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Snow Near Your Foundation- The Do’s and Don’ts

Author: Ohio Homeworx
Date: February 17, 2023

Did you know that snow can be detrimental to your home's foundation? It might seem crazy, but it's true. Winter storms can bring in a lot of snow. When the temperature starts to rise, that snow starts to melt. Melted snow turns into water, and the water left behind can put your foundation at serious risk. The amount of moisture surrounding our homes during the winter months is a lot for the soil to handle. This makes it susceptible to harm. The weather also is unpredictable during the winter, which makes your foundation vulnerable. It's important to take the right measures at the right time to ensure your home and foundation are safe. Let's talk about what that means.

How Snow Harms Your Foundation

There is more unpredictability in the forecast now than ever before. As we know, snow can come alongside extremely harsh weather conditions. The problem is not knowing when or how bad it will hit. Regardless, the winter months come with snow, rain, and melt-off. This is an endless cycle when it's cold outside. Between the three, your foundation and soil are always covered in moisture. In the summer, the warm temperatures allow moisture to evaporate. In the winter, this can't happen. Instead, the low temperatures trap the moisture. This can lead to frost heave. Constant moisture unable to evaporate can be dangerous for your foundation's stability.

Large icicles hanging from a snowy roof during the winter. Ohio Homeworx logo bottom right.

The unpredictable winter weather usually causes rising and falling temperatures. This rise and fall creates a freeze-thaw cycle. This cycle makes the soil expand. The expanding places pressure against your foundation, which can cause it to shift. Most homeowners don't realize how forceful freeze-thaw conditions can be. They can shift and damage foundation walls and floors with severity. The pressure causes cracks to appear in interior and exterior walls. It can also cause your floors to sink or your doors and windows to stick. On top of all that, it can also cause water damage to your basement.

Another problem is water freezing. The melted snow, frost, or ice are prone to refreezing in the cracks which causes the cracks to grow larger. As they continue to grow larger, the settlement in your home will continue to get worse.

Preparing for Winter Weather

The best way to protect your foundation from winter weather is to prepare before it begins.

Before the cold weather comes, look around and pinpoint potential signs of damage. Even if they seem minor, pinpoint it and know where it is. Minor signs can turn into serious damage during this time. Keep an eye out for any wall cracks, especially if they are vertical and or wide. Look for jammed doors, moisture in the basement, cracks in the slabs, and buckling or uneven floors.

Next, clean your gutters. Debris left in your uncleaned gutters can create dams. These prevent moisture from draining away from your roof, walls, and foundation. This means water can pool and permeate, creating significant damage. If your gutters need to be repaired, do it before the snow arrives. After the gutters are clean, make sure that your downspouts are directing water away. Downspouts prevent water from lingering close to the perimeter. You may need to extend yours if they're not diverting excess moisture far enough away from your roof. You should also make sure your windows are ready. Windows that have cracks can let moisture into your walls and or foundation. Make sure to seal any cracks, if necessary, beforehand to keep water out.

Safeguarding Your Home During Winter Months

If you own a home in a snowy climate, you're surely familiar with having to shovel or plow your sidewalks and driveway after a storm. But, did you know that it's just as important to remove snow from around your home's foundation? Indeed, keeping snow away from the perimeter of your house is one of the best things you can do to prevent foundation damage.

Person shoveling snow off of a set of stairs during the winter. Ohio Homeworx logo bottom left.

Once the snow has finally hit, the best thing to do is to clear it away from your home as much as possible. Be mindful of where you're piling your snow when you shovel. You NEVER want to pile snow too close to your foundation. The goal is to move snow away from your foundation, so piling it near it is redundant. In an ideal world, you should pile your snow at least a few feet away from your foundation and home. In fact, the further away, the better. If you have a garden, this would be a good spot for snow piles. The garden will absorb excess moisture when the snow melts. This is an ideal spot because it offers enough distance to keep your foundation safe.

If you're able to do it safely, clearing snow off of your roof is beneficial. The act of clearing it off allows you to shovel it away from your house. This will prevent it from drenching your foundation when it melts. To put it into perspective, ten inches of powdery snow will melt into thousands of gallons of water. The more snow you're able to move away from your foundation before it melts, the better. This ensures your foundation has the best chance of surviving the winter months. Even if you don't currently have any foundation damage, this still pertains to you. Melting snow saturates the soil around your house. The expanding soil volume can exert pressure. This pressure can cause your foundation and cause it to bow or crack, even if it was fine before.

After the Snow Melts

Once the temperatures rise and the snow has melted, it's important to assess the damage. If you have already pinpointed potential signs or spots for damage, this may be easier. Even if there was no damage prior, it could be important to assess and double-check.

If you follow both prevention tips and handle the snow as it comes down before it melts, you're going to be in good shape. If you haven't taken precautions or monitored the snow, you may have bigger issues. Foundation issues can start off small, but they can also escalate at a rapid pace. This is even more true when harsh weather has a say. The longer issues go unrepaired or unnoticed, the worse they will get. Your foundation is necessary for your home's structural integrity. You're putting your home at risk for greater damage and also more costly repairs if you're not keeping up. Not to worry, the sooner you notice any damage to your foundation, the sooner you can get it repaired. We can help you assess your foundation and repair any damage the harsh weather may have caused.

Contact us today to learn more or get a quote on foundation repairs!

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