Beware of Winter Water Damage for Your Basement & Foundation!

By:    |   Published November 27, 2019
A thick blanket of snow hangs over the edge of a roof engulfing the gutters and becoming a risk for winter water damage.

The beauty of a fresh blanket of new-fallen snow can transform a city street or a country hillside into a winter wonderland. The snowflakes drifting from the sky and landing silently on treetops and rooftops can give us a peaceful feeling as we take in the scene. But beware the dangers that these snowfalls can bring with them. Not all snowfalls are peaceful, and the aftermath of a foot of snow can be a ton of water damage and basement disaster.

Let’s look at the top 3 winter water damage risks, how you can identify them and address them.

Snowmelt Moisture

Here in Ohio and Michigan we can be sure of two seasonal occurrences: snow will fall and (eventually) it will melt. Snowmelt is the most likely cause of winter water damage. Water does not respect the home; it simply follows the laws of gravity and temperature change.  When the temperatures rise, snowmelt around your home can introduce an immense volume of water all at once, so it’s important to have good drainage.

There are several ways that moisture from snowmelt can cause damage to your home. The constant freezing and thawing cycle we experience here in the Midwest during the winter weakens the foundation.  Moisture freezes and expands forming cracks, which allow further moisture to invade your basement. This process is repeated with added moisture, creating gaps in the foundation that are left open once the frozen moisture thaws and drains away. Over time, these gaps grow and weaken the integrity of your foundation.

Moisture that breaches – or penetrates – your foundation from the constant pressure can cause direct damage inside your basement. Flooring and drywall can become damp or even saturated and result in a breeding ground for mold. Winter water damage continues its assault on the exterior of your foundation until it reaches the interior. Once inside, it can ruin furniture, appliances or anything you’re storing in the basement.

Freezing Pipes

It would be hard to find a person who hasn’t heard a frozen-pipe horror story. It is perhaps the most well-known and properly feared risk of the winter season. When a pipe freezes, the resulting expansion leads to moisture leaks or, in severe cases, a pipe may burst outright. When that happens, you could be in for some serious winter water damage.

Depending on where pipes are located in your home, the aftermath of moisture damage can be severe when they freeze. Fortunately, frozen pipes can be prevented, managed, or stopped in an emergency by turning off the water.

Ensuring that you have proper protection in your basement, like a sump pump, is an important step in preventing damage. Far too frequently damage reaches critical mass before it is even discovered. This is often the case when pipes burst overnight or when you’re away from home.

The health of your foundation plays a critical role in preventing freezing pipes as well. When cracks form in exterior walls or around pipes, it can allow more air in. This results in lowering the temperature in your home and basement and increases your risk of frozen pipes. Try to fix these cracks or contact a professional to prevent them from getting worse over time.

Ice Dams

Ice dams are another common source of winter water damage in your home. They form when ice builds up in and around your gutters and block melting snow from properly draining to the downspouts. When this happens, water continues to build up behind these dams until it finds a different path, which is often through your roof and into your home. While more likely to damage your roof or ceiling, ice dams can clog your downspouts forcing melting ice and snow to overflow your gutters and flow to the ground near your foundation.

Taking care of your gutters is Foundation Protection 101. Your gutters are the first defense for your home against precipitation. They are designed to prevent moisture from flowing off your roof and directly into the area around your foundation. When frozen solid, they are unable to function as intended.

If your gutters are forming ice dams, look for blockages, clean away snow or debris, and keep an eye open on the interior of your home for signs of water damage.

Identifying Winter Water Damage

More often than not, you can spot signs of encroaching winter water damage. Besides flowing or standing water itself, the most obvious signs are moisture stains. These stains typically form on the floor, walls and ceilings. They can also help you pinpoint the source of the moisture if you are unsure of where it is coming from.

Another sure sign of moisture is mold or mildew.  This is one sign that you may smell before you see it. Keeping in mind that moldy smells are not normal for basements, you should immediately investigate the source of the smell and address the water source right away.

Foundation cracks tend to form over time. If you notice them, it’s time to contact a professional for an evaluation! This is especially so for cracks on the interior side of your foundation. Cracks that go all the way through your foundation are a sure way to get winter water damage when things begin to thaw.

Schedule Your FREE Annual Foundation Inspection

The best way to protect your home from winter water damage is with professional waterproofing. EverDry Toledo can help with a FREE 20-point basement inspection! We’ll help you find out if your home is at risk for water damage and which solutions will best serve you.

Contact us online to schedule an appointment or give us a call at (419) 469-5833 and schedule your inspection today!

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