Andrew Breithaupt, a commercial artist in Newton, saved his old art portfolios in a box in his basement. Among those boxes were pictures of his children and their schoolwork.
Then, it all got destroyed.
“I went down to the basement for something and before I turned on the light I heard a squish of water under my feet,” he said. “I went around investigating and realized there was a high-water mark, of about 6 inches, throughout the basement.”
Breithaupt recently moved here from California, and he was shocked. “We’ve moved about five times and lived in four countries and everything has survived all of those moves.”
But it didn’t all survive this summer, and a series of torrential rains that have flooded basements across Massachusetts. This year’s unusually damp weather — and the prospect of more consistent extreme weather to come — has even longtime homeowners considering costly measures to protect their basements, and prevent that sort of flooding from happening again.
Breithaupt said his neighbors say they’ve seen flooding now and then. “But not this badly,” he said. “This was the worst they had seen since they’ve lived here for over 40 years.”
And that has kept Jim Keller very busy. Keller, who runs Keller Basement Waterproofing, said he has seen a huge increase in demand for his services, almost double what it was just a few months ago.
“Drainage, grading, waterproofing,” Keller said, “have increased recently, across the board, by 100 percent, within the past week or two.”
A lot of homeowners seem disappointed, Keller said, because they’ve never seen anything like this before. Many have noticed a “dramatic increase” in flooding incidents over the past few years.
“They’ve never seen this before, and they’ve lived here for 30 years,” he said. “They’ve never seen water come up to their doorstep. It’s very unusual.”
Waterproofing a basement usually involves installing an interior drainage system that directs incoming water to a “sump pump,” which pumps the water to the outside of a house. Another measure homeowners can take is installing dehumidification systems to keep the air drier too.
Tom Matthews, general manager of DryZone Basement Systems in Bridgewater, which offers basement waterproofing services, agreed that this summer feels different. Requests to waterproof basements, he said, have surged particularly since the week of July 4.
”It certainly feels like we are being hit harder and more frequently by big rainstorms,” he said. “When you own a home, water can be of great stress for a homeowner. Every time it rains, they are worried and anxious and stressed about how it’s going to affect their basement.”
And even as humidity, and summer storms, start to tail off, hurricane season approaches. Just last week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that this year’s hurricane activity has a 60 percent likelihood of seeing above normal intensity.
“We all know the big storm is coming, repeatedly,” he said. “It’s a matter of if you’re prepared for it.”
Matthew Papino of Cranston, Rhode Island, recently waterproofed his basement because it has started flooding more frequently over the last year or so. Tired of lining his driveway with sandbags to create a barrier between his home and stormwater, he recently spent around $25,000 protecting his 1500-square-foot basement, installing a drain around the perimeter of the entire basement, four sump pumps, and a powerful dehumidifier.
“This summer, we decided this was enough,” he said. “We needed to get some system in place.”
It was a big check to write, Papino said. But he’d tell anyone who owns a basement, it’s wiser to take action now. The rain and climate are not going to get any better, he said.
“It’s like, if your basement hasn’t flooded yet,” he said, “it’s almost a question of when, not if.”