How to protect your home from flooding this spring
Published Monday, March 4, 2019 2:24PM EST Last Updated Tuesday, March 12, 2019 8:16AM EDT
Most Canadians look forward to the spring thaw, but the arrival of warmer temperatures can often have a wet and damaging side effect: flooding.
Flooding can cause extensive water damage to property both inside and out. However, experts say the development of mold is a bigger concern that usually gets overlooked.
“You don’t want exposed mold especially if you have children. People are used to seeing mold in their homes but it can be detrimental to your health,” Carl McDowell, a flood prevention expert and contractor with Canada Waterproofers said in an interview with CTVNews.ca.
So what can you do to protect your home? Here are seven tips to keep in mind as we head into spring:
Keep snow away from your foundation
According to McDowell, keeping snow a few feet away from the foundation will help prevent melting snow from entering your home. It’s especially important to clear all ground level windows and doors.
Although it’s important to shovel snow away from the foundation of your home, you must keep the snow on your property in order to prevent municipal drains and community basins from getting blocked.
Community basins and municipal drains aren’t the only things that need to remain clear of snow and dirt. It’s critical to make sure all pumps, valves and drainage areas remain clear so that if snow, dirt and water get in, they can get back out.
“All drains need to stay open to do their job properly,” David Haines, a contractor from FloodMasters Canada said in an interview with CTVNews.ca.
Install a sump pump and backwater valve
According to McDowell and Haines, sump pumps and backwater valves are two of the best ways to prevent flooding. Sump pumps are particularly good for flat land areas with heavy precipitation and for those that live in low-lying areas, such as the bottom of a hill.
Water flows into the pump’s sump pit through drains or by natural water migration through the soil. The sump pump's job is to pump the water out of the pit and away from the building to keep the basement or crawlspace dry. A backwater valve is a device that prevents sewage in an overloaded main sewer line from backing up into your basement.
The discharge from the sump pump should always remain clear and extend two metres from the foundation of your home. If the discharge freezes, the pump can’t do its job properly and you get a flooded basement.
It’s important to make sure your home’s sump pump and backwater valve systems are always working efficiently.
“It’s always good to have a battery operated sump pump in case the power goes out,” McDowell said.
Check for and repair any cracks
Repairing any cracks in a home’s foundation will prevent leaks.
For exterior waterproofing, McDowell and his team find cracks in a house’s cinderblock foundation, grind them out using a hydraulic cement grinder, patch the walls with a cement mix and use something called Aqua-Bloc which is basically a “liquid foundation membrane.”
McDowell also suggested caulking around all windows and doors in the home.
“The bottoms of patio doors are where we get the most complaints of leaks,” McDowell said. “People think that it’s the foundation of their house causing the leaking but it’s really just the caulking around the frames of their doors and windows.”
Inspect your roof, eaves troughs and downspouts
Another way water can enter a home and cause flooding is when ice builds up on the roof and backs up under a shingle. This is called ice damming and according to McDowell, it can cause a lot of damage.
“That’s all to do with heat loss. People don’t have enough insulation in their homes and attics,” he said.
Poor insulation allows heat to escape to the attic and melt the snow on the roof. The melted snow travels into the eaves troughs, where it re-freezes. The ice then builds up, makes its way under the shingles and trickles into the attic as it melts again.
“Another thing homeowners should do to prevent flooding is to make sure their insulation is proper,” McDowell said.
McDowell recommended installing heating wire in your eaves troughs and along the perimeter of your roof will prevent ice damning from occurring and allow water to flow down the eaves troughs and away from the foundation.
“It’s a very small amount of heat but it just stops the ice damning,” he said.
A frozen downspout can cause flooding since the water can’t flow away from the home, especially if the downspout is not extended at least two metres from the foundation.
“You want to ensure excess water drains away from your home’s foundation properly,” McDowell said.
Make sure the ground slopes
According to McDowell, it’s important to create a slope that helps water flow away from the foundation of your home. This can be done during the warmer months by using additional soil in areas where the ground should be raised.
“If we’re doing waterproofing, we always make sure that the area we’re excavating is sloped away from the home to keep the water flowing at some distance away from the building. It’s the worst when water sits right up against the foundation,” McDowell said.
If you decide to create slopes, there are things to watch out for. Houses are usually built with a weeping system, which is basically a plastic pipe along the bottom and between the brick and wood layers of a house. If water gets in between any of those layers, it will flow down weeping tiles into the pipe and out the weeping spouts.
“What can happen when a landscaper comes and raises the ground is that can actually block the weeping spouts and reverse the flow of the water back into the home,” McDowell said.
Avoid laminate flooring
According to McDowell, laminate floors are basically cardboard. If you get a light leak, the cardboard soaks it up and expands. You’re better off tiling your basement or installing vinyl flooring just in case you don’t want to consider waterproofing.
Haines also recommended against exposing laminate flooring to moisture.
“If you have water damage, don’t assume that just because you’ve mopped it all up that everything’s OK. Moisture will wreak havoc on laminate floors especially if the material isn’t properly dried,” Haines said.
If all else fails, sandbags will provide an additional layer of support by acting as a barrier that diverts moving water in a different direction and away from your home.