THE GROUND IS FROZEN AND IT'S POURING RAIN...
Wild weather swings seem to be a part of life at this point. It's minus 10 on Wednesday and 11 degrees on Friday. And we wonder why our roads look post-apocalyptic every spring?
At some point(s) in winter (any season), we can almost count on the weather forecast to throw us a curveball. Some of those weather changes are a pleasant surprise while others can cause serious problems. This article is looking specifically at the winter curveballs.
As we head into the 4th week of January, we've been in a deep freeze with temperatures in the negative double digits. As I write this, my phone tells me it is -11c with a wind chill of -17c. If you're unsure how cold it is, watch a Realtor try to put a for sale sign in the front yard of a home. There's a reason why many show up with a power drill. That ground is frozen solid! And here is where the trouble arrives.
In the next week, the weather forecasters are calling for warming temperatures with 25+ mm of rain in the middle of the week. In the warmer months, that amount of rain is no problem since it just soaks into the ground and goes on its way. Here in the frozen weeks of January, that rain hits the frozen ground and has no where to go but the path of least resistance.
THE DREADED ICE DAM
Starting on your roof, the amount of snow build-up can be a huge concern. Fortunately for many of us in Niagara, we don't currently have 3 feet of snow on our roof however, you'll want to keep an eye on ice build-up near your eavestroughs. What happens is all of that rain comes down your roof and finds its way under the snow and ice. If it can't find a clear path to the ground (gravity and all that), it can get pushed up underneath your overhang and into an interior wall.
Here is an image that illustrates the ice dam process caused simply by heat loss through your roof, not even factoring in rain:
Source: University of Minnesota
CLEAN THOSE EAVES IN THE FALL
Eavestroughs that are stuffed full with last years leaves won't be able to do their job. If yours are clogged, there may be an opportunity to clear them still here in the winter, however, we highly recommend you find a company that can come and do that work for you. Sorry for all of the math but ladders + snow and ice further support the statement that most accidents occur at home.
When it's raining, have a look at your downspouts and see if they're flowing or not. If it's raining and you don't see any water flowing, that water is going somewhere. Either it's free-flowing over your eavestroughs or it's finding another path (see Ice Dam above).
GRADING IS KEY
Now back to that frozen ground. If the grading around your home slopes towards the house, the rain is going to run across the ground and find its way to your foundation. A few things can happen here.
If you have functional exterior weeping tile, it will trickle down to there and hopefully find it's way to the street. Remember though that the surface is frozen down several inches so the normal absorption of the ground won't be helping you. If your foundation has any weak spots, the water may find it's way in there too, so you can probably expect to see evidence of moisture in the corresponding basement rooms.
For an example, think of the patio that has sloped over the years and is essentially a funnel for the water to run towards your foundation. If there is a window bin in the proximity of the H2O hiighway, keep an eye on it. We have seen many times over the years where water actually accumulates in the window bin and leaks through the window itself. If you have concrete that has sloped and sunk towards your home, there are several companies out there that can come and inject a material underneath the concrete to bring it back to where it should be. That is money extremely well spent.
If the rain is heavy enough, water will simply pool beside your home and work tirelessly to find a way further into the ground. Regrading around your home in January is not likely on your to-do list but as we approach the spring where heavy rains typically take place, it's well worth your time to take a walk around your home and see where the weak spots are. You may be 6 bags of top soil away from a serious hassle.
SUMP PUMP PROBLEMS
Quite often we see sump pump drain lines that simply dump the water 3 feet away from the foundation. If the grading in that particular area isn't moving in the proper direction, the water simply flows back towards the home, finds its way down to the weeping tile and ground water with some of it cycling back through the sump pit.
So, if you have a sump pump, have a look at where it is draining and make sure that water is on it's way to another location. With a heavy rain, it's going to be running more than normal which means it'll be more important to make sure the entire system is functioning.
...and if you don't have a back-up battery, it's probably a great time to start investigating your options.
Try not to be! When we go through homes that have had water in the basement, it is quite often a simple issue that was ignored or that the owner was not aware of. The above info is a basic list of what you may consider when we ride the weather roller coaster that we often find ourselves on.
If you are unsure what to do or would like to chat further about this, please don't hesitate to reach out. We're happy to help.