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Protecting Your Home Against Snowmelt Flooding

The snow that blankets your property may look pretty during the 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 rain covering one acre of land can generate up to 27,154 gallons of water. That’s the equivalent of four or five inches of heavy, wet snow.1

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

Causes of snowmelt flooding

The causes of snowmelt flooding can vary, making it hard to predict when it will happen. Knowing the factors that contribute to snowmelt flooding can help you be better prepared.

  • Temperature fluctuations
  • Snow accumulation
  • Heavy spring rains
  • Sloping terrain
  • Ground frost and frozen soil 

How snowmelt flooding can impact your home

Whether you’re in the city or in a rural area, damage from melting snow is a real risk for those who live in areas that experience snow. Understanding the type of damage associated with snowmelt flooding can help you prevent it.

  • Structural damage – Melting snow can cause water to pool close to your home, at the foundation. Water can then seep into seams and cracks of your foundation, which may lead to future structural damage. 
  • Damage to personal belongings – If floodwater enters your home, it can damage personal belongings, especially those stored on the ground.
  • Mold growth – Standing water can lead to mold, which can be costly to remove and can put your health at risk.

Preventive measures to protect your home

Snow removal and management

  • Shovel snow away from your foundation – Keep snow at least three feet away from your home, taking special care to move it away from basement-level windows and doors. Shoveled snow should be kept on your property and not moved onto the street. Street drains and community catch basins must be kept clear so they can work to keep your neighborhood free of floods.  
  • Snow pile placement – If able, place snow piles away from the home and downhill, close to any runoff areas on your property.

Elevating utilities and valuables

  • Reduce the risk of service disruptions – Taking the time to have a professional raise or mount equipment, such as electric and gas meters or furnaces, can prevent costly damage and service interruptions. 
  • Protect your valuables – Storing your personal property on shelves and in sturdy plastic containers can prevent water damage. Consider elevating any furniture stored in your basement. 

Keep gutters and drains clear

  • Clean your gutters and downspouts – Clear snow and debris out of and away from your gutters and downspouts so melting snow can drain properly. Check out our gutter cleaning article for tips on doing so safely.
  • Update your drainage system – Consider adding downspouts or downspout extensions to aid in moving water farther from your home. Make sure the water flows away from the structure's foundation, so water doesn't pool nearby or leak into your home. 

Waterproof your basement

  • Seal the cracks – Check the basement walls and floor for cracks, and fix them with hydraulic cement or caulk to prevent water from entering. If your basement has windows or doors, check to make sure the caulking has a tight seal.

Make use of a sump pump

  • Sump pump checkup – 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.
  • Install a sump pump – If you do get water in your basement, you may want to look into having a sump pump installed. Investing in a sump pump can prevent long-term damage to your home and loss of your belongings. Those experienced in DIY projects may be able to install a sump pump on their own. If you’re not comfortable taking on this task, it’s best to reach out to a professional.

Assess the surface around the foundation perimeter

  • Inspect your foundation – Similar to the basement, you should check the exterior foundation for any cracks and set aside time to fill them in.
  • Check your landscaping – To ensure that water flows away from your home, the ground needs to slope away from your property. If it doesn’t, now is the time to re-grade your yard.

Warning signs and what to do

Common warning signs

Snowmelt floods can happen suddenly. Identifying three key warning signs can keep you one step ahead:

  • Unusual temperature changes
  • Rapid snowmelt
  • Ice dam formation

What to do when you spot warning signs

If you’ve identified signs of water damage from snowmelt flooding, it’s important to be aware of next steps. Acting quickly can limit the damage done to your home. Follow our homeowner’s checklist for water and flood damage cleanup

  1. Document damage
  2. Take immediate action to get the water out
  3. Contact insurance provider
  4. Dry and disinfect
  5. Dispose of damaged items or those that pose health risks
  6. Contact professional help if needed 

Does home insurance cover snowmelt flooding?

Unfortunately, snowmelt flooding can happen to even those who are prepared. Basic homeowners insurance doesn’t cover water damage caused by floods or sewer overflow. Additionally, losses that result from neglect or maintenance issues wouldn’t qualify for reimbursement, which is why proactive home care is essential. Types of water damage that wouldn’t be covered under your base policy include:

  • Snowmelt and flash flooding
  • Groundwater seepage

As your policy doesn’t cover snowmelt flooding or groundwater, you may be wondering, does home insurance cover water damage?

As a general rule, if your water damage was caused by a sudden and accidental peril listed in your policy, the damages are likely to be covered. Some examples of water damage typically covered under a basic homeowners policy result from:

  • Burst pipes and plumbing fixtures
  • Wind-driven rain and hail
  • Roof leaks caused by falling objects
  • Appliances that break down suddenly (washing machines, dishwashers, etc.)

It’s important to note that home insurance policies vary. It’s best to review the coverages on your policy and reach out to your insurance carrier if you have any questions.

Prevention through protection

You don’t have to wait for melting snow to start your preparations. Preventive maintenance can be done any time of year. And remember, when snow does fall, keep it away from the perimeter of your home and off the street.

Check your policy to ensure you have proper coverage in place. Adding a water backup endorsement can cover you in the event of a loss caused by sump pump failure, drain backup and more.

Protect yourself from the most common natural disaster. Learn more about flood insurance

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