How to Winterize Your Basement or Crawlspace
In the Northeast, we can see the weather change in seconds. It could be sunny one minute then it could rain or snow the next. With the weather being very unpredictable we have to brace for nearly every situation during the year. But during the winter we know what to expect... snow and freezing cold temperatures. During the winter a lot of homeowners tend to stay inside their homes more than in the other three seasons. With the cost of heating and cooling homes, all homeowners should be interested in making their homes as efficient as possible to reduce costs. Winterizing your basement or crawl space can reduce your energy cost and prevent damaging and potentially costly problems, including water damage.
The good news is winterizing your basement or crawl space doesn't have to be expensive. Below are several things you (or a professional) can do to protect your home this winter.
Fix Foundation Cracks
Foundation Cracks can allow water from snow and ice melt to come into your basement or crawl space. The repeated process of freezing and thawing can eventually make small cracks larger. Along with water, foundation cracks can allow unwanted drafts of cold air into your basement or crawlspace. Foundation cracks should be repaired to keep water and moisture and prevent damage and mold. Crack injection is a common short-term DIY repair method. Most DIY crack injection repairs will fail from poor adhesion or a broken seal. If the epoxy didn't have a great seal water could still seep into the crack and could freeze and thaw. The freezing and thawing process could further crack the epoxy potentially causing the foundation crack to leak again.
- To repair minor cracks in the basement or crawl space walls, hire an experienced waterproof that will use a flexible sealant, porous foam, and an impermeable membrane that flexes to maintain a seal over the wall crack.
- For cracks more than 1/4-inch wide or bowing wall, have them inspected by a qualified foundation repair contractor, like Erickson Foundation Solutions.
Seal and Insulate the Rim Joist
The rim joist is where much heat can be lost due to gaps between the foundation and the rim joists that rest on the foundation.
The rim joist can also be a location where mold and rot could start to occur due to condensation. Rim joists are located around the perimeter of the basement and rest on top of the foundation wall but are below the floor joists. The rim joists support the floor joist in place to support the floors of the home. Not every rim joist cavity is the same they depend on the footprint of the home.
There are two options for insulting the rim joist: spray foam or rigid foam. Whichever insulation product you choose proper installation is crucial to preventing cold air from entering your basement.
- DIY applications: two-component polyurethane foam kits are available at most hardware stores; expect to pay around $400 for a 200-board-foot kit. An advantage of using spray foam is that it's an "all-in-one" product that both seals air leaks and insulates. Make sure to wear proper protective equipment when applying the spray foam. Rigid foam is typically less expensive than spray foam, but it's more difficult to install.
- If you'd rather leave the job to a professional, hire a basement or crawl space repair contractor to insulate the rim joists. EFS could install both the spray foam insulation and the rigid foam insulation into your basement or crawl space.
- If you're considering adding insulation in other areas of the home at the same time, hire a professional insulation contractor.
Insulate Metal Pipes
Exposed pipes in unheated areas, like an unfinished basement or crawl space, are vulnerable to freezing and bursting during the winter. This can lead to expensive water damage and mold. In houses with a boiler room, the heat from uninsulated pipes is lost through the cold concrete walls.
- Wrap pipes in foam insulation to keep the pipes from freezing, sweating, and dripping. Insulate the pipes in a boiler room to prevent the heat from being lost to the outside. Pipe insulation is available at most hardware stores; expect to pay $2-$8 for 6 feet of tubular foam pipe insulation. Pool noodles are also an option for insulating pipes in your basement. You might want to consider hiring a qualified insulation contractor to ensure proper installation.
Seal Basement Windows and Crawl Space Vents
In the winter, basement or crawl space windows can allow cold air, melting snow and ice, and moisture into your basement/ crawl space. An open crawlspace vent can do the same thing. If exposed pipes get too cold they can freeze and burst. Finding a repair for this window or vent could save your pipes and money on your heating bill.
- Seal gaps around basement windows with caulk to prevent air leakage and water intrusion.
- Add window wells to help keep water and moisture away. Consider a window well cover to prevent clogs from snow, leaves, dirt, and other debris.
- Properly seal the crawl space vent to keep cold air out and prevent frozen pipes. For an additional layer of protection, homeowners should think about adding a vapor barrier and insulation to protect the crawl space against moisture year-round. This is a common system that we install at Erickson Foundation Solutions every week.
Prevent Sump Pump Discharge from Freezing
It's normal for a sump pump to run in the winter when water from melted snow and rain accumulates in the sump pit. When it does, the discharge line needs to be clear to allow the water to exit the basement or crawl space. During the cold winter months, drainage lines can freeze or clog with snow and ice, which can prevent water from flowing out of the drainage line. If water isn't flowing out of the drainage line water can back up into the basement.
When the temperatures begin to drop, a common question that homeowners with a sump pump as is "how do I stop my sump pump discharge from freezing?". Disconnecting the sump pump hose is an option but forgetting to reconnect it can result in a flooded basement or crawlspace. At EFS, we recommend installing an IceGuard at the beginning of the drainage line of your sump pump.
Find a professional to help winterize your basement or crawl space
Based on your climate, knowledge, and DIY capabilities, these tips can help you create a list of winterizing to-dos. if you need professional help, Erickson Foundation Solutions can work with you on making your basement or crawl space more efficient during the winter. Reach out today for a free inspection for homeowners!