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Basement and Crawlspace
By Kimberly Duncan
Basements and crawlspaces are areas of the home that contain elements of your plumbing, electrical, heating and drainage systems. All of these items can be damaged by the moisture and cold temperatures of a winter season, so steps need to be taken before winter sets in to ensure that they remain in proper working order.
Plumbing and Pipes
The first thing to look at is your plumbing. Your plumbing pipes should be wrapped to prevent freezing and any outside pipes should be drained of water and shut off for the winter. Adding a layer of insulation in the walls and sealing up windows and doors with a caulking compound will also help keep your basement warmer and prevent freezing and breaking of pipes.
Electrical systems can be affected by excessive moisture in a basement. To avoid moisture build-up, seal the cracks in your basement walls and install sump pumps to drain off any excess pools of water. If you do laundry in your basement, use a power dryer with an external exhaust. Hanging clothes in the basement can cause the room to become humid and condensation may develop on electrical panels and outlets. This alone will probably not cause short-circuits, but it can add to existing moisture problems.
Your heating system needs to be serviced before the winter. This is something that you should not attempt to do yourself. An HVAC or plumbing expert can inspect, clean and replace any elements of your heating system that are defective or worn. It is best done during the fall to get rid of older pipes and gaskets and to make sure that your heating system is running properly. It can also save you on your heating bill.
Drainage systems are generally centered in and around your basement and are often the biggest culprits in basement flooding during the winter. There are drains located inside the basement as well as on the outside of the basement which include storm drains and downspouts. The exterior drainage system affects the interior one so it is important to look at both. Your downspouts should be positioned a fair distance from the foundation and the property around the foundation should be graded sloping away from the house to assist in proper drainage. The interior drains should be checked for clogs and cleaned out.
In addition to attending to all of the items listed above, you should check the integrity of your foundation and fill in any depressions in the ground outside that may cause pools of water to form. Look also at exposed window wells. Metal wells are the best with gravel bases that drain water more thoroughly. Plastic bubbles are also available that can cover the entire window during winter months and seal off the area from potential flooding.
In summary, seal the inside and outside walls, doors and windows, wrap the pipes, service the water heater and furnace, and make sure your drainage system is working properly. Take all of these steps and your basement will stay dry during the winter. And you will stay warm.