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3 Methods to Protect Your Foundation From Pooling Water This Winter

gutter guard

Canadian winters can always be counted on to bring plenty of rain, ice, sleet and snowfall.

In the same way, Canadian homeowners can always be counted on to get nervous about how winter weather will affect their home.

Here in Canada, we regularly face homeownership issues that our neighbours to the south don't have. Owning a home here in the north requires special preparations to protect the foundation from pooling water during the winter season.

In our years of serving customers throughout the Hamilton and surrounding areas, we have found three protective measures that consistently outperform the rest to keep your home safe and dry - learn about them here.

What Happens When Water Pools Around Your Foundation?

If you are a first-time homeowner, you are likely navigating the steep learning curve that comes with owning a home.

So you may not yet know what will happen if water is allowed to pool around your home’s foundation. After all, that foundation is thick, sturdy, solid cement. How could water get through that?


Concrete is a strange choice of building material. It is naturally porous, and more so as it dries and sets. This porous quality causes micro-fissures to form from the start. Water can easily find its way inside these fissures – at least until it can go no further and becomes trapped.

In the cold season, trapped water freezes solid, expanding and stressing the fissures so they widen. In thaw cycles, the trapped water travels deeper into the now-larger fissures. The wider the fissure, the higher the risk of leaks.

Hydrostatic pressure

When runoff water seeps down into the surrounding soil, it once again gets trapped. As soil moisture content increases, the water exerts tremendous pressure against any solid surface preventing its escape.

Often, that solid surface is your foundation or, if your home has a basement, your basement walls and flooring. The continuous pressure can literally cause walls to lean, joints to buckle, window wells and drains to back up and sump pumps to get overtaxed.

3 Ways to Keep Water from Pooling Around Your Home Foundation

Now that you understand the dangers of pooling water near your home’s foundation, it is time to explore the best ways to prevent this from occurring.

Depending on how severe the issue is at your home, prevention may represent an investment, but we can absolutely verify that any amount of preventative expense is a drop in the bucket compared with budgeting for major foundation repair or black mould remediation.

Gutter guards and downspout extensions to the rescue

Like most structural home aids, gutters and downspouts typically don’t get attention from homeowners until they stop doing their jobs properly.

Gutter guards prevent gutters from getting clogged with fall leaves, storm debris, animal nests and other detritus. This preserves their ability to function as water conduits to the downspouts.

Downspout extensions route water runoff away from your home’s foundation to flow into storm drains where it belongs.

For mild home grading issues, downspout extensions can sometimes even delay the need for regrading your existing landscaping, so they are really handy to have!

Regrading that naturally routes water away from your home

Speaking of regrading, it is natural to see some change to the surrounding soil and landscape over time. Older homes often do something called “settling,” where the sheer weight of the home causes it to sink a little deeper into the surrounding soil.

(By the way, if this happens, it is just the nature of how a heavy home and changing soil content can often interact.)

At first, this settling is not even noticeable. But as the years pass, it can cause a little water moat to form around your home during heavy rainstorms.

At this point, downspout extensions can provide a temporary fix if your budget requires it, but ultimately the only way to permanently address the issue is to have your home regraded.

Interior basement waterproofing as a permanent solution

If your home includes a crawl space or a basement, the concern goes beyond what may happen to your foundation itself when water widens cracks and causes increasing instability.

There is also a concern about leakage and flooding.

Mould and mildew can quickly take root and then move into your home aboveground. Leaks can damage the structural integrity of your whole home space. Flooding becomes possible once fissures widen into cracks. Window wells and drains can become blocked with storm detritus that flows in with the water.

The best, most cost-efficient, permanent solution to these concerns depends on what exists below your home’s foundation. For a crawl space, it is encapsulation. For a basement, it is interior basement waterproofing.

Crawl space encapsulation and basement waterproofing permanently prevent additional water from entering the area and causing damage.

These are easier fixes than the old-school traditional approach: installation of French drains, which often clog with soil and back up when you need them most.

Depending on the severity of your water pooling issues, it may also be necessary to dry out and remediate your belowground space. Dehumidifiers can remove excess moisture and allow the structure to dry out fully.

We also recommend repairing any visible, accessible fissures or cracks in your ceiling, walls or flooring to avoid moisture getting trapped behind the waterproofing treatment and continuing to cause structural problems.

For homes with uninsulated or poorly insulated crawl spaces or basements, the best next step is to install special moisture-resistant insulation made for these belowground environments.

Once these fixes have been completed (if applicable), the encapsulation or affordable basement waterproofing treatment can typically be installed in just a day or two.

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