How to keep melting snow out of your basement

2014-02-23T07:00:00Z How to keep melting snow out of your basementMichelle Krueger Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
February 23, 2014 7:00 am  • 

crack repair picture

As the snow melts and the ground thaws, homeowners may have a few choice words for Mother Nature. Something along the lines of Dorothy’s infamous nemesis in The Wizard Oz, perhaps:

“Ohhh - you cursed brat! Look what you've done! (It’s) melting! Melting! Oh, what a world! What a world!”

While normal spring thaws can cause what may have once been just a small trickle to become a bigger issue, any cracks that might have trickled once before have the potential to become a huge problem this year.

Commonly referred to as the “Leaky Professor” by family, friends and especially his customers, Jim Burke of Illiana Basement Waterproofing explained how this year’s spring thaw will exacerbate any issues that were not taken care of in the past.

“When the ground is still frozen in late winter/early spring, it cannot absorb all of the rain water or snow melt off and it flows down along the foundation. If it does not properly drain away, once the water reaches the footing it builds up hydrostatic pressure. If an existing drain tile system is not functioning properly, or cracks are prevalent in the foundation, then the pressure will force the water into the basement” he said. “A proper drain tile system, sump pump and sealed cracks will help you avoid problems this spring. The people who we’ve done work for this fall and winter can rest easy.”

Just as flower bulbs are planted in the fall to enjoy the following spring, wise homeowners take the initiative to have their basements inspected and repaired in the fall.

“Whenever there’s a big spring rain storm, people who have been getting some water over time may finally get deluged,” Burke said. “That’s the time of year everyone becomes impatient for an estimate. Everybody wants to get on board – it’s a good problem to have, but we really want to educate people and let them know that these issues can be addressed – usually very reasonably - long before they become a big problem.”

For example, one of Burke’s recent projects was completed late last year, and he guarantees these homeowners would have had massive issues with water and would not have been able to use their basement this spring without the improvements made to their very old farmhouse.

“This particular basement was approximately 120 years old and full of nooks and crannies,” he said. ‘We installed a complete drain tile and sump system, and 1,800-sq-ft of moisture proof wall liner. Now they have no worries.”

Another family who was remodeling their entire basement last year wanted to ensure it would stay dry.

“They wanted to protect their investment,” Burke said. ‘So as part of the overall project, we installed a new drain tile system. That way, no matter what the melt is doing outside, they’ll be enjoying their refreshed space inside.”

Whether homeowners have an existing finished basement, or they recently invested time and money into a remodel, everyone wants to keep them dry. However, according to Burke, unless every crack or crevice is properly repaired, chances are they will end up getting wet.

“A waterproofed basement allows you to confidently enjoy more livable space,” he said. “It also prevents any harmful effects from mold or mildew issues on your family and can even help a house sell faster and for more money.”

With spring always the “busier” season for basement waterproofers, Burke recommends anyone with concerns about water schedule an appointment to have it inspected and repaired now so they can enjoy a nice dry home in the wet weeks ahead.

“The best thing they can do is get on the schedule now,” he explained. “Local firms may prove to be more agile, getting jobs scheduled more quickly. Larger companies that do a very high volume of work sometimes will need to schedule you several weeks or even months out – by then it could be too late with the way things are going outdoors right now.”

In addition to checking the structure of your home, Burke also reminds homeowners that sump pumps and battery backup pumps are essential in case of primary pump or power outage (which could lead to a flooded basement).

“Discharge lines also need to be free and clear, not frozen,” he added. “There will be a huge demand for sump pumps this spring. Places like Menards are stocking up in anticipation of the big demand.”

Even if you’ve never had a problem before, surface water can buildup around the foundation of any home and lead to a leaky basement.

“If the soil around your home becomes saturated with water, the extra weight can create pressure that forces water into your home,” Burke said. “When the groundwater levels outside the basement rise above the level of the floor, the basement acts like a boat in a pond. If a boat is sitting in water, water will leak in through any open cracks or holes. It works the same way with a basement. Hydrostatic pressure pushes the water into the basement through even the smallest cracks and joints, with water most commonly being pushed through the floor-wall joint. Hydrostatic pressure on the walls also pushes moisture through porous concrete block into your home, where the drier air inside of your basement sucks it up and makes your basement air more humid. Left unchecked, that excess condensation can cause mold and mildew. Most people don’t even realize it’s there. A rust spot under paint cans is a warning sign.”

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