What Happens After a Snowmelt in Western Colorado?

Western Colorado receives plenty of snow. When it melts, it can turn your lawn into a swamp and your basement or crawl space into a swimming pool. Here’s how to protect your home.

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On average, Grand Junction receives 19 inches of snow spread over 19 days during the winter. That’s not quite the average in Crested Butte, which receives 216 inches over 66 days. 

Whatever the snowfall at your home, it builds up on the roof, across the yard and, as always, covers your driveway, waiting to be shoveled. 

It’s exciting to contemplate the springtime thaw. But all that snow represents a 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 or crawl space.

How Much Water?

The rule of thumb is that 13 inches of snow equals roughly one inch of rain. We can go on to calculate that one inch of rain on a 1,600-square-foot roof equals 997 gallons of water. Of course, if it’s wet, heavy snow the water content could amount to double that or more.

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 can 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 moves against the foundation wall, setting up hydrostatic pressure that continues to grow with continued snowmelt and more water buildup. That pressure can cause cracks that develop leaks that can grow to serious flooding. At a minimum, it finds any existing cracks or openings as it follows gravity to the lowest possible point.

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.

To schedule a free foundation inspection and repair estimate as well as identify ways to improve your home’s drainage and waterproofing, contact your local foundation repair experts at Foundation Repair of Western Colorado.

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