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Gutters

Overflowing gutters are often the cause of a wet basement.

You should check your basement when you’re done reading this.

And later, check it again.

You might find a surprise.

Because, conditions are conspiring against your basement. Take a few days of steady rain, mix it with the melt from record snow and ice, and meteorologists are predicting the possibility of historic flooding in the region.

And the Leak Detective is predicting the possibility of unwanted water in your house. Even if it typically stays dry.

“It is actually somewhat of an extreme weather condition,” said Gus Ponstingl. “We have so much snow and ice, and then to have these rain storms.”

The Leak Detective is an architect by training who once owned a civil engineering company, though he’s not an engineer. For the past five years, he’s used his expertise in draining and grading as a consultant, inspecting homes for potential problems and troubleshooting confirmed leaks.

But there are a few steps any homeowner can take to try to keep this week’s water from breaching their basement.

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* Free your downspouts. Make sure they’re not buried in snow or frozen shut toward the end. If they’re clogged, water will back up in the downspout and eventually pour into the foundation. “And the closer the water falls at the foundation, the more likely it is to get in,” he said.

Use gutter extensions if necessary, but try to get the water 4 to 6 feet out from the house, and carve a channel in the snow so it has a place to go.

* Clear your gutters. Sounds obvious, but look for clogs up there, too. If the water is overtopping the gutter, it’s falling straight toward your foundation, and can find its way into your basement.

* On the roof. Look for iced-up areas that could be trapping water — or ice dams where two slopes of a roof meet — and try to get rid of them. You can chip them free, or melt them away with a steady spray from a garden hose.

* Your yard. Try to drain any pools and puddles that are trapped by ice dams. Chip a valley through the ice until the water starts to flow.

* Around the house. This is a little more advanced, but Ponstingl is a believer in proper grading around the foundation. His rule of thumb: If you pack a 4-foot-wide pile of dirt around your house, it should only rise 4 inches up to the foundation. Too much dirt, too high, can become soaked with water and put pressure on the foundation.

The Leak Detective suggests checking your basement a few times a day. And if you do find water, don’t worry: It could be years before another similar combination of rain, snow, ice and frozen ground occurs.

“Get through this and I think we’re going to be OK,” he said. “Don’t panic; it’s probably not going to happen again.”

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7254 or psalter@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSPeterSalter.

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