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Snow Mounds Next to a Foundation can Lead to Basement Leaks

Joseph Coupal - Thursday, February 12, 2015

Here in New England we have been hit hard with snow this winter. We have had more than 4 feet of snow in the past 3 weeks alone. Some people are reporting issues with ice dams forming on the edges of their roofs. An ice dam is a ridge of ice that forms at the edge of a roof and prevents melting snow (water) from draining off the roof. The water that backs up behind the dam and can leak into a home and cause damage to walls, ceilings, insulation, and cause mold. Some people are actually reporting icicles forming inside the attic. That is a water problem for sure. The obvious fix to this problem is to shovel the snow off the roof where huge mounds of snow pile up and next to the house. But is this just transferring the problem somewhere else? The unfortunate answer is yes.

The problem with snow mounds is that eventually the snow melts. Here’s a typical conversion for how much water is in snow: 10 inches of snow = 1 inch of water. So, if you have 4 feet of snow on the ground and then pile another 4 feet of snow on top of that from the roof, you could end up with nearly 10 inches of water that’s released into soil that is already saturated with water. You might as well have a moat around your house. If your foundation walls, bulkhead, pipe penetrations or other potential points of water entry have any gaps, cracks, pits, or holes, you could end up with a really big water problem on your hands.

To help prevent water problems in your basement as a consequence of all this snow, the Crackman recommends the following:

  • Move snow 4-5 feet away from the foundation or side of the house. Far enough away so that the melting snow drains away from the house.
  • Remove snow from and around the bulkhead before it melts
  • Inspect your roof gutters and downspouts and ensure they are not damaged or filled with debris
  • While you are checking your downspouts, ensure they are not draining directly into the area next to the foundation
  • Ensure exterior water faucets are shut off from INSIDE the house and then open the faucets on the OUTSIDE so freezing residual water has a place to go

If you follow these tips, chances are you won’t have a basement water problem created by melting snow and freezing temperatures.

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