As much as we anticipate spring, preparing for the arrival of longer, warmer days can be overwhelming. With pressure to tidy up everything from your closet to your vehicle’s interior, you wouldn’t be alone in feeling like your spring to-do list is already too long. While hauling out the patio furniture from the shed can likely wait a couple weeks, preparing your home for the season should be a top priority. Keep reading for our manageable advice on how to take care of your house this spring, from foundation cement to roof shingles.
Brace for flooding during the spring thaw.
Spring 2019 was wetter than usual for many parts of the country — Canada’s insurance industry reported that flood insurance claims outnumbered fire claims for the first time since flood insurance hit the Canadian market.1 Hopefully, this spring will bring less flooding than last year, but you should take the following precautions every year to reduce your chances of all that melting snow and precipitation ending up in your basement.
- Aside from rain, the other major cause of spring flooding is rapidly melting snow after a sudden temperature increase. Remove snow from around your home’s foundation and any low-lying areas on your property, as well as from the drainage channels that allow water to flow away from your home and into nearby storm drains.
- Install covers over basement windows to keep precipitation away from vulnerable entrances to your basement, and make sure to clear snow off regularly.
- Inspect the caulking around basement windows.
- Make sure your downspouts and sump pump are diverting water properly, at least two metres (six feet) away from the base of your home.
- Consider buying a backup battery for your sump pump in case of a power failure during a storm.
- Consider buying flood insurance for sewer backups and overland flooding, and make sure you have sufficient coverage to pay for potential flood damage.
Check your home’s grading.
When water pools outside your house, it’s a sign that you have a grading problem. Grading refers to the height of the ground your home sits on versus the ground level immediately surrounding it. Remember that your home’s foundation isn’t completely waterproof: if the ground slopes toward your home, or is too flat on any side, you’ll likely have issues with pooling water and flooding as it seeps through the foundation’s concrete.
According to pro contractor Mike Holmes, there should be at least a five-degree slope surrounding your house. This means that the ground two metres (six feet) away from your home should be at least eight centimetres (three inches) lower than the height of the ground surrounding the foundation.2 You don’t need to be a home expert to know that water freezing in cracks in your foundation is bad news for your home’s structural safety and longevity.
Another important note from Holmes: Don’t let your spring and summer landscaping efforts affect your home’s grading! A spring spruce-up project like adding flowerbeds or planting trees could make it more difficult for water to flow away from your home or could even direct water toward a neighbour’s foundation. This is another good reason to do your research and consult a professional before you break ground on constructing your outdoor summer oasis.
Check your foundation for cracks.
To help keep your basement dry and protected, it’s always important to check your home’s foundation. Even if water is being successfully drained away, foundation cracks may still be a cause for concern that should be addressed by a professional.
A small crack might not be serious, as concrete naturally cracks to some degree when it dries. But if you have any cracks that you can fit a dime into, Mike Holmes recommends having a professional inspect them.3 Cracks that resemble a staircase, with connected horizontal and vertical lines running up the foundation and maybe even up to the home’s upper brickwork, are known for allowing water into the basement. Get stair cracks and cracks in your cinder blocks checked by a professional. Horizontal cracks below ground level are an indicator of water damage from freezing and thawing water, which can be very harmful to your home’s foundation. Multiple vertical cracks in your foundation could require excavation to be repaired.
If you’re not sure about a crack on your home’s exterior or interior basement foundation, you can mark and measure it to see if any changes occur over a few months. A smaller, stable crack might be able to be repaired with products from your local hardware store, but a foundation specialist is definitely in order for more serious, less stable fractures. You should also be on the lookout for efflorescence (white chalky powder) on your foundation; this is another sign of leakage.
Check your roof.
Of course, there’s more to your home than just the basement and the foundation. Let’s jump from your home’s bottom to its top—the roof, which hopefully has been keeping you warm and dry all winter despite being exposed to the elements. Spring roof maintenance should include the following:
- Clean out your eavestroughs. Get rid of winter debris so that April showers can flow smoothly off your roof and away from your house.
- Inspect your roof’s shingles and make any replacements where needed.
- Take note of the last time your roof was replaced. If it’s time for a roof refresh, make plans to have it completed while the weather is favourable.
- Check to see if your roof’s flashing has been damaged over the winter. Flashing connects the different segments of your roof, like windows and skylights, and seals the connections between slopes at their peak. If the flashing has rusted, it should be replaced; smaller caulking repairs might also be necessary to keep your roof watertight.
- Check out the boards behind your eavestroughs and just under the roofline, called fascia and soffit. Look for weak/soft spots, holes, rust or other damage.
- Look for water damage and any evidence of leaks on your roof, your ceilings and the interior and exterior walls of your home.
Ice dams are caused when improperly drained water freezes on your roof and pushes under your shingles. This can lead to extensive water damage throughout your home. If you’ve been able to keep your eavestroughs clear and the melting snow flowing off your roof through the proper channels, ice dams and water damage shouldn’t be a problem — but keep an eye out for issues and call a professional roof inspector if you have any concerns.
Once your home is in spring shape, you’ll be able to enjoy the indoors and outdoors with much greater peace of mind. When you know that your home’s grading, foundation and roof are healthy, you’ll have more time to prepare for your favourite summer activities, which probably involve a lot less inspecting and maintaining and a lot more barbecuing, gardening, swimming, camping and cottaging!
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1 Global News. “The Big Spring Thaw Is Coming: How to Protect Your Home from Flooding.” Retrieved November 8, 2019, from https://globalnews.ca/news/5005629/spring-2019-flood-risk-insurance/.
2 National Post. “Mike Holmes: Spring Thaw Is No Hurrah for Your Home.” Retrieved November 8, 2019, from https://nationalpost.com/life/homes/mike-holmes-spring-thaw-is-no-hurrah-for-your-home.
3 National Post. “Mike Holmes: How to Recognize a Problematic Foundation Crack and What to Do About It.” Retrieved November 8, 2019, from https://nationalpost.com/life/homes/mike-holmes-how-to-recognize-a-problematic-foundation-crack-and-what-to-do-about-it.
4 Herb Lodde & Sons Roofing. “Top 5 Spring Maintenance Tips for Your Residential Roof.” Retrieved November 9, 2019, from https://www.lodderoofing.com/blog/top-5-spring-maintenance-tips-for-your-residential-roof/.
5 Hudson’s Bay Rewards points offers may change without notice. All Rewards points will be awarded within four to six weeks. When you use a valid Canadian-issued credit card to pay your monthly premiums, you will earn 1,000 Rewards points when you enrol for a $200/month benefit; 2,000 Rewards points for a $250/month benefit; 4,000 Rewards points for a $500 benefit; 6,000 Rewards points for a $750/month benefit and 8,000 Rewards points for a $1,000/month benefit. Earn up to 8,000 Rewards points on the anniversary date of your policy. Rewards points will not be pro-rated if you cancel before the anniversary date.