How Can I Prevent Leaks in My Basement During the Winter?

Winter ice buildup can cause serious damage to your home and basement. In many cases, water will originate above the foundation. This may be due to poor attic insulation or ventilation, inadequate downspouts that cause ice damning, ice buildup or plugged window well drains.


Without proper insulation, heat loss will melt snow which will then freeze when it reaches the eaves. This ice builds up and pushes itself under the shingles. Then when there is a rain or heavy melt, water is damned by the ice and flows under the shingles into your home. This may present show up as water in the basement or water coming through the ceiling. Heating wires installed in valleys and at the eaves will help eliminate this problem. If you are new to the house, then I suggest you speak with neighbours and ask if they have any knowledge of this happening during previous winters.

Ice will also build up inside small downspouts or downpipes. Historically, the typical size installed was 2”x3”. This is often undersized for the winters here in Ontario. Downspouts that drain gutters from southern exposures are most prone to freezing. On cold sunny days, snow on southern exposures will melt and the cold water draining through the downspout (typically not exposed to sunshine) will freeze and eventually fill the downspout solid with ice. Once blocked the ice will continue to freeze and expand. The seam on the rear of the pipe will burst and allow water to escape out the back of the down pipe. It is possible for this water to then leak through brick, siding, or the foundation. The water that then builds up in the soil can cause cracking and leaking through
the foundation.

Take some time before winter to investigate all the down pipes around your house. Feel the back of the pipe where the seam is and check for broken or bulging seems. If you feel any abnormalities in the seam, have these replaced with at least 3”x” downspouts.  

Another area to inspect is any window wells that you may have. It is common for leaves or garbage to accumulate in the window well and leak through the window. If you see anything that should not be in the well, remove it. Additionally, it would be recommended that you water test your drains before winter. Just take a garden hose and let it run full strength and see how well it drains away. If the drain will not take the water away as quickly as your hose delivers it, then it would be better to have new drains installed. We would be happy to provide a free estimate for you.

These simple checks and precautions can eliminate thousands of dollars in damage from water leakage.

Have a Great Winter!

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