Durham's Winter Teaches A Hard Lesson To A Home Owner

By: Jason and Andre Ferris

Durham's Winter Teaches A Hard Lesson To A Home Owner

Tags: ice damage. water damage, winters in durham region


Last week’s mid-winter thaw here in the Durham Region was a welcome respite from the bitterly cold temperatures that had ravaged us just days before. The sun came out, smiles reappeared on faces, and the glorious sound of ice melting could be heard in gutters and downspouts for miles as temperatures reached a balmy 2 degrees and higher. Yes things were looking up, so much so that I would have even challenged Mr. Groundhog to come on out a few weeks early, until on what can only be called a spring-like day, I ventured down into my basement.

A trip to the cold cellar generally entails two things for me. Check that no unwanted critters have made their way to the stockpile and check that the inventory in the stockpile is up to date. But on this Chinook inspired winter day, another culprit was added to the checklist. Water. I submit Exhibits A-C below:

water damange

Now as the pictures show, water had made its way into my cold cellar. The unexpected winter thaw had now come with some unwanted consequences. The smile disappeared from my face and that sweet sound of ice melting now changed to the nightmarish hum of a dehumidifier. Where had I gone wrong?

Well the answer sat in a filing cabinet in my office. You see just mere months earlier, in August to be exact, my wife and I purchased this home. And being a knowledgeable and prudent Realtor®, a home inspection was mandatory. Our inspector, highly respected in the industry, completed a thorough inspection of the home and laid out in plain English what needed to be done. And highlighted as a priority was the cold cellar. The exterior brick, the grading, and lack of gutters/downspouts “may lead to a collection point of water that could result in foundation water penetration.” The inspector had diagnosed the problem precisely and I had chosen to ignore it. Since hindsight is 20/20, I needed a new plan since I missed the boat the first time.

In the areas that my inspector had outlined, I noticed a large amount of ice and snow that had collected over the winter and subsequent thaw (see pictures below). After obtaining some professional advice, my first course of action was to remove the snow and ice since the water, usually absorbed by the ground, was being forced into other avenues by the frozen tundra. Digging it all up and regarding was out of the question given the winter conditions. But keeping these sensitive areas clear is key and will continue to be important until I can address the exterior brick, gaps, and grading in the spring.

snow against house

Fortunately, the water has been contained to the cold cellar and Mother Nature willing, I will be able to address the issue as soon as the weather permits. Water in basements is common, mainly because of issues such as poor grading, poor or no gutter and downspout system, foundation cracks, and weeping tile failure. So not only is it imperative that home buyers get a home inspection, it is even more important to follow through with the recommendations outlined in the report. Nobody is ‘too busy’ to ignore that.