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Our Tips to Prepare for the Spring Thaw

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Preparing your home for spring means getting ready for the spring thaw – and this year, it’s going to be a big one.

We had over 170 centimetres of snow in January and February 2019. That’s double our average amount of snowfall. Climatologist Dave Phillips from Environment Canada even gave Ottawa an award for most miserable winter.

All that snow has to go somewhere when the temperature rises. Uses these tips from our owner Dave Smythe and our team of expert plumbers to protect your home from meltwater and prevent flooding.

Outside Your Home

1. Clear Ice and Snow Away from Your House. Any snow packed up against the side of your house or covering your drains will seep right into the ground around your foundation.

You can reduce the risk of meltwater entering your basement by shoveling snow out and away. We recommend doing at least 3 feet around your house.

“Don’t forget to also clear snow and ice away from your outdoor lines and drains,” Dave says. If they’re blocked, water that your sump pump expels will have nowhere to go but back to your basement.

2. Check the Grading Around Your House. While this is something that most yards already have, the freeze-thaw cycle can impact the ground on your property. You should make sure that any meltwater from snow piles will naturally flow away from your home thanks to the slope of your yard.

If your yard isn’t graded so water will flow away from your basement, you may have to look into regrading your lawn by adding more top soil and raking it into your low points. You can talk to a landscaping professional for more information.

3. Clear Gutters and Downspouts. Your gutters may not be catching leaves like they would in the fall, but ice and snow can build up during the winter.

“Your downspouts will play an important role in the spring thaw, and should be cleared of obstructions and pointed well away from your house,” says our plumber Craig.

Tip: If your street drain (ususually a metal grille or disc with holes in it) is blocked by ice and snow, you may clean it off. When blocked, you’ll quickly get large puddles, and that water could seep its way towards your foundation if your house is close to the street.

4. Look for Cracks in Your Foundation. Now is the perfect time to check your foundation for cracks. If you find any, we recommend having them assessed by a company that specializes in foundation repairs and waterproofing.

Inside Your House

1. Ensure Your Sump Pump is Working. One of the most important steps to take when preparing your home for spring is to make sure your sump pump is working. It is your first line of defense against a flood basement and expensive water damage. Learn more about these 8 signs of a clogged sump pump and how to fix them.

If you don’t have a sump pump, need a new sump pump, or want to be extra sure your sump pump is working, book an appointment with usWe both install and repair sump pumps, giving you the peace of mind that your home has protection against the upcoming spring thaw.

We also recommend that you get a sump pump with a battery backup as well. “This will kick on if the power goes out and your main sump pump stops working, or if there’s too much water for your main sump pump to handle – a real possibility for homeowners in naturally flood-prone areas,” says our plumber Trevor.

If you’d like to know more about battery backup sump pumps, Trevor has a video on this very topic:

2. Make Sure You Have a Backwater Valve. Backwater valves enable one-way flow from your home’s sewer line and are the key to protecting your basement from a gross sewer backup and more damage. “When there’s a lot of water – like during a spring melt – it can overwhelm sewer lines, and that’s what causes a backup,” says our plumber Sarah. A backwater valve works automatically: as soon as it detects back flow, it closes up.

Keep in mind that this won’t protect your home from backflow caused by a blockage inside your home (for example, if you have a clogged sink).

3. Clean Out Your Basement. Preparing your home for the spring thaw can be combined with spring cleaning to both purge old things and protect your favourite belongings.

You don’t have to KonMari it, but you should clear your basement of anything valuable or prone to water damage. This includes:

  • Furniture
  • Storage boxes
  • Treasured possessions

When the spring thaw gets underway, your basement should be pretty spartan, and your belongings will be safe.

5. Unplug All Appliances That Could Come in Contact with Water. Many people we know keep a standing freezer of food in the basement, or have their laundry machines there. If you have a finished basement, you’ll definitely have more appliances.

When not in use – or if there’s a flood or rain warning – these appliances should be unplugged. Electrically charged water is incredibly dangerous.

If possible, it’s a good idea to remove appliances from the area at risk of flooding. We know that’s not possible to move large appliances (like the previously mentioned freezer), but you can put them on wood or cement blocks to elevate them.

6. Check Your Attic or Ceilings. Snow builds up on roofs over the course of a winter, and while structurally they can handle it, the spring thaw brings with it the risk of a leak. You should always keep any eye on your attic and the ceiling of your top floor, as a small leak can quickly become a huge problem.

7. Have an Emergency Kit. An emergency kit is a must for many situations, and a flood is no exception. If there is a flood warning in effect, make sure to have the following things on hand.

  • Food that doesn’t have to be cooked in case the power goes out.
  • Extra water.
  • A flashlight with extra batteries.
  • A fully charged battery pack for your phone.
  • Basic toiletries like toilet paper, toothbrushes and toothpaste.
  • A First-Aid kit. You can pick up pre-packed ones at most drugstores.
  • Any important documents.
  • Extra clothing.
  • Your keys.
  • Emergency numbers for fire and health services, roofers, and plumbers. Our number is 613-241-3139. Save it in your phone or on a sheet of emergency numbers.

While in most cases you won’t need an emergency kit, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

7. Double Check Your Insurance Coverage. Spring is a great time to re-familiarize yourself with your home’s insurance coverage when it comes to flooding.

Historically in Canada, a standard homeowners insurance policy doesn’t provide flood coverage. If you’re unsure what is covered under your policy, speak to your insurance advisor or a broker.

8. Stay Home and Keep an Eye On Your House. If you’re nervous about potential flooding, we recommend keeping an eye on the weather forecasts (we find the CBC forecast reliable), and staying home when there’s a flooding risk. You’ll be able to keep a watchful eye on your house, and you won’t waste your time away being worried.

Get Ready for the Spring Thaw with DS Plumbing

While there’s no way to eliminate the risk of flooding, we can help you prepare for the spring thaw by making sure your sump pump works, installing a backup, and checking that your drains/pipes are clear.

Let’s Get Ready for Spring

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