3 Common Winter Basement Hazards: Advice For Homeowners

As temperatures drop, it's vital that homeowners start to consider the various hazards that winter weather can create. A damp basement can cause a host of structural problems in your home, and moist air can also lead to health issues like asthma. If you're facing the prospect of winter weather, it's time to make sure that your basement is ready to cope. Learn more about the common hazards that your basement faces during the winter, and what you need to do to prevent serious damage.

Melting snow and ice

Snow may look pretty in the back garden, but large deposits of frozen water are bad news for your basement. Heavy snowfall will eventually melt, and that means that a large amount of water could enter your basement through cracks and gaps in your foundation or through damaged seals on basement windows. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, just one inch of rain or snow on your roof will equate to 1,743 gallons of water falling on your yard.

Protect your basement from water damage by making sure that snow doesn't pile up next to the house by the foundation. During bad weather, sweep snow away from basement windows and remove icicles. You should also make sure that all downspouts and drains direct water away from the house. 

Frost heave

When the moisture in the soil around your home freezes, it will expand. This adds a lot of soil pressure to your foundation. The force from this pressure can easily create cracks in the foundation, putting your home at risk from moisture seepage. Experts refer to this process as frost heave.

Scientists call the depth to which water in soil will freeze the frost line. In the United States the frost line ranges from three to six feet. Building codes mandate that footings or piers supporting a structure extend below the local frost line. Some builders also fill gravel around piers to promote drainage. You can also replace fine-grain soils with coarser materials to help prevent heave. Good drainage systems around your property also limit the amount of moisture that the soil holds.

That aside, it's also important to find and repair foundation cracks as quickly as possible. You can repair small cracks yourself, but it's worth consulting a basement waterproofing company for help with larger cracks, as you may need a more robust long-term solution. For example, some DIY remedies are less effective if the basement wall moves slightly.

Frozen discharge line

A sump pump prevents the risk of a flood in your basement or crawl space, but this device won't work if excess water is unable to flow out of your home. The discharge line is the pipe from the sump pump that channels the water away. If the discharge line freezes, the sump pump will not lower the water level in your basement, and may eventually burn out. As such, it's vital that homeowners take steps to stop the discharge line freezing.

Solutions to this problem include:

  • Pitching the discharge line on a downward slope, to stop water sitting and freezing
  • Insulating the line with heat tape
  • Installing an extra drain at the intake section that gives the water another way to escape if the line freezes

If your discharge line freezes, turn off the sump pump until you can thaw the system out. You should contact a waterproofing professional to help thaw the line out, as he or she can also check for leaks and damage.

While the kids may look forward to the arrival of winter snow, freezing weather can cause several unwanted problems for your basement. For further help and advice, contact a basement waterproofing expert to make sure your property stays dry this winter. Or you can click here for more info on professional basement waterproofing.