Digging out ahead of spring melt


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As spring arrives and the mountains of snow begin to melt, Winnipeg homeowners start to fret.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/03/2022 (437 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

As spring arrives and the mountains of snow begin to melt, Winnipeg homeowners start to fret.

Yana Sigurdson is one of them.

“I kind of looked around and I said to (my son) this morning, ‘We need to get out there, we need to move the snow away from our house,’” she told the Free Press Wednesday.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Yana Sigurdson and her son Zach remove snow near their foundation to try to keep their basement dry during the spring melt after heavy snowfall this winter.

“Where are we going to put it? I have no idea actually, because there’s just so much snow, there’s nowhere to put it.”

Her home in Island Lakes, where she’s lived with her husband and three kids for more than a decade, is surrounded by huge piles of snow. It’s the same situation at homes across Manitoba.

In Winnipeg, 166.6 cm of snow has fallen this winter — far above the 30-year average of 104.5 cm, according to retired meteorologist Rob Paola. Last season, the city had about 72 cm of snow.

Sigurdson wants to shift snow away from her home’s foundation to prevent her basement from flooding.

She’s right to get ready for the big melt, says Troy Schmid, who runs The Sodfather snow-clearing business.

He says he’s booked up until the end of the month because homeowners realize they’re facing an uphill battle.

“People who might have already had a small problem (will have) a bigger problem this year. People who might not have known they had a problem, will find out that they do indeed have a problem,” he said.

Calls to move snow have been “relentless,” even compared to other years with a lot of snow.

“(Past years), you’d get the odd call here and there for people who have foundation issues, or their driveway’s cracked or stuff like that, people who already know they have issues, tends to be in older neighbourhoods … but this year has been widespread,” he said.

“Everyone across the city, it doesn’t matter if it’s a new house or an old house, the calls are probably tenfold.”

This year, the ground is especially frozen because it’s been extremely cold for long periods of time. The ground takes longer to thaw, water doesn’t permeate it quickly and can run between the frozen earth and foundation walls.

It’s problematic when a large amount of snow melts near the foundation. The water can seep into the concrete and excessive snow can prevent it from drying out. Cracks in the foundation can sometimes get bigger.

Schmid recommends homeowners ensure their sump pump works well, that they shovel snow at least four to six feet (up to two metres) away from the foundation, and hope for the best.

“Unfortunately, with the amount of snow we have, there’s only so much we can do,” he said.

Home foundations have shifted in past years due to dry conditions, which can cause cracks. When the heavy snow melts, homeowners not used to dealing with water damage might experience them for the first time, said Dave Rennie, owner of foundation repair company Seal-Rite.

Move almost all of the snow, but leave a little, he suggested, adding some moisture helps to prevent shifting.

Rennie said homeowners should investigate the root of the problem if they see moisture in their basement, as it can be the result of frost buildup behind drywall and insulation rather than foundational damage.

“When you get water right in the spring, and it’s the only time you get water and you don’t get it at all during the summer or during any heavy rain, it’s highly likely that you’re not even dealing with a foundation issue,” he said. “You’ve really got to investigate that a lot closer and a lot more thoroughly before you start overreacting and spending a bunch of money on unnecessary work.”

Sigurdson said her family bought overland flooding insurance and is hoping for a slow melt to mitigate the damage.

“Ultimately, that’s the only thing we can do,” she said. “Mother Nature is going to take care of the rest.”


Malak Abas

Malak Abas

Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.


Updated on Thursday, March 17, 2022 6:53 AM CDT: Fixes spelling in photo caption

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