How to Prevent Snowmelt From Damaging Your Foundation
By Megan Wild
In places with heavy snowfall, farmers and homesteaders need to prevent snowmelt from damaging the foundation of their homes and any outbuildings.
Snowmelt is, of course, water coming from melting snow. When snow and ice begin to melt, the water will seep into the ground. But under many conditions, including heavy snow and warm temperatures causing rapid melt, the ground can quickly become saturated. When it does, the water from snowmelt has to have somewhere to go. Unfortunately, it can go through foundations, damaging them.
It’s important to understand that foundations do not always repel all the water from snowmelt. Concrete foundations are porous. If there is too much water on the neighboring ground, water will start to go through the foundation. It can weaken the foundation itself, causing structural damage.
If snowmelt goes through your foundation repeatedly, you may have to replace the foundation, which is a lengthy and expensive process. Water going through the foundation, of course, can also damage the basement and any equipment or property stored in the basement.
Insurance companies generally don’t cover seepage from snowmelt, so you can end up paying for foundation replacement, basement repair, and replacement of damaged property out of your own pocket.
How can you prevent snowmelt from damaging your foundation? Follow these steps.
- Clear Snow Around the Buildings
The first and most important step in preventing snowmelt from damaging your foundation is to clear snow around all your buildings. It’s not enough just to shovel out the doors and the walkways. Experts recommend a 5-foot clearance around snow and your buildings. Keep the area shoveled at all times. Even if your area temperature is normally below freezing, a sudden warm day in the middle of December or January can start snowmelt. You want to make sure it’s far away from your foundation.
- Fix Any Cracks in the Foundation
Inspect your foundations for cracks every spring and fall. Fix them immediately. Concrete will let some water seep through even if it’s not cracked. If it’s cracked, the water is going to seep through even faster.
- Have a Sump Pump Ready
A sump pump can help with excess water. If you don’t currently have one, buy one. If you do have one, make sure it’s in working condition in the early fall, long before winter comes. You don’t want to have to use it in February, only to find out it needs major repair or has conked out entirely.
- Don’t Try to Predict When Melt Will Come
You need to be prepared for snowmelt at any point after snow begins. Don’t confine your protection methods to the late winter or early spring. Some climate-change scientists predict that snowmelt will happen more slowly going forward. That is a general statement, but it may not pertain to your individual amount of snowfall and warm days. A 50-degree day in December can cause snowmelt.
- Protect Items Stored in Basements
As part of a preventive strategy, it’s important to protect items stored in basements or next to foundations from the consequences of water coming in. Because, despite your best efforts, it may. If you store family belongings in the basement, for example, place them on shelves so they will not be damaged by any water coming in. If you store feed on the ground in your barn, put it in waterproof containers. In a worst case scenario, you should always keep a running list of items you own and their value estimation for insurance purposes.
How to Fix Water Damage
If you go down some morning and find water in your basement, assess where it might be coming from. Snowmelt is only one possible cause. Your pipes may have burst, or an appliance may have ceased to function.
- Remove the Water
Whatever the cause, it’s important that the water be removed as quickly as possible. You might be tempted to extract the water yourself. It’s far more prudent to call a water damage restoration company. Even if you get rid of visible water on the floor, it may still be in your foundation, where it can cause structural damage. Moisture may also remain on the floor.
- Check for Mold
Water left standing can cause mold within two days. Mold can be toxic. It is very hard to remove and can cause damage to the building and danger to your family’s health. A water restoration company can also check for mold and give advice on removing it.
- Repair Any Damage
Once the area is made safe from water, you’ll need to repair any damaged areas or items. Professionals can help with this as well. It’s especially important to repair any damage that could compromise your structure or property in the future.
Snowmelt is unavoidable if you live in an area with snowfall. If there is a lot of snowmelt, it can seep into your foundation and cause structural damage. Seepage can also cause damage to the basement of your buildings. Take steps to prevent snowmelt from seeping into your foundation. If you do find seepage in the basement, call water damage restoration professionals for the best results.
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