Leaky Basement in the Winter: Five Causes

leaky basement

While a leaky basement is more often associated with severe summer storms, basement leakage during winter has its own set of unique seasonal causes. Consequences associated with a leaky basement include damage to the foundation walls and also the basement floor as seepage gradually deteriorates concrete. Water infiltrating a basement can also affect electrical wiring and major components such as the circuit breaker panel that is frequently installed there. Conditions inside a frequently wet basement also support the growth of mold that may eventually contaminate upstairs living spaces.

Here are some of the frequent causes of a leaky basement specific to the winter season.  

  • Snow accumulation around the foundation. As banks of snow that accumulate against the side of the house melt slowly, the water penetrates into the gap between frozen soil and the foundation of the house. This water may seep through existing cracks in the foundation wall or continue to penetrate underneath the foundation and seep upwards through cracks in the basement floor.    
  • Ice blockage in gutters. While snow melts on warmer portions of the roof, ice present in gutters may block the free flow of water. As blocked gutters overflow, water pounding on the ground below may penetrate deeply into the soil, eventually causing a leaky basement.
  • Frozen pipes. Plumbing pipes typically routed through the basement may freeze in frigid winter weather and leak or totally rupture, flooding the basement.  
  • Sump pump failure.  A basement sump pump discharges infiltrating groundwater through a pipe typically extending into the back yard. In frigid winter weather, ice may form in the discharge pipe, obstructing free flow from the sump pump. This may cause the sump basin in the basement to overflow and the pump itself may be damaged.
  • Window leakage. Basement windows extend partially below ground level into window wells. Water from rain or melting snow may accumulate in basement window wells. If the window well structure or the windows themselves are not properly sealed, a leaky basement is a frequent consequence.

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