Many believe the threat of basement leaks declines as fall and winter arrive. No season is without its issues, so we want to make you aware of some common sources for basement leaks this time of year. Stay alert and realize your home can be vulnerable year-round.
Outside Sources of Basement Leaks in Winter
Any leak you encounter in your basement is ultimately caused by an accumulation of moisture. Whether it is a slow accumulation from humidity, condensation, or a pipe leak, or from a sometimes quicker accumulation from rain, ice, or snow that invades your home will dictate how you can proactively deal with the water. Let’s look at sources that come from outside our home first.
Leaking Window Wells
As winter approaches, be sure to check your window wells. The ground area around the well should be graded to divert water away. Over time, cracks in the window itself or the covering of the window well can allow rainwater or melting snow and ice to enter. Older window wells may leak at the seams even if there are no cracks visible to your eyes. To stop leaking window wells, be sure the grading is leading water away from the window well and caulk any cracks or seams that may need attention.
Improper Gutters and Downspouts and Grading
Gutters and downspouts are our home’s first defenses against water invasion. Their job is to direct roof water away from our home’s foundation. Over time, gutters and downspouts can become clogged with fallen leaves and other natural debris. Heavy rains can cause them to warp and dislodge, leaving the water to take the path of least resistance, which in most cases is right into the foundation of your home. Be sure to clean out your gutters, especially after the fall leaves have landed, and make sure the downspouts are connected and pointing water to flow away from your home.
The areas around your home that are not near downspouts should still be properly graded away from the home to direct the water. If not, water can easily pool and drain down into the basement walls causing leaks.
Improper Soil Conditions
The soil around your home plays a major role in how much water they hold. Clay-filled soil, which is predominant here in the South, does not allow water to easily drain. If your home is surrounded by clay-filled soil, know that you must be diligent in all other areas to keep your basement dry and in the best condition. If there is enough clay in the soil around your foundation, water can be trapped for long periods of time, causing strain on the walls of your foundation. Warning signs of clay-filled soil are standing water, consistently soggy soil, and bad odors. If these signs are present near the foundation of your home, it can lead to increased hydrostatic pressure and can cause leaking basements. (For more on hydrostatic pressure continue reading!)
As water seeps down through the ground around the outside of your basement walls, hydrostatic pressure is pushing against the walls of your basement. This means the weight of the water is pushing against the concrete foundational walls. If this pressure becomes strong enough or the integrity of the walls has aged and weakened, the water will seep into the basement walls. To prevent hydrostatic pressure from causing leaks, you ultimately must address where and why the water is building up so close to the foundational walls and then reinforce the interior walls through waterproofing methods.
Inside Sources of Basement Leaks in Winter
As mentioned before, water sources that cause basement leaks in winter are not limited to only the outside elements of rain, ice, and snow. We must take into account winter temperatures and how they can affect the indoor aspects of our basement. As temperatures decrease outside, we increase the temperature of our homes inside. This warmth radiates into our basements through pipes and electrical components, and the heat emitted can cause the ice or snow immediately surrounding our homes to melt, triggering leaks mentioned above. These temperatures also change things inside our basements.
Frozen pipes from the winter weather can easily burst, causing leaks in your basement. Make sure plumbing is properly insulated and protected during winter.
In the same manner, clogged pipes can be a source of basement leaks in winter. As the temperatures change outside, water and debris can freeze, stopping the flow of pipes from your home. If you notice a drain is slower than usual and your regular unclogging attempts do not solve the problem, it could indicate a slow or clogged drain way down the line. Unfortunately, these clogs usually end up presenting in the basements of our homes.
Sump Pump Problems and Failures
As hydrostatic pressure increases, a properly working sump pump is critical. It is always a good idea to run a quick check of your sump pump when the seasons change. For more details on properly maintaining your sump pump, check out our blog post 6 Sump Pump Mistakes. A little proactive maintenance can stop a lot of reactive damage and clean up!
Cracks in Basement Walls or Floors
As temperatures change, basement walls and floors expand and contract. Cracks in basement walls or floors can deepen or grow, allowing water to seep in. It is a good idea to monitor any cracks in your basement and have them evaluated by a professional. They will know if the cracks are a result of the benign settling of your home or an indication of a deeper problem that needs addressing.
Don’t Wait for Help
Aqua-Guard Waterproofing is here to help with any of the sources of basement leaks in winter. We are your waterproofing experts and provide free estimates. Whether it is repairing a sump pump or conducting a complete basement waterproofing, we are here to serve you. Contact us today to have your water problems solved!