When winter comes around, it can bring a slew of problems for homeowners, one of which is the risk of basement moisture caused by the cold temperatures. Waterproofing your basement is essential for making sure that your home is protected from the damaging effects of moisture and winter basement waterproofing is a preventative measure that can make a big difference!
Types of Soil
Soil shifts and moves over time often as a result of how it handles moisture and the climate — including the freeze / thaw cycle. As soil shifts, it changes the support around your foundation, which can lead to cracks. And it’s those cracks that can allow in moisture and maybe even some pests.
Each type of soil is comprised of different properties that have various effects on the bedrock of a home. Soil with good structure is going to be more stable. The way in which soil handles wetting and drying cycles is also an important consideration, as expanding soil can put unwanted pressure on foundations and soil that retains too much moisture can cause the foundation to weaken.
Here are the most common types of soil and how they measure up:
Peat: Usually dark in color, peat is easily compactable because it holds a great deal of water, which makes it prone to shifting. This is not ideal soil for a foundation.
Clay: Because it’s made up of tiny particles, clay shrinks significantly when dry and expands when it’s moist. The extreme changes can put pressure on the foundation, which opens the door to potential cracks.
Silt: Usually smooth to the touch, this type of soil tends to retain water longer and drains poorly. This can push against and weaken foundations when wet.
Sand / Gravel: A better choice than peat, clay or silt, sand / gravel drains easily and does not retain moisture because it’s made up of larger particles. However, when wet, these particles can be washed away leaving gaps around the foundation.
Loam: Typically, a combination of sand, silt and clay, loam is an ideal soil type for supporting foundations, as it is able to maintain water at a balanced rate.
Rock: The strength and stability of rock makes it a great choice for foundations. However, it can be difficult to dig into, and homeowners should be sure the rock is level before constructing the foundation.
Effects of Drainage Around Your House on Your Foundation
So, what exactly happens when you have poor drainage around the house? More than you might think! Keeping your foundation safe is paramount to protecting your home and everyone in it. Here are some of the effects that constant, unmanaged drainage can have on your property:
Moving water affects anything it touches, which includes the soil around your home. The more drainage there is, the more erosion that will happen. Over time, that erosion will cause a significant amount of soil to be displaced.
Because your foundation was built with that soil around the home, any loss can cause shifting and reduce its overall support from the environment around it. The longer this erosion goes, the weaker your foundation becomes due to cracks and further shifting.
In addition to being displaced, soil also absorbs moisture. Depending on the type of soil around your home, its level of expansiveness can vary. The more expansive it is, the more risk your home is at when drainage is left uncontrolled.
Certain soils can absorb a great deal of moisture, expanding significantly. This puts pressure on your foundation and can quickly lead to cracks and shifting.
Soil expansion is a threat that can’t be completely eliminated. However, reducing drainage to the soil goes a long way to mitigating how much expanding it can do. Waterproofing around your foundation can often be the only way to prevent problems if you have soil with high potential for expansion.
We like to think of concrete as sturdy and reliable. While that is true, the properties of concrete aren’t exactly what you may expect. Primarily – did you know it’s porous? All those holes in concrete are susceptible to incoming moisture – and it’s common for most homes to experience absorption.
In small amounts, this absorption isn’t a major problem. The moisture enters in small amounts and can evaporate. But in home foundations with poor drainage issues, the constant assault of moisture means the concrete keeps absorbing more and more.
Over time, this water breaks down the concrete and leads to cracks. Those cracks weaken the foundation, and continue to grow unless dealt with. One ignored crack in your foundation is all it takes to lead to leaks and eventually major damage!
Improving Drainage Around Your House
Whether your home is resting on stable or not-so-stable soil, water drainage is an important part of maintaining the life of a foundation. Poor drainage can cause problems like water in the basement or structural damage, while proper surface drainage can lead moisture away from your home ultimately protecting the precious foundation. Here are some things you can do to ensure better drainage.
Roof gutters and downspouts: Gutters should be kept free of debris and direct water to downspouts that carry it away from the foundation. Be sure they’re draining at least six feet away from the home — downspout extensions can help!
Sufficient grading: Check to see if dirt is graded away from the home. Housing codes have various requirements, but it’s helpful if the ground slopes away from the foundation for a distance of eight feet or more.
Basement windows: Sometimes debris and water can collect near basement windows, so be sure to provide adequate drainage to the foundation drain.
Sump pumps remove excess water from around your basement and are best for minor amounts of groundwater. Ensure your sump pump is in good, working condition and consider a battery back-up.
Install foundation drains: This repair consists of removing portions of existing basement slab, installing new drains directing water to a sump pump and then installing new slab. Learn more about
basement waterproofing options
Performing your own rain gutter repair is often a lot easier than you expect, even for novice DIYers. Find out the most common gutter and downspout problems and how to fix them from EverDry Toledo!
Common Gutter Problems & Solutions
Clogged & Obstructed Gutters
One of the most common problems with rain gutters is clogging. Over time, debris builds up in your gutters and prevents water from flowing properly. In severe cases, it can even dam the flow of water completely, which puts your roof at risk for damage.
How to Repair It: While clogged rain gutters are common, they are fortunately easy to fix. Depending on the size of your house, all you may need is a ladder and a pair of gloves. Simply go around each section of the gutter, removing debris and inspecting it for possible damage.
Most homeowners will only need to do this about once per year, and spring is one of the best times to do it – not to mention some other important outdoor maintenance. However, if your house is surrounded by one or more trees, you may want to consider cleaning you gutters a few times each year. The more trees that can drop leaves or branches into the gutters, the quicker the buildup can hit critical mass.
It may also be worth investing in a gutter guard that helps prevent debris from entering your gutter in the first place. This doesn’t mean you never have to clean your gutters again, but it can help keep them flowing better between cleanings.
Leaks, Holes, or Deterioration
Your gutter is made up of multiple sections that are sealed or connected with gutter joints. Over time, no matter how they are joined together, the connection will deteriorate. Even well maintained gutters can sometimes suffer physical damage that opens holes or gaps. This results in leaking that drops water right against your siding or foundation.
How to Repair It: There are two ways to fix a leaky gutter. If the leak is coming from a tiny hole, such as one the size of a nail head, all you need is a little caulk. Silicone or gutter caulk can seal the leak without any additional help. Just make sure the gutter is free of any debris before you begin.
If the leak is much larger, you may need to use metal flashing to patch your gutter. Many home improvement stores sell gutter patch kits. Even if you can’t find a kit, you can create a patch by using tin snips to cut out metal flashing and using sealant to glue it in place.
Downspout Draining Too Close to House
A perfectly functional gutter system can be ruined by a downspout draining improperly. It’s important to make sure that the end of the downspout is taking the water an appropriate distance away. If it’s not, all the water caught and flushed away by the gutters will come right back.
Drainage plays a significant factor in the health of your home’s foundation
Your basement is unique to the rest of your home due to the fact it’s surrounded by the ground. When it rains, the water doesn’t just sit above ground. The ground soaks it up thanks to gravity, and the water works its way below the surface. So now you can imagine your foundation being completely surrounded by not only the ground, but water. The good news is, you’re not the only one dealing with water in the basement after heavy rain. The bad news is that it is an issue, but we’ll show you how you can solve it!
Inspect Your Roof
Water enters your home either from above or below. While a large portion of homeowners experience surprise water damage from their foundation, it’s worth checking your roof to look for potential spring water damage risks.
An easy way to inspect the roof to find damaged, loose, or missing shingles is to use a pair of binoculars. If you see loose or broken shingles, fix those as soon as possible to protect your home from leaks. Check and repair breaks in the flashing seals around vent stacks and chimneys, too. Any gap in your roof can let water in which can lead to issues like mold.
While you’re checking your roof, you should also pay close attention to the gutters. It’s hard to overstate the value of gutters to protecting your home investment! They are one of the first lines of defense against rainwater
The decomposed leaves and twigs that nature leaves behind after winter may be worse than those in your gutter during the summer months. Pull leaves and debris from gutters and downspouts. Reattach gutters that have pulled away from the house. Run a hose on the roof and check for proper drainage. If leaks exist, dry the area and use caulking or epoxy to seal the leak.
You can even look at adding extensions to downspouts to carry water away from your home’s foundation. This is important when your downspouts aren’t depositing gutter water far enough away. If your gutters are in perfect working condition but eject the water straight into the ground near your foundation, you may as well not have gutters at all!
Look for Foundation Cracks
A cracked foundation is often the result of frost heaves – soil movement caused by the freeze-thaw cycle – which can leave cracks in your basement walls and floor. Frost heave is particularly common in our area of Toledo, Ohio and the surrounding cities due to how unpredictable the weather can be throughout the winter and even into spring.
If the cracks are less than a nickel-width wide, you can take the following steps to minimize further damage:
- Replace the soil surrounding your foundation with more porous alternatives such as gravel and/or fill sand, which is a blend of sand, soil, and clay.
- Add a drainage system at the base of a foundation, like a French drain, to drain the water away.
- Dig top-level and subterranean reservoirs to redirect water away from your home’s foundation.
- Insulate your home’s foundation to minimize heat loss between the foundation and the surrounding soil. When heat transfers to the surrounding soil through foundation walls, it enhances the freeze-thaw cycle.
- Make sure your gutters are in good working order and drain rainwater at a sufficient distance away from your house – at least 6 to 8 feet.
If the cracks are large or extensive, have the foundation professionally inspected and repaired.
Replace Caulk & Weather Stripping Around Windows & Doors
Houses will frequently settle over time. This happens when the soil beneath the home shifts, often due to changing moisture when the area below or around the foundation experiences major intake of water. This settling can sometimes be identified by looking at door or window frames for unusual gaps that didn’t exist before – or look worse than they used to.
If the gap around a door or window is wider than a nickel, you need to reapply exterior caulk to keep your home energy bill down and the insects out. Check window-glazing putty, too, which seals glass into the window frame. You can add weather stripping around doors too, making sure that you can’t see any daylight from inside your home.
Take a Close Look at Your Driveway & Sidewalks for Cracks and Heaves
Broken concrete or asphalt is more than just an eyesore. It’s a tripping hazard that can lead to painful results. Fix any breakdown in concrete or asphalt before it worsens. You can patch or fill surface cracks, chips or flaking in concrete yourself using cement-repair products. For deeper cracks, settling or sunken concrete, or frost heaves, call a professional.
Evaluate Your Grading
Lawn grading isn’t something most homeowners think about that frequently. But you should! The ideal grading should start with a slope away from your home. Moisture that seeps into the ground still behaves similarly to how you might expect it to on the surface. If your grading is perfectly flat, or even worse, sloping into your foundation, you could be allowing extra moisture to start pressing against your foundation. This is a common cause of significant spring water damage to your home.
Small grading solutions can often be simple. For more serious ones, you may need a major regrading of the area – or you may want to look at investments like a full drainage system as part of a
new waterproofing system
Fortunately, basement flooding in the winter is something you can fight back against. Read on to learn how to minimize the risks and keep your basement dry for the rest of this winter and beyond!
Tips to Fight Back Against Basement Flooding in Winter
It’s much easier and more cost effective to prepare your home for potential winter flooding than it is to deal with the emergencies that can come after. Before the snow hits, follow the Team EverDry winter checklist to make sure that you’re prepared.
Inspect Your Basement for Cracks
Concrete in your basement foundations tends to crack over time, and large cracks can lead to water seeping into your basement. These cracks can form from hydrostatic pressure, small shifts in the soil under your home, or many other small reasons that add up over the years.
Before the weather turns cold and wet, check your basement walls for any significant cracks. While small hairline fractures are hard to avoid, you want to pay attention to any crack that’s more significant than a small line – especially if you notice one growing since the last time you saw it! Repair any that you find by drying the crack, scrubbing out any loose concrete, and filling them with epoxy crack sealer.
If you’re not a DIY type, EverDry Toledo can help protect your home with foundation crack injections that will seal the gap to help stop moisture from getting in.
Clean Your Gutters
The value of healthy, functional gutters is something that many homeowners underestimate. They’re on the front line when it comes to defending your home from rain or snow moisture right against the foundation. Working gutters should be capable of capturing any melting snow on your roof and running it far enough from your foundation that it won’t add to pressure that may lead to cracking.
If your gutters have debris in them, it could cause problems like ice dams. These ice dams will let melting snow overflow from the side of the gutters, falling straight down onto the vulnerable sides of your home. The longer this is allowed to happen, the higher your chances of experience basement flooding in the winter.
Clear the Snow
Shoveling snow can feel like a punishment. But it’s a necessary part of keeping your property clear and safe. But when you’re done clearing the driveway, there’s still more to shovel!
Each time you go out to clear snow from your property, don’t forget to check the sides of your home. Snow that’s pressed up near the foundation of your home will eventually melt; the snow melt may happen quickly, putting a lot of pressure on the exterior of your basement.
You don’t need to completely remove the snow. Just do your best to clear a foot or two away from your foundation. This will go a long way towards preventing moisture buildup around your home and to the fight against winter basement flooding!
Protect Your Pipes
It’s no surprise that one of the most common causes of basement flooding in winter involves frozen pipes. Once a pipe experiences a freeze, it will suffer internal pressure that’s looking for a way to get out. Often times, the “escape” for moisture inside a frozen pipe will be bursting inside your basement. The biggest concern? You may not catch it right away!
Water damage happens fast. It only takes minutes to cause thousands of dollars of damage. And the last thing you want in the freezing cold is a lake of ice in your basement!
You can prevent pipe freezing from happening in your home. Take these precautions, especially if the forecast calls for severely cold weather overnight:
- Wrap your pipes with pipe wrap
- Consider a pipe warmer if your home frequently has frozen pipe issues
- Turn faucets on to let a very small drip of warm water out overnight
- Open cabinets in vanities or under your sink to allow the warmer air in your home to reach some of your pipes (Please note to only do this if it’s safe. Many homeowners keep these cabinets closed or locked to prevent animals or children from reaching cleaning chemicals or other dangerous home items!)
Inspect Your Sump Pump
If your home has a sump pump, it needs to stay functional to prevent an overflowing of water into your home. Winter snow melt will eventually lead to an excess of moisture finding its way into your home, so you’ll want your sump pump ready and able to push that water back out of your home.
One unique winter issue for sump pumps is the water in the pump basin freezing over. Keep an eye on your pump and look for issues that may indicate
sump pump failure
Winter here in the Midwest means cold weather, ice, and snow. While this can be great for winter sports like skiing, ice fishing, and snowmobiling, those dropping temperatures outside generally create dropping humidity levels inside.
Your home is your refuge. It’s where your family is, your favorite things, and is where you return to rest every night. A home should be a space that’s safe for you, your family and even your pets! But millions across the world are affected by homes that may be worsening their health due to unseen threats that combine to create what is known as toxic house syndrome.
Owning a home comes with many expenses – some planned, some unplanned. When it comes to protecting your foundation, you may wonder “is basement waterproofing worth it” or should you gamble and wait to repair issues as they happen?