Mid-Winter Snow Melt – Protecting your Custom-Built Home from Damage

The yearly freeze/thaw cycle in northern climates presents many challenges for homeowners, affecting everything from landscaping elements to structural materials, all of which need attention and protection. While many homeowners prepare adequately for the seasonal changes, there are always unpredictable surprises when Mother Nature is involved. Wisconsinites are not surprised by the unpredictable fluctuations in temperature and humidity season by season, yet unusual winters of multiple freeze/thaw cycles require more vigilance in protecting the home.

As witnessed in the past few weeks, heavy snowfall followed by warm temperatures produces a large amount of run-off in a short period of time. Since the ground is still hard and frozen, the soil cannot absorb the excess water. Homes situated close to riverbanks, streams and lakes are more prone to flood damage caused by excess water spilling over their banks, which may be covered by specific flood insurance. However, most homeowner policies do not cover flood damage; flood prevention in the home and yard is the homeowner’s responsibility. When snow melts quickly, nearly any home is at risk for flooding, even if it has never occurred before, which is why it is crucial to take the necessary steps for prevention.

The basement of the home is always the most likely area to be susceptible to flooding, and owners of newly restored luxury homes with older foundations need to be more aware of potential cracks and breaches for water to seep in. Water pooling on the exterior, following the sudden melting of snow build up, easily seeps through cracks, can cause a damp basement and further, lasting damage to the foundation of the home.

Keep snow away from your home. Big piles of snow close to the home’s foundation are future rivers to form, finding a way to seep into vulnerable areas. The carefully planned building considerations of gutters, rainspouts and other initiative to direct rainwater away from the home to prevent saturation of water by the home’s foundation are not sufficient guards during an unpredictable cold/warm, freeze/thaw cycle.

Clean gutters, however, are always a safeguard from unnecessary water accumulation that can seep into the foundation. Gutters, by design, direct water away from the eaves and foundation of the home. The fall cleanup does not prevent residual debris, leaves, twigs, etc. from causing drainage issues; keeping gutters clean year-round, particularly before snow starts accumulating, prevents a massive snow melt and flooding. Extending rain gutter downspouts further away from the home is another way to prevent water pooling by the home’s foundation.

Those unexpected warm, sunny days in mid-winter are always a welcome reprieve, but it is important to monitor snow melt, particularly as dropping temperatures will then re-freeze water that has seeped into cracks, causing further damage. Landscaping, pipes and the home’s foundation are all at risk, so stay vigilant during the winter temperature swings and make sure your custom-built home is protected.