It might seem like this winter has been relentless, but according to the Winter Misery Index (yes, that’s a real thing) published by the Minnesota DNR, our winter was only “moderate,” with 43 points for cold and 44 for snow. It was colder than last year, when our winter was designated as “mild,” but not nearly as wicked as 2013-14—when the season fell under the “severe” category. (It was the ninth most severe Minnesota winter on record.)
Even so, we did have a lot of snow, considering the fact that winter wouldn’t release its grip on us until mid-April. And before that snow starts melting, it’s smart to have a plan in place to prevent potential damage. Not only can heavy snow cause your roof to collapse, but melting snow can leak into your foundation. If water gets into the basement—even a small amount—you could be at risk for structural damage, which can cost you a substantial amount of money. Another water threat is black mold growth, which can lead to all sorts of health issues.
If snow is piling up near your foundation, you’ve basically got a ticking time bomb—when that snow melts, it has to go somewhere. But how do you prevent that somewhere from being your basement?
Here are a few tips on staying ahead of the winter thaw:
When you’re shoveling snow, clear a 5-foot area around your foundation. Water expands and contracts as it freezes and thaws—you definitely don’t want this happening inside your basement walls. Move snow so that it’s not piling up against your house.
Make sure your gutters are working. When gutters are free and clear of ice, leaves, and debris, the melting snow will be able to flow away from your home. The best way to eliminate potential ice dams is by insulating under the roof and in the floor of the attic, keeping snow off the roof with a snow rake, or placing old nylon stockings filled with snowmelt to create a channel for the water to run off.
Check your downspouts. Are your downspouts 20-30 feet away from your house? Is the water emptying away from the foundation?
Fix the cracks in your foundation walls. Big cracks in the wall and floor (and where the floor meets the wall) provide the perfect porous pathway for water. Seal these cracks with epoxy, a sealing kit, or hydraulic cement. If there’s any condensation inside your windows, wipe it up to avoid mold growth (especially crucial if your windows are metal).
Test your sump pump to make sure it’s working correctly. If your basement floods from snowmelt, your insurance policy won’t cover the damage (it’s considered water damage caused by an outside water source). Check for ice or dirt build-up in the sump pump pipe, and test the sump pump switch by slowly pouring water from a 5-gallon bucket into the crock—does the switch turn on and pump water? Once the water is pumped, does the switch turn itself off? If your sump pump is in need of repair—or you need a new one—Bonfe can help. Don’t wait until it’s too late!