LIMA — Keeping moisture out of your home in spring seems about as easy as raking leaves in a tornado. However, it’s one of those things that is crucial for the integrity of your home and health of those living in it.
As snow melts and the ground thaws, moisture is everywhere. It comes at no surprise that the moisture easily finds its way into your home — everywhere from the basement to the attic.
Brian Brown, service supervisor for Brown’s Heating, Cooling, Plumbing & Electrical said he receives a lot of calls in the spring because of sump pumps not working, which leads to basement flooding.
“Sump pumps don’t get used a whole lot in the winter time, but in the spring there’s ground water and a lot of rain. You need to make sure they are working properly,” Brown said. Referring to general home maintenance, “When you check your smoke detectors, check your sump pump.”
Brown also explained that a frozen water spigot sometimes causes problems in your basement.
“Your outdoor spigots can freeze so when you turn those on in the spring, you may have a split in your device and may not be aware of it,” he said.
The split can occur when a small amount of water is left in the outside device where you connect your hose. Come winter, that water freezes and sometimes cracks it. When you go to turn the spigot on again in the spring, that crack will cause the water to spray inside of your home where you might not be able to see.
Brown suggested, “If you have an unfinished basement or a drop ceiling, have someone watch from the basement as another person turns on the outside device,” He added that if a person has a finished basement, “Monitor that area to make sure there’s no wet spots developing on the ceiling.”
To prevent the device cracking at all for next winter, Brown said, “You can buy a frost-free spigot where it will automatically drain itself.”
A winter’s deep freeze can also wreak havoc in many other ways, including damaging a home’s foundation. This is another way moisture can enter a home.
Senior Project Manager John Clements for The Basement Doctor explained the ground’s freezing process.
“It’s kind of like water in an ice cube tray. You fill it up half way and put it in the freezer, but when you take it out later is it still the same size? No. It expands when it freezes, and so does the ground.”
This expansion pushes against a home’s foundation. Clements said, “Check your basement walls. Look for cracks that are new or have gotten bigger.”
Clements explained that there is not much you can do to prevent the cracks, but “if you catch the cracks early, you can save a lot of money in the long run,” he said.
Keeping cracks to a minimum may also help to keep the amount of moisture down. However, there are many other ways your basement collects and retains moisture. It may also come from improper drainage, a high water table, cracks in the floor, and poor basement ventilation.
Clements explained that they have several processes of sealing off basements from outside moisture for both basements and crawl spaces.
“We use vinyl sheeting that’s extremely durable. It makes the wall look pretty, but it also acts as a drainage board if there’s any seepage. We install a three-inch tile that runs around your basement so if something leaked from the foundation, it would run behind the wall to your sump pump, and you’d still have dry basement,” Clements said.
As for preventing water from ever getting into your basement in the first place, Clements explained, “The most important thing is to keep water away from your house. Make sure your gutters are clear and that they dump at least 10 feet out. You should also have a sump pump in good working order with a battery backup. “
A chronically wet basement will inevitably create a moldy basement. Exposure to mold can result in allergic, irritant, or toxic reactions, as well as infections. Those infections can vary from skin problems to flu-like symptoms or even pneumonia, according to www.mayoclinic.org.
As if health concerns weren’t enough, moisture in a home can rot wood, too. This can sometimes happen when the moisture creeps in under a roof’s shingles during a process called ice damming.
According to a Schroer & Sons Contracting blog at www.westernohiometalroofing.com/icedamming, “An ice dam occurs from unequal temperatures between the roof surface and the attic. Snowfall piles up on the roof and cools the surface of the roof. Heat from inside the home rises and melts the snow piled up on the roof. The melted snow trickles down the roof and when it meets colder temperature at the eave, it turns to ice. As snow continues to melt, some water becomes trapped above the ice dam. This pooled water has nowhere to go. Too often it finds an opening in the roof surface and causes a leak.”
Ryan Schroer with Schroer & Sons Contracting explained simply, “Ice and snow that has been sitting on asphalt shingles all winter long may get a small amount of moisture underneath the eaves. That’s generally why a lot of folks have rotting wood.”
In addition, Schroer said that a telltale sign to know if your home has ventilation problems in a particular area is to pay attention to the size of icicles it creates in the winter. “All homes get icicles but the ones with a major amount of ice have the biggest ventilation problems.”
Icicles may form where heat from the sun beats, or heat from a home leaks, and causes snow and ice on the roof to melt. The water then drips down and then refreezes as it climbs down an icicle. The icicle will keep growing as one particular warm spot continues to melt the snow.
Schroer said he would recommend people getting an attic inspection if they suspect problems like these. “We use thermal imaging to see where there is heat loss and where in-take ventilation should be,” he explained.
If you suspect any water damage, mold concerns or foundational issues with your home, it is always best to seek a professional’s advice. Addressing issues early on in a problem will save a homeowner time, money, and help to keep those living in it safe.