Winter around Lake Michigan can be pretty spectacular – ice, snow, high winds. It’s rough on those who live in the area, even the ones who like to brag about how tough they are.
Winter’s rough on homes in northwest Indiana, too. High winds wreak havoc on shingles and shutters, cold temperatures can freeze pipes and heavy snow loads can damage trees and cause leaky roofs.
Although it might not be the first thing that comes to mind, winter can also cause many basement water problems, most of which can be avoided.
There are a number of ways in which winter weather can cause damage to a basement, especially in northwest Indiana, but two stand out above the rest.
Lake Effect Snow – The unique weather phenomenon of lake effect snow occurs when cold winter winds blow across the warmer waters of large lakes. In the U.S. and Canada, it occurs primarily around the Great Lakes region; northwest Indiana (along with western Michigan) is particularly vulnerable because of the area’s prevailing wind patterns.
The lake effect means that homeowners in northwest Indiana are much more likely to experience significant snow accumulations, even when neighboring Chicago is high and dry.
Lots of snowfall means lots of snow piled up around foundations and, come an unseasonably warm winter day or the long-awaited spring, lots of water in the ground resulting from snowmelt. Even before spring rains begin, homeowners in northwest Indiana are likely to experience basement water problems as the ground begins to thaw and all that melted snow creates seepage problems.
Of course, all that snow piles up on roofs, too, and that combines with another major winter headache to create not only basement seepage but water problems in a completely different area of the home.
Cold Temperatures – Besides being threatened with frostbite, northwest Indiana homeowners face another challenge from cold temperatures.
Severe cold can damage gutters, downspouts and roofs. In a typical winter scenario, an overnight snowfall accumulates on a home’s roof only to begin to melt when daytime temperatures rise. This problem is made worse when inadequate insulation inside the home or improper ventilation of the roof from outside speeds up melting.
Ice dams occur when this snowmelt runs into gutters and then re-freezes when night falls and temperatures drop. The expanding ice pushes up under shingles and causes the roof to leak. Bad news for basements is that ice dams can also damage gutters, causing them to bend outward and sag from their mountings. Next time it rains, these gutters will spill a lot of water over their edges, dumping it next to the foundation.
Ice dams, and the damage to gutters and roofs, are worsened by clogged downspouts, which will freeze and cause further back-up of water from melting snow.
So, what does the smart northwest Indiana homeowner do to prepare? Not much can be done to prevent snowfall but the basement water problems that would otherwise result can be prevented by making sure safeguards such as drain tile or exterior waterproofing membrane are in place and that the sump pump, a crucial part of any basement waterproofing system, is working properly.
Avoid ice dams and the resulting damage to roofs and gutters by making sure gutters are clean and flowing freely before the snow flies and that downspouts are clear of obstructions. Roof damage can be averted by maintaining adequate insulation in the attic and ensuring that there is proper outside air flow under the roof itself.
Preparing a northwest Indiana basement for the rough winter ahead is a job for a basement waterproofing expert that knows the area and understands how to safeguard basements in the worst conditions. At U.S. Waterproofing, we’ve been helping homeowners in Valparaiso, Hammond and Crown Point with their basement water problems for decades and our advisors are ready to help any northwest Indiana homeowner get through the coming winter. Why not ask for a free consultation?
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