snow melt alberta icf

Springtime snowmelt is a natural phenomenon that Central Alberta knows all too well.  Rain may have been to blame for the Great Alberta Flood of 2013, but the snowpack and subsequent melt was a significant contributing factor. And while it is a mixed blessing for farmers, ranchers, and agricultural producers in our region, it’s often a major cause for concern for single detached family home owners. As a residential builder, you need to address this concern head-on, so that buyers and investors gain peace of mind. Below we have provided three effective ways to abate this seasonal threat.

3 Most Effective Ways to Reduce the Risk of Snowmelt Damage When Building Homes in Central Alberta

1. Building a Safe Distance from the Water Level

Snowmelt contributes to rising river, stream, and lake water levels in two ways. For one, the runoff from mountains and other high elevations can make its way into them, and raise the levels. In addition, snowmelt is a source of water for groundwater recharge. Melt that is not discharged directly into a body of water will seep into the ground and soil and contribute to both shallow and deep groundwater. Eventually snowmelt that was stored in the ground returns to the surface to feed and raise the levels of rivers, streams, and lakes. In either scenario (or a combination of both) rising water levels threaten nearby homes. Therefore, the most logical way to reduce the risk of snowmelt damage in this capacity, is to take careful note of the flood hazard areas, and build away from them. Governing bodies will have flood hazard maps to reference for the area you build within. Here is the map for Red Deer:

Flood Hazard Map for Red Deer River

2. Landscaping to Block Snowmelt Runoff

Even if you advise against building a custom home near a body of water, a client may insist upon it. After all, many people flock to Central Alberta (Sylvan Lake, Gull Lake, Red Deer, etc.) for the opportunity to own a home along one of our prized lakes or rivers. You need to be able to accommodate this while offering as much protection against snowmelt as possible. Of course, snowmelt also impacts those located at the base of slopes and higher elevations, so nary a soul is truly removed from this threat.

Whether you or your subcontractors are responsible for designing the landscape surrounding a new custom build, insist that swales are integrated into the perimeter of the property. Swales are a concave grass or concrete feature surrounding many homes and neighborhoods around the province that catch and manage snowmelt (and other) runoff. If building a home on relatively flat land you may also consider a landscape that slopes upwards towards the home, so that when snow melts around the property, it runs away from the house.

3. Insulated Concrete Form Foundation

Whether or not you build a home near flood hazard zones, and have taken the necessary landscaping precautions, snowmelt contributes substantial water to ground moisture. This can have a direct impact on the integrity of a home’s foundation. Traditional wood frame homes are especially susceptible to this form of snowmelt damage. So what is a builder to do? Build a custom home foundation using insulated concrete forms (ICF), which is quite possibly the most effective way to combat snowmelt concerns year in and out in Central Alberta. Why?

NUDURA ICF is resistant to water ingress. This is due to the non-absorbent Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) used in the insulating concrete formwork. When combined with a solid steel reinforced concrete core, EPS delivers unmatched structural stability even when snowmelt runoff and soil infiltration is at its worst. In addition, NUDURA also offers a Waterproofing Membrane, a peel and stick membrane that bonds to the EPS foam, and adheres to the damp-proofing and waterproofing requirements mandated by Alberta building codes.


Ready to provide buyers with snowmelt proof homes? Contact Total ICF today to learn more about the benefits of insulated concrete forms for Alberta home construction.