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ABK Restorations Community Education Series: Winter Flooding & Water Damage

by Rachelle Wirth

Winter flooding and water damage: what you need to know

When you’re operating a business, you’ve got enough to worry about. The last thing you want is to discover water pouring into your basement or seeping into your roof.

Water damage can be caused by several things, ranging from flooding to ice damming. Ice dams are ridges of ice that form at the edge of a roof and can lead to melting snow leaking into a building, causing damage to walls, ceilings, and insulation.

Floods are a particularly big concern in the winter and spring. During the winter, most of the precipitation is stored as snow or ice on the ground and once the weather warms in the spring or during sudden winter thaws, huge quantities of water are released. In fact, snowmelt runoff floods are the most common type of flooding in Canada. So, it’s important to know what causes basement flooding and what steps you can take to mitigate the risks.

What can cause basement flooding? There are typically two main causes of basement flooding: either there’s drainage failure, which allows storm or ground water to seep into the property, or there’s a sewer backup.

Four seasons basement

The first scenario, drainage failure, can happen for several reasons. Some of these reasons include:

The second reason for flooding, sewer backup, could also be to blame. It can occur for a variety of reasons:

Clogs: Sewer backups are most commonly caused by clogs. Generally, if only one toilet or sink is affected, the clog is inside that drain, but if there’s a backup every time you flush or use any sink, the clog is likely in your main sewer line.

Tree roots: Damage to pipes or holes in pipes can be caused by tree roots either growing into them or wrapping themselves around the pipe and crushing it. Broken or collapsed pipes: Nowadays, plastic pipes are the industry standard, but older homes may have cast iron piping and are especially at risk of broken or collapsed pipes (especially in the winter).

Luckily, there are several ways to protect your building to help ensure that you don’t experience any flooding or water damage this season.

What can you do to help prevent water damage?

Protection against water damage can take place both inside and outside of your property. Let’s start with what you can do outside:

Seal off your building: Cracks in walls, windows, floors, and foundations can let water in, so waterproofing sealant should be applied as needed. Snow removal is the name of the game: Clear away snow from around your building’s foundation (especially near window wells), so that you can better protect your building against that water when it melts. You’ll also want to clear excess snow off your roof, so it doesn’t melt and drip near your foundation. Hiring a professional service for this task may be best, as it can be dangerous. Plus, while they’re up there, they can clear your eavestroughs, too!

Don’t forget about your roof: Ice dams on the roof can melt and cause water damage, too. It’s a good idea to install an ice and water shield membrane under the roof covering at least six feet from the eavestroughs line.

Landscaping is critical: In order to divert water away from the building, landscaping plays a critical role. But it must be done before the winter. That way, when the water starts to flow in the spring, it’s away from your building’s foundation.

Clear catch basins: To facilitate drainage, snow, ice, and debris should be removed from catch basins, as it can build up during the winter.

Don’t forget about your downspouts: Clearing out downspouts, just like you did your catch basins, is a good idea. Downspouts should also extend at least two meters away from your foundation.

And last, but not least, a pump: If you’re still finding water is pooling near your foundation, it might be a good idea to rent a pump and drain it into a gutter. Now that you’ve worked to protect the outside of your building from flooding, you must be thinking “what can I do inside my building to protect against flooding?”

Here are some tips:

Seal off the inside, too: Just like you did with the outside, it’s important to make sure that cracks in walls inside the house are fixed.

Remember to check upstairs: To mitigate the risk of ice dams, have your roof inspected to ensure the attic is well-ventilated. Also check that the attic is properly insulated, to minimize the amount of heat rising from the house, potentially causing snow to melt.

Check your plumbing system: Be sure to have your plumbing system checked to ensure it’s in proper working order. Consulting a professional is recommended. During the winter, if you’re away for more than three days, drain the plumbing system or arrange to have someone come in daily and check that your heat is still on.

Keep your pipes clear: To prevent backups from happening in the first place, try to keep your pipes clear. That means no flushing trash down the toilet or pouring any fats or oil down the drain.

Consider getting a backwater valve or sump pump: While these solutions are more time consuming and costly, if you’re having trouble with flooding, they may be well worth it. Sump pumps collect water that accumulates around your business while backwater valves can prevent sewers from backing up into your basement.

Be ready for a power outage: There’s no point in having a sump pump if you have no way of keeping it running when the power goes out. Consider getting a backup power source for those winter blackouts.

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