Watch out for the spring thaw

Water often collects from left-over plowed snow as it melts and runs into neighboring properties. Snow piles also have the ability to divert water away from drains and into a building, causing damage. This is especially common during the spring thaw in colder climates. Clearing drifting snow and keeping plowed snow away from the building will prevent intrusion when the snow melts.

Water can also seep into the basement through many paths

  • A breach in the building’s structural system: like the roof, windows/doors, or walls
  • A breach in the plumbing system like a broken pipe or leaky valve
  • A back-up due to a blocked exit path, like a closed sink drain, blocked air conditioner drain pan, or a stopped bathroom fixture

Detection is key

Water coming into the building is not always preventable, but can be detectable. Inexpensive “smart” devices can be placed in vulnerable locations that can alert a person who is responsible for the building’s well-being. The devices can detect the presence of water, very low temperatures, or even power outage. Then, the device can send an automated message to that responsible person who can the remedy the situation before it gets out of control.

These detection devices are available through various insurance carriers, and home supply and hardware stores. Setting up the detection devices is usually simple, and requires a minimal amount of technical expertise.

Be aware

Be aware of conditions that could lead to potential pathways for water to enter the building.

A cold snap could cause a pipe to freeze, expand, and burst

  • Inspect basement pipes for corrosion and leaks. Repair them, as necessary.
  • If a cold snap is expected, provide heat to the pipes that can freeze, and/or open the faucet slightly to allow water to trickle into a sink or basin.

Some pipes within the building may be placed in a “vulnerable” location

  • This may be directly in front of a boiler air intake vent, or in an uninsulated exterior wall or ceiling space
  • Knowing where the water pipes are and where they lead to can quickly help assess a problem.

A leaky pipe or valve could be evidence of corrosion

  • Continuous dripping from a leak will eventually fill the basement with equipment damaging moisture or water
  • A pump can be used to remove water that has collected in the basement. Having access to a gas-powered pump could be needed if the power goes out
  • If there is there a sump pump in the basement, verify that is it in proper operating condition. Make sure that the sump pumps outlet hose is directed to pump water sufficiently away from the building

Leaky or damaged basement windows and doors could allow rain, drifting snow or snowbank, or misdirected gutter downspouts to take water into the basement

  • An ice dam on the roof could creep under the shingle system and cause the roof to leak
  • Inspecting windows and doors for proper function and tight sealing will ensure that the wet elements are kept outside
  • Inspect for, and remove, any drifting snow and snowbanks that may cause a leak into a window or door
  • Proper maintenance and cleaning of gutters and downspouts will verify that the water will pass through them when it rains
  • During a rain event, inspect gutters and downspouts to ensure that they’re carrying the water sufficiently away from the building

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© 2021 The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company. All rights reserved. This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to convey or constitute legal advice. HSB makes no warranties or representations as to the accuracy or completeness of the content herein. Under no circumstances shall HSB or any party involved in creating or delivering this article be liable to you for any loss or damage that results from the use of the information contained herein. Except as otherwise expressly permitted by HSB in writing, no portion of this article may be reproduced, copied, or distributed in any way. This article does not modify or invalidate any of the provisions, exclusions, terms or conditions of the applicable policy and endorsements. For specific terms and conditions, please refer to the applicable endorsement form.

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