pool table and bigscreen TV. I think I'd never leave this basement.
by Synergy Design & Construction, Inc.
Forget the finished ceiling. Expose the structure to give the illusion of extra height.
by Birdseye Design
Like peanut butter and jelly, Oreos and milk, basements and bars just naturally fit together.
by Dunlap Design Group, LLC  
Did anybody say home theater?
by Gramophone
And yes, an exercise area that's light and comfortable and, most important of all, a place I'll actually want to exercise in.
A nice sauna or steam shower would be great when we're done exercising.
by Birdseye Design
Think about adding a bedroom. Just make sure you have enough light and an egress window to meet building codes.
by Cornerstone Group Architects  
Basement windows may be small but they can sure bring in a lot of light if grouped together.
by Giulietti Schouten Architects  
Or maybe the light comes from above.
by Jerry Jacobs Design, Inc.
And make the way to the basement fun and interesting with a different type of railing.
by Nic Darling
Add a bathroom so the revelers at your Superbowl party don't have to go upstairs.
by John Lum Architecture, Inc. AIA  
And make the room nice and functional, a place where you don't mind doing clothes if your laundry is in the basement.