How to Prepare for the Spring Thaw

girl painting wooden house model

Ah, spring! Temperatures are on the rise, the sun is shining, and the spring thaw is underway.

If you don’t take the right precautions, the spring thaw can cause some serious damage to your home.

Calgary tends to get a lot of water run-off from the mountains and foothills during the spring. This can cause flooding. If the flood of 2013 taught us anything, it’s to be prepared.

(Okay Scar, we get it).

But where do you start?

You can start right here! This article has essential home maintenance tips for the spring thaw.

1. Clear Away Snow and Examine Your Home’s Foundation

A cracked or damaged foundation will let water seep into your basement, which can cause expensive damage – so every spring it needs a thorough inspection.

First, clear any snow that’s around your foundation. Then start looking every few days for the following things:

  • Holes or cracks in your exterior AND interior walls.
  • Signs of water leakage on the walls and floors of your basement. See if you can find soft areas on your basement walls or carpet.
  • Any concrete slabs in your basement, walkways, pool decks, or patios that have shifted or cracked.

You can help keep water out of your basement by:

  • Sweeping away leaves and debris from your gutters – make sure they aren’t loose or leaking!
  • Checking that your downspouts are working so water is carried away from your foundation.
  • Making sure the grade of your lawn slopes away from your foundation. If there are low sections of your yard where water can pool, fill them in with compacted soil. (It will also help to prevent mosquitoes from breeding in these areas.)
  • Inspecting your chimney for any damage. If your chimney is leaning to the side, you’ll have a clear sign that your foundation is failing.

Tip: Don’t forget to trust your nose. If you smell something strange in your home and there’s mould or mildew growth, you’ll want to call a foundation specialist as soon as you can. You probably have a wet basement.

If you find any potential problems, you’ll need to contact experts who can fix foundations. Ignoring these things could allow water damage to occur in your basement, which can be costly to repair.

2. Make Sure Your Sump Pump Is Working Properly

Homes at risk of flooding in Calgary should definitely have a sump pump, and it should be checked before all of the snow has left the ground.

A sump pump takes water from the ground below your basement and pumps it away to prevent flooding.

Related: How do sump pumps work?

If you have an automatic sump pump (and most sump pumps are these days), do the following things:

  • Check the insides of the pipe that drains the water away from the pump to make sure there’s no debris or dirt clogging the drain. If there is, remove it.
  • Test the sump pump. Take the lid off of the sump pit and pour in some water. The sump pump switch should automatically turn on and slowly drain the water out before turning off. Pour the rest of the water in to make sure the pump turns on again.

If the sump pump fails to turn on, you should replace it as soon as you can.

We recommend sump pumps to most homeowners in Calgary. It’s a good investment that can save you thousands of dollars in flood damage repair costs.

3. Check to See That Your Backwater Valve Works

A backwater valve is a stopper that closes and makes sure that the sludge in the city’s sewers (ew!) can’t flow back into your home through the sewer line.

You can check on the backwater valve yourself, but if you’re not sure about its condition or just aren’t comfortable doing this, you can have us inspect it.

If you do the job yourself, first be sure to check your manufacturer’s recommendations around maintenance. You might also want to run some soapy water down one of your sinks to make sure the pipes are clean!

Then, while wearing rubber gloves, remove the cover to see if there’s any debris clogging the valve. Make sure all the moving parts actually, you know, move.

If you need to clean the valve, use a long-handled brush to do your scrubbing.

You should also:

  • Check the O-ring around the lid to make sure it hasn’t deteriorated. If it has, replace it to make sure you have a proper seal.
  • Look at the floats on each side of the flap and replace them if needed. If they’re worn, they won’t be able to lift the flap during flooding.

A backwater valve is an important tool in your arsenal to prepare for the spring thaw, so if you have any questions, please let us know!

4. Inspect Your Attics and Ceilings

Roofs can handle a lot of snow, but when the spring thaw rolls around, the chance it’ll spring a leak goes up. You should absolutely inspect your attic and ceilings for any signs of water damage.

Tip: Look at the roof with a pair of binoculars or through a camera lens to see if there are any missing or worn shingles once all the snow is gone. If your shingles buckle or are cracked, you’ll have to replace them to keep the wood from rotting inside the house.

5. Clean Out Your Basement – Just in Case

All this preparation is great – but it’s better to be safe than sorry. We recommend moving anything valuable or susceptible to water damage out of the basement, at least for spring thaw season.

6. Make Sure the Rest of Your Home is Ready for Spring

There are other things you can check on to make sure your home is in great shape for spring!

  • Use a flashlight and look at exposed framing in your attic/basement. If you see any “tunnels” in the wood, that means you have insects, which should be dealt with immediately by a professional. Look in your attic, too, to make sure rodents and insects haven’t moved in.
  • Look for indoor plumbing leaks. This includes near your faucets, water heater, washing machine, and any exposed pipes. You can also identify a potential leak in your plumbing by looking for warped/discoloured drywall.
  • Examine the caulking and weather stripping around your windows. Proper seals will help keep cool air inside this summer, and help you save energy on your cooling costs.
  • Clean/replace your furnace filter. Not only does your filter keep unwanted pollen and debris from getting into your furnace and air conditioning system, but it cuts down on your energy bill — you can save 5-15% on your heating and cooling costs.

Related: How to change/replace your furnace filter

By doing these little things, you’ll have the peace of mind that your home is ready for the upcoming seasons.

Don’t Forget About Your Air Conditioner

Spring is a great time to get your air conditioner serviced in preparation for summer.

The key thing is to take away the cover, and ensure the air conditioner grille isn’t covered in leaves or other debris from winter. There should be about 2 feet of clear space around the air conditioner – if there are branches in the way, prune them back.

After that, it’s time to book your tuneup. A professional AC tuneup will:

  • Help you save more money in the future by helping A/C last longer and run more efficiently.
  • Help prevent expensive emergency repairs. Problems will be found and fixed well before a breakdown happens.

Regular maintenance can even prevent water damage in your home from a drainage system that may be blocked.

Knight Can Help You Prepare for the Spring Thaw

We can help you with your sump pumps, backwater valves, and air conditioner drainage, checking those items off your spring to-do list.

Check Out Our Plumbing Services