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Snow Flooding

The snow that blankets your property may look pretty in winter, but it can cause significant damage to your home when temperatures rise above freezing and the snow begins to melt. According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), one inch of snow covering one acre of land can generate up to 5,400 gallons of water when melted. If the melted snow accumulates at your home’s foundation, it could likely drain into your home ruining your floors, walls, furniture and personal possessions.

Late winter/early spring is the most common time for snow flooding to occur, but it can happen at any time throughout the year. The effect of unpredictable temperature shifts can cause snow to fall one day and quickly thaw the next – setting the stage for snow flooding to occur. Snow flooding can cause costly home damage, but there are many steps you can take to prevent this from happening to your property. 

Before the start of winter

Make time for some preventive home care before the snow begins to fall.

Check for cracks in the foundation

Look for cracks in the foundation, basement walls and floor and fix them with hydraulic cement or caulk to stop the water from entering. If your basement has windows, check to make sure the caulking has a tight seal.

Inspect the landscaping grade around your home

To ensure that water flows away from your property, the grade around your home needs to slope away from your foundation. If it doesn’t, now is the time to add additional soil to build it up the slope.

Examine your gutters and downspouts

Clean out your gutters and downspouts to ensure water flows freely. Consider adding downspout extensions to move water even further from your home.

Test your sump pump

If you have a sump pump, test it to ensure that it’s still in working order. Pour a pail of water into the sump basin. If it doesn’t kick on, figure out why it’s not working and resolve the issue.

After the snow has fallen

Shovel snow away from your foundation

Before snow has a chance to melt, shovel it at least three feet away from your home, taking special care to remove it away from basement level windows and doors. Also, take care to move snow away far from downspouts so that water doesn’t collect near your foundation and potentially seep in. If you see large piles of snow or snowdrifts in your yard, spread out the snow so when it melts the all areas of your property will do so evenly.

Keep shoveled snow on your property

Remember to keep the snow you’ve shoveled on your property and not into the street. It’s essential to keep street drains and community catch basins clear so they can work to keep your neighborhood free of floods.

What to do if your home floods from snowmelt

If snow melting has caused your basement to flood, you need to work quickly to prevent major damage to your home and personal possessions. Here is some advice on what steps to take.

Get the water out

You need to remove the collected water as soon as possible to limit the damage and reclaim whatever items you can. Soak up surface water using towels and a mop. If the water is deeper, use a bucket or a pump to extract it. (Rent a pump, if necessary.) Once you’ve removed most of the water, collect what remains using a wet/dry vacuum. This works well on both hard surfaces and carpeting. Set up fans and dehumidifiers in the flooded area and run them for a few days.

Dry or get rid of damaged items

To address any moisture issues, you will have to dry or remove the damaged items in your basement within 24 hours to stop mold from growing. Dispose of anything water damaged that’s made of paper or cardboard. Remove any water-soaked furniture. Wet carpets and carpet padding should either be taken up or pulled back so that the floor can dry out. If your drywall was affected by the flooding and feels soft or flexible, the wet section should be removed along with any insulation that you may uncover behind it. Consider hiring a professional to do this work for you. If you choose to do it yourself, remember to first turn off the electricity before removing any drywall.

Do a thorough cleaning

Once the basement is finally dry, you’ll want to thoroughly sanitize the area to prevent mold and bacteria from growing. Use a scrub brush and apply a disinfecting cleaner (like bleach) mixed with hot water to your floor and walls. Be sure to wear gloves and safety goggles for protection.