How to waterproof your basement

As the spring melt begins in Ottawa, experts like Yousef Ghasemi are urging residents to waterproof their basements. Here are his tips.

Record-breaking snow makes basements vulnerable to flooding, expert says

Yousef Ghasemi with the Ottawa Foundation Repair is offering tips on how to make sure your basement doesn't flood this spring. (Miriam Katawazi/CBC)

As the spring melt begins in Ottawa, experts are urging residents to waterproof their basements. 

Yousef Ghasemi from Ottawa Foundation Repair told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning Friday that given the record-breaking snowfall, it's important to err on the side of caution as the weather warms up.

He shared some tips on how residents can prevent water from getting into their homes. 

What to expect

Q: What will happen in Ottawa this year? 

A: We've already experienced a lot of of basement flooding, and I think there is going to be more flooding on the way because there was so much snow and people couldn't get around to clear the snow around their homes.As the snow melts and additional rain falls, a lot of homes that have hidden cracks will experience flooding.

Q: What should people be doing if they want to reduce the risk?

A: The main thing is to shovel snow away from the foundation of the house. People should also clean their windows of ice and snow and check the gutters at their home in case they are frozen or filled with ice. Disconnect the lower part of the gutter and install a flexible pipe and let it run at least 10 to 15 feet away from the house. 

It's not common that people have to replace the whole foundation … most people just have to waterproof sections and target where the cracks are. 

How to spot damage 

Q: How often should people be checking on their basements as the weather warms?

A: People should check on their basements once or twice a day. There are early warning signs that water could be seeping, such as dampness and a musty smell.

Q: Where in a basement do you most often see water damage?

A: The weakest structural point is at the windows, so nine times out of 10 the greatest damage is there. You will most likely see cracks in the foundation around the windows. The other common area is where steel beam sits on the foundation. 

Finished basements are more challenging to make sure everything is all right. For these, look to the baseboards for water stains or warping. You can also scan it from outside and look at the foundation. If you see a straight-line vertical crack, that's 99 per cent a foundational crack. 

Homes built within the past two to seven years are particularly susceptible to damage from melting snow, Ghafemi says. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

New homes?

Q: What about newly built homes versus older ones — is one more prone to water damage than the other?

A:  Over the last three weeks, we got 70 per cent of our calls from newly built homes, from two years old to seven years old. It's a different way of construction — very hasty construction. 

New home owners also don't expect to have trouble with their new homes.They are not usually looking for problems until those problems become quite severe.

The interview has been condensed and edited for length and clarity.

With files from CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning