Winter Basement Leaks - Why is it Happening?

Thursday, December 10th, 2015 by Thrasher

We all see the news stories throughout the spring and summer months that talk about flooding from seasonal rains. But what most homeowners don't know is that basement leaks are just as common during the colder months of the year.

basement heat lossYour Basement is Warm

Unless you happen to live in a part of the country that doesn't experience freezing temperatures, your home has some sort of heating system. Boilers, heat pumps and furnace forced air systems all keep your home nice and toasty warm when outdoor temperatures plummet. And in the same way that you can feel heat radiate outward from a pot of boiling water, heat radiates out from your foundation to the surrounding soil - sometimes as far as 8-10 inches from the exterior of your foundation walls.

While all that heat helps keep you and your family comfy, it also keeps water flowing around the exterior of your foundation. It also melts snow and ice above ground that may pile up next to your home. Because that moisture never freezes it will continue to seep in through your foundation walls and slab floors.

It's true that any waterproofing contractor will be somewhat limited in the scope of work that can be completed outdoors during the winter months, the vast majority of a waterproofing system is installed indoors. Essentially, that means that you can have a home waterproofing system installed at any time of the year. The only remaining portion that requires warmer weather to complete is the installation of a discharge line.

frost heave against foundationFrozen Water Expands

It's relatively common knowledge that liquids expand when they freeze. While the proportion of expansion will vary from liquid to liquid, water expands about 9% in volume once it freezes. Now you not only have water being kept warm enough to melt near your foundation, but you also have increased pressure from soils further out as the moisture within expands in volume by another 9%. This increased pressure will continue to force water into your basement through whatever means it can find. That same pressure can also exert additional stress on your foundation walls - leading to potential bowing or tilting - that can expose more potential inlets for water and threaten your foundation's structural integrity.

Discharge Blockages

Even if you've taken steps to mitigate all possible leaks by installing a waterproofing system, cold weather can still present problems. Depending on the type of discharge line used for your system, subzero temperatures can easily freeze water solid that would normally flow freely through your discharge piping. Without an IceGuard system, the only way to unfreeze a blocked discharge line is to throw on your coat, hat, and gloves and heat the pipe directly with a blow dryer or similar tool. Blocked discharge lines can not only lead to water backing up in your sump pump system but can also burn out the pump itself.

To learn more about how Thrasher can help protect your home from water leaks year round, call us at 800.827.0702 for a free estimate or visit for more information.