What Happens After Snowmelt in Ohio?

Snow can build up around your foundation and on your roof. Snowmelt runoff can find its way to your basement or crawl space. Here’s insight into how to avoid flooding.

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There’s quite a range of annual snowfall across Columbus, Cincinnati, and Dayton averaging 27, 11, and 12 inches, respectively. It can be beautiful at the beginning, followed by slush, ice, and water runoff that can lead to flooding. Plus, that flooding isn’t restricted to our rivers and low-lying areas. It can also find its way into your basement or crawl space. 

Snow, Snow, Everywhere Snow

Snow can float and drift down covering nearly everything. Of course, it can also blow, building up big drifts, usually around our homes and on top of our driveways. Shoveling all that out can be a big hassle. Snow also collects on our roofs, building up weight and water. 

As the temperature rises, the snow begins to melt into water that seeps into the soil around our homes, creating a muddy mess. Plus, that snowmelt also runs off the roof. Hopefully, that runoff finds the gutters and downspouts and flows off your landscaping that’s been perfectly graded to help water to stay away from the foundation.

Ice on the Roof

If only that were the case. Unfortunately, the thaw happens not all at once but over time. With warming daytime temperatures and a bit of sunshine, the water starts to flow only to be halted at night with freezing temperatures. That forms ice and what is known as ice dams. 

The ice dams hold up the next day’s snowmelt, building even more ice. At the same time, ice can form in the gutters and downspouts. This in turn causes any water to run directly off the roof and onto the already saturated and often frozen soil around the home’s foundation.

Snowmelt Follows Gravity

That’s where the insidious nature of water comes into play. It seeks out and finds a way to follow gravity’s pull toward the lowest level it can find.

That journey begins on the roof but soon ends up on the soil around your home. The snowmelt that’s already on the ground, combined with the rooftop runoff, tries to not only follow the top-level graded landscape but also seeps deep into the soil, forming an underground water flow.

The underground water flows toward the basement or crawl space due in large part to the clay bowl effect. That’s where the soil around the foundation exhibits a higher drainage factor than the surrounding soil. 

This happened during the original excavation for foundation construction. The replacement backfill is looser, more porous, and more absorbent than the undisturbed soil around it. That causes the water to go in the opposite direction to your carefully graded landscaping.

Hydrostatic Pressure on the Foundation

All that water, seeping through the soil, forms around the basement or crawl space walls. This builds up significant hydrostatic pressure that can easily find any cracks or openings in the foundation. It can also cause those cracks. Then, but during the winter, the water freezes and expands the cracks it finds.

Getting Ready for Snowmelt

The best way to avoid basement or crawl space flooding due to snowmelt is by taking the necessary steps to prevent it in the first place. Here are various ways to prepare your home.

  • Install and Maintain Gutters and Downspouts. It’s critical to install the correct size gutters and downspouts and then keep them clear of obstructions. Clean the leaves out in the fall and repair any damage promptly. 
  • Use Downspout Extensions and Landscape Grading. Install extensions on your downspouts or have these lines placed in the ground to ensure that the snowmelt from the roof moves well away from the foundation. That’s where the landscape grading comes into play, forming a gentle slope to keep that water moving.
  • Remove Rooftop Snow. A great deal of snow buildup on your roof can not only add a dangerous amount of weight but the water runoff and ice formation can lead to flooding. A roof rake is a safe way of pulling excess snow off the roof before it becomes a problem.
  • Remove Snow From Around Your Foundation. Snow can drift around the foundation. Plus, shoveling walkways and driveways can stack up snow around the foundation. Move that excess snow four to six feet away from the basement or crawl space walls.
  • Insulate Your Attic and Foundation. Snowmelt can also occur when heat escapes from the attic or foundation walls. Installing more insulation can not only reduce melting but also save on energy costs.
  • Waterproof the Foundation. Any cracks should be fixed and an interior drainage system can be installed to remove any leaks before they become serious flooding. A sump pump with a battery backup is a big part of the waterproofing process.
  • Interior Drainage System Maintenance. If you already have a drainage system, make sure it is functioning properly. It’s also important to monitor the system for freezing drain lines that quickly lead to sump pump burnout and flooding.

Get ready for snowmelt this spring with a free inspection and repair estimate from the basement waterproofing and foundation repair experts at Ohio Basement Authority who bring years of professional experience to your home.

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