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What Happens After Snowmelt in Western Colorado?

Living in Western Colorado means experiencing the magic of changing seasons, but snowfall can bring some unexpected consequences. In Grand Junction, winters bring an average of 19 inches of snow over 19 days, whereas Crested Butte sees an even larger average of 216 inches over 66 days. As homeowners, understanding these snowfall patterns and their aftermath is crucial to protect our homes.

It’s exciting when the springtime thaw rolls around—but all that snowmelt brings great deal of water. That water is just waiting for its opportunity to make a swamp of your yard and find its way into your basement. Without preventative measures, your home is likely to get damaged. Let’s take a closer look at what could happen after the winter snow melts.

Water Build up as the Snow Melts

In Colorado, where snowfall is a big part of life, it’s critical for homeowners to understand why snowmelt can be so damaging. The general rule is that 13 inches of snow translates to one inch of rain, which, on a standard 1,600-square-foot roof, amounts to nearly 1,000 gallons of water. However, this can vary significantly depending on the type of snow; wet, heavy snow common in late winter or early spring can actually hold double that amount of water or more.

This knowledge is essential in home maintenance, particularly when it comes to your roof and gutters. A roof subjected to 13 inches of heavy, wet snow might bear the weight and runoff of close to 2,000 gallons of water. Regular maintenance checks, especially after substantial snowfalls, can ensure your roofing and gutter systems can cope with this load and effectively direct water away from your home’s foundation, thereby preventing potential water damage and flooding.

Snow Buildup on the Roof

Unlike rain, which starts running off the roof as soon as it lands, snow continues to build up over days, weeks, or even months. That makes for a great deal of weight on the roof and stored water waiting for warmer conditions. Those warmer conditions arrive with a small amount of sunshine or even heat escaping through the attic. That bit of water runoff heads for the gutters and downspouts where it can freeze. Blocked gutters are followed by ice dams forming on the roof. All this backs up daytime water runoff until it refreezes overnight.

Snow Buildup on the Lawn

Of course, snow is also accumulating on your lawn. Plus, as it is removed from the sidewalks and driveway, it is stacked up. In addition, excess snow can slide off the roof and build up around the foundation

Often, drifting snow will further accumulate around your home and foundation. All that represents a great deal of water. Any slight melting and it saturates the soil, making for excess runoff and even underground water flow toward the basement or crawl space. That water is further compounded by the snowmelt from the roof.

The Clay Bowl Effect

Anything described as a bowl when considering foundation flooding sounds somewhat ominous. The clay bowl effect happens during foundation construction when the soil is excavated, the foundation is poured, and then the soil is backfilled around the basement or crawl space. The backfill soil is no longer as dense as the surrounding undisturbed soil, making for a ready path for water, essentially forming a bowl around the foundation.

The water collected in that “bowl” pushes against the basement walls, leading to hydrostatic pressure that continues to grow as more and more snow melts. This pressure causes wall cracks in your basement and may even cause basement walls to bow (which you can see in the image to the right). Water finds any existing cracks or openings and follows gravity to the lowest possible point. Eventually, you’re left with a flooded basement.

How to Prepare Your Home for Snowmelt

Snow builds up over time and when melting starts, you’d better be ready to head off any serious leaks or flooding. Taking steps during the rest of the year is the best prevention. Plus, there are a few things you can do during the winter to address the inevitable thaw and water runoff. 

Here’s our list of tips to help you prepare.

  • Remove Rooftop Snow. As snow builds up on the roof, it’s a good idea to remove some or all of it using a roof rake. Don’t risk climbing on the roof. A roof rake from ground level can make a big difference.
  • Remove Snow From Around Your Foundation. Now that you’ve got the snow off the roof, it’s critical that you greatly reduce the snow that’s piled up around the foundation. Ideally, it should be cleared to a distance of four to six feet away from your foundation walls.
  • Install and Maintain Gutters, Downspouts, and Extensions. Snowmelt moves off the roof and into the gutters and downspouts. It’s vital to keep the gutters clear and the downspouts free from obstructions. There should also be extensions on the downspouts that take the water well away from the foundation.
  • Consider Landscape Grading. Once the water clears the downspouts and extensions, the landscape slope should be downward to help the water continue its movement away from the basement or crawl space. Ensure your grading is helping and not hindering this flow.
  • Install a Proper Drainage System. Keep water out of your home by installing an interior drainage system and a sump pump. Not only do these solutions help clear up any early leaks and prevent flooding, they also are good to have year-round to reduce humidity and prevent mold.
  • Practice Drainage System Maintenance. If you already have a drainage system, make sure the sump pump is working including clearing the drain hoses and pipes. Preventing frozen drains should also be on your list.
  • Add Attic and Foundation Insulation. A warm home leads to melting snow on the roof and around the foundation. Add insulation to prevent heat from escaping and to lower energy bills.

Prepare for Snowmelt with Foundation Repair of Western Colorado

As you cozy up in your home during the winter months, remember that a little preparation goes a long way. Clearing your roof and foundation area, ensuring your gutters and downspouts are in good shape, and considering your landscape’s grading all contribute to a safer home. And if you’re feeling overwhelmed, remember that there are experts like those at Foundation Repair of Western Colorado who are ready to help. To schedule a free foundation inspection and repair estimate as well as identify ways to improve your home’s drainage and waterproofing. Contact us today to keep snowmelt away!

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Grand Junction

2575 U.S. 6 & 50, Unit A
Grand Junction, CO 81501