Had about 6" inches of water in my basement a couple days ago.
I'm not too far from O'Hare airport and they measured about 7" inches
of rain that day. Most of it came in a few hours.
Most rain in 24 hours since record keeping started in 1871.
Second most was in 2008, and my basement got hit then too.
Anyway, the furnace/AC, washer and dryer all work.
But the water heater, a 40gallon Rheem I put in a couple years ago
The piezo ignitor for the pilot wouldn't spark.
I had a strong fan on it for 12 hours but it didn't help because the
burner/pilot/ignitor are all sealed up behind a metal access panel
where the main gas, pilot, and piezo wire lines go through grommets.
That panel has a little glass window about 2" x 2".
So I was going to disconnect all that and pull the panel to dry the
Lucky I started with the 4 torx srews holding the panel in and never
got around to detaching the gas lines.
The panel wouldn't budge. Tapped it around with a hammer thinking it
was a gasket/sealer holding, but no go.
Still not sure if it's been crimped around the edges because the
casing makes it hard to see the edges.
Decided to pry out the frame holding the window glass in.
That was tabbed top and bottom with wide tabs bent down inside the
casing. Had some kind of fire wool between the glass frame and casing
as a sealer.
Broke the glass, but got it pried loose.
Lit a wood skewer and relit the pilot and got it going again.
Just like old times.
Flames burned yellow for a while but turned blue after a few minutes.
There's some heat escaping the window hole, but nothing serious.
Only problem is the very small pilot flame blows out without that
window. Can't take the 2"x 2" opening.
I had to light it again last night so my wife could do laundry.
Just relit it again. The piezo is working now.
Anyway I'm just going to tape a patch of fiberglas insulation over
the window hole unless somebody warns me off.
A pain in the ass design, and I suspect it's all just to keep a small
Here's a warning. After the last basement flooding I bought a bunch
of those big plastic container with lids. Maybe 40 at $10 apiece.
My wife keeps a lot of "junk" in them, and off-season clothes.
Some packed with clothes were stacked 4 high.
A whole pile toppled over, spilling their contents.
That's why she'll being doing laundry for days.
The bottom container was full of clothes, but even with 3 other full
containers on it wasn't heavy enough to fight displacement.
Even the bottom one tipped when they went over.
I've got a sump with 2 half hp sump pumps, plus a lift system with a
1/2 hp pump.
The water nearly got to that motor.
I've got to get a new circuit there as all 3 running will trip the
breaker. Might beef up the sump with higher capacity pumps then.
And hope the power doesn't go out.
The poured foundation and floor are all dry even during heavy rains,
but this was a deluge.
The only thing that would keep the water from coming in during these
huge and highly unusual storms would be maybe a 10 hp pump.
Hell, 7 inches of rain in a few hours!
There was so much ground water pressure I actually had a geyser
squirting from a crack in the floor that I can't even find now.
My attitude is just prevent whatever damage I can when this shit
happens. I never look at a basement around these parts as something
you can keep water from getting in during odd events, so I just try to
protect what I can when this happens.
Might not ever happen again in my lifetime
Is this the Vic Smith that used to work for Lucent/Bell Labs/Western
Electric/old AT&T? I know about those gully washers in the area. When
I lived in Bolingbrook we had 23" of rain in 36 hours, in, I think it
was 1985 or there about. And that was actually measured by a nearby
friend. Much of it came at the end of the period in the wee hours of
the morning. Funny thing was, the north side and the city had very
little rain, comparatively. My pump barely kept up, but it did. The
big problem by me was sewer backup. I had the floor drain plugged and a
check valve on the basement sink drain. As the backup comes on slowly,
the check valve really didn't work, so the sink filled almost to the
top. Once I siphoned the water out of the sink, into the sump pit,
there was enough pressure difference to keep the check valve's gate
tightly shut ... end of problem. After complaining the Village
official, they had a whole house anti-backup system installed not at my
No, but my brother Dan was at Lucent for a few years.
This one was nearly all north of the Ike. An endless line of heavy
stuff from the west just kept dumping water from the north side of
Chicago to about Evanston. I'm in Morton Grove.
The bright spot for me is the previous owners had the lift system put
in in 1961 after they got crap in the basement during a heavy rain, so
I don't get sewer water in, just ground water.
I never liked it before because it uses electricity to pump out all
house water. But after being flooded twice, maybe that check valve is
Obviously a different Vic Smith. Didn't know Dan either.
I keep in touch with a friend that lives in Morton Grove. He lost power
for something like 36-40 hours on the previous storm. This time it was
only out for about 2 hours. My son lives in Berwyn and he got a little
water in the entrance way to his 2 1/2 foot deep basement. But he did
have a little utility pump which kept it out of the kitchen, which is
also in the basement.
The great thing about living in the mountains of western NC is that I
have no sump pump. If water should get in the basement, I just open the
door and it will go downhill ... very different from IL.
I had power out 71 hours in that previous storm a few weeks ago, but
there wasn't much rain at all, just the wind.
The record rain storm in 2008 I lost power.
I figured the pumps not running is why I got water in the basement.
That was probably wrong figuring.
Pumps wouldn't have kept up with it.
I didn't lose power this time, which is what fooled us.
By the time my wife heard the gurgling sounds coming from the basement
there was already about 4 inches of water down there.
High ground is good. A workmate of mine who live in Des Plaines got
his basement flooded badly during a heavy rain in the 90's.
Just him and the house across the street.
He told me to look carefully at the street slope when I approached his
For a half mile on either side of his house you were going downhill as
you approached his house.
You really had to look hard to notice it.
I didn't pay much attention when I bought this house. Pretty flat
around here. If I get water in my basement so do my neighbors.
No river to worry about, but when you get a deluge rain you need that
sump pump, and if it's really bad you're just SOL.
I always tell my kids to look for a house on high ground.
I was watching the Weather Underground radar imagery of that area during
that storm. I was looking at the total rainfall images, and wonder who
was getting hammered by all that rain. Heh - now I know.
Several areas in central Michigan and also just south-west of Toledo
have also gotten 6+ inches of rain over a 24-hour period during the past
week or so.
I think the Chicago area has had several 4"+ rainfall events so far this
spring / summer.
Looks like you need to change the grade around your house - divert the
water around it. Where do your gutters discharge?
No one else has mentioned it so....
You know you have just defeated the safety feature of your water
heater that prevents it from igniting any flammable vapors in the
No matter to me either way, but having seen a fire caused by contact
cement vapors reaching a water heater (at a friends house) I'm glad
to have the safety system.
Anyway, that's what the window and gasketing are about...
No, I didn't know that. Thanks.
Looked it up and now I know a bit about FVIR.
Looks like all small residential water heaters are FVIR since about
Now that I know about it I'll devise an airtight seal for the window
hole. Not really concerned about flammable gases since I've always
been aware of that danger.
But the combustion chamber is designed to NOT have air entering there.
BTW, a piece of doubled tin foil covering the hole has kept the pilot
from blowing out, but it's not air tight.
Now that I've read about these systems I'm glad I removed the window
instead of the entire plate to get the thing lit.
They are not designed for easy maintenance.
Fiberglass will burn. Hang a metal flapper over the opening much like
the ones on oil burner sight ports.
The interlocking flipper lid types are intended for stacking and do ok.
The much softer Rubbermaid and similar big 37 gal tubs with separate
lids don't stack well at all if there is any weight in them. If they are
all light clothes perhaps 3 high max, anything heavier and no stacking.
Get some good adjustable shelving and set it for a single container high
Had the same problem as the OP with a newer water heater after basement
flooded. Also broke the little glass "window" trying to access the pilot.
I used a small piece of aluminum roof flashing to replace it.
There are no stupid questions, but there are lots of stupid answers.
Larry Wasserman - Baltimore Maryland - lwasserm(a)sdf. lonestar. org
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