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Protect Your Custom Home from the Winter Thaw

After a long winter that included record cold temperatures and more snow then we have seen in Southeastern Wisconsin in a long time, this warm spell may be good for the psyche, but it might not be so great for your house. 

Drainage issues, roof problems and maintenance oversights could result in leaks now that the snow is melting. 

You may not be able to solve the underlying problems until all of the snow is gone and spring has truly arrived, but you can take some measures now to prevent or minimize damage, experts say. 

What to remember as the temperatures rise and we wait for warmer weather. 

 Clear the snow. 

Once the ground thaws, melting snow acts much like an extended rainfall. As the ground absorbs the inches of snow, it may have nowhere to go and can collect against your house and seep into your basement.

You may be able to prevent a basement leak by shoveling snow and ice away from the foundation wall on the uphill side of your house. But don’t just leave the snow there in a pile. Remove any remaining snow and move it to a lower part of the yard, or else it will just melt and run back toward the house. 

Check the drainage. 

Be sure you have clear, uncrimped outlets for your roof’s downspouts and the foundation drain that runs underground around the perimeter of your house. Those systems usually drain to either the street or someplace on your property. Sometimes the downspouts empty into the foundation drain. 

Check that the openings from the gutters to the downspouts are clear, too.

Make sure water from your downspouts is directed well away from your house. That may require adding a flexible downspout extension that’s long enough to carry the water to a lower part of the yard. 

Check your sump pump. 

If water does get into your basement, a sump pump is designed to get it out. Now’s a good time to make sure that pump is working. 

Pull up on the float to make sure the pump turns on. 

Safeguard your valuables. 

The contents of your basement are vulnerable during a flood. Take a few minutes to make sure anything valuable is stored in waterproof containers or lifted an inch or more off the floor — perhaps on shelves, pallets or other supports.  

Protect a flat roof. 

While the snow has already melted off peaked roofs, snow and ice can remain longer on flat roofs. Those roofs are designed to be waterproof, but if you already have a small leak, it can turn into a big one during a thaw. 
Make sure the drains on the roof are open, so melting snow can escape easily. It’s OK to remove snow and ice from the roof if you can, but don’t chip off the ice. You could cause further damage.

Check for faucet leaks. 

You may be tempted to wash your car on one of these warm days, but be cautious. The stem leading to your outdoor faucet can break if water freezes inside it, which will cause a leak when you turn the faucet on. If the leak is indoors, you might not even be aware of it.

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