April showers brings May flowers, right? Before the flowers start blooming, the typical rainfall we expect at the turn of the season, coupled with the snow that needs to melt means our basements are at risk for basement flooding. We give you a breakdown on why this happens and how you can prevent serious damage from occurring.
What’s the issue?
Ontario has seen its fair share of snow this winter, and the record-breaking cold temperatures in February mean that the frost levels in the ground around your home’s foundation may be deeper and take longer to lift. As a result, when the snow starts to melt or spring rains begin to fall, homeowners may experience problems with water in their basement, especially if there’s a drastic change from freezing to warm temperatures over a short period of time.
How does this happen?
When the ground is frozen, rain water or melting snow that otherwise would be absorbed into the soil will lie on the surface until it’s either absorbed into the air or finds a way to penetrate the surface, possibly into cracks or other openings into the foundation of your home. Deficiencies in how water is drained around the exterior of the house are a major cause of wet basements. Factors such as the type of soil and slope of the land around the foundation may help prevent or cause water to leak into the basement.
Here’s a checklist of what to do when spring rolls around to prevent basement flooding:
- Make sure the roof, eavestroughs, downspouts and grading direct water away from the house.
- Be sure you have drainage below the window wells. Without it, water may accumulate in the well and lead to possible leakage through or around the window.
- Make sure the grade inside the window well is at least 10 to 15 cm below the bottom of the window.
What if there’s no water? How do you know it’s going to happen?
Just because you don’t see signs of water seeping through the basement (yet) doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. A poor drainage system will continue to provide a large volume of water that will find its way in. Some of the telltale signs you have a water problem are water stains and peeling paint on walls or window frames. Water problems can also occur from inside the home from either the plumbing or HVAC systems.
If you have a finished basement, here’s some of the damage you’ll notice right away:
- Rotted or warped wood panelling and doors
- Loose floor tiles
- Mildew stains
- Smell or feeling of dampness in the air
- Water coming in through floor cracks
- Backed-up floor drains
- Leaky plumbing lines
TIP: The key is to identify and locate the source of the intrusion before more damage occurs. This way, you can protect your precious valuables!
If you suspect you have a problem, you should consider hiring a home inspector or other professional trained in the use of infrared thermography. Thermal imaging is one of the best tools available to detect the source of water entry. Instead of searching for moisture inch by inch with a moisture meter, an infrared camera using thermal imaging can provide a scan of the entire room within minutes.
A wet basement may require the help of more than one expert. Here are some guidelines to help you find the right one. Of course, you’ll want to consult our database of trusted professionals who can get your basement back in tiptop shape.
Basement waterproofing specialists – These pros specialize in repairing multiple cracks that cause reoccurring leaks. They’ll help you identify and correct the source of the flood.
Drywall contractors – If there are cracks in the foundation, you may need to call in a drywall specialist to patch up those cracks once the leak has been repaired.
Once the problem is corrected, you should also make sure you remove any wet or damp materials such as insulation, carpeting, tiling or wood because these materials are breeding grounds for mould. Check our online directory for a professional located in your area.
About the Author: Rob Parker is a Toronto Sun newspaper contributor.