How Frost Affects Your Foundation

Does Frost Affect Foundations?

Stability is something that we all strive for. Being dependable, reliable, consistent – these qualities are appealing to everyone.

Stability is something we take for granted, though, when it comes to our homes. We think of their size and weight and depth in the ground and assume they can’t be shaken.

Of course, we’ve all seen news footage of an earthquake being able to uproot homes due to their tremendous, sudden power.

But are there more subtle threats to our home’s stability?

Yes. In cold weather climates, such as the Northeast, the freezing of the ground around and under our foundation can cause problems.

How so?

Soil retains water. Some soils hold more water than others. The wettest soils can be almost 40% water.When this water in the soil freezes, it’s volume increases by 9%.This can lead to frost heaving.

What is frost heaving?

Frost heaving is an upward swelling of soil due to the formation of lens-shaped areas of ice within it during freezing conditions. Ground freezing starts at the top, and as it does, it locks the foundation in place.Ice lenses continue to grow by drawing water from soil underneath  through capillary action. These lenses force the soil apart and cause the soil surface to heave, or lift.

Frost heaves exert enough pressure to lift the foundation up.This creates gaps and spaces beneath the foundation. The soil under the foundation then moves to fill in those gaps and spaces. Eventually, this area underneath freezes as well.

When the weather warms up, the ground thaws and the foundation comes back down. But, because the space under it is now partially filled, it doesn’t go back to its original position. It has now shifted and has unbalanced pressure exerted upon it. This leads to cracks in the walls and floor of the foundation.

For frost heaves to occur, there must be:

  • Freezing temperatures
  • Water
  • Frost susceptible soil

Snow cover actually works against frost heaves since it insulates the ground like a blanket and keeps frost at a shallower level. A winter with little snow and consistent freezing temperatures is the worst.

Installing foundations at a depth that is below the historic frost level of an area also reduces the damaging effects of cold weather.

Yes, unfortunately, our home’s stability is threatened by cold weather. Freezing ground can result in frost heaves, which lead to unbalanced pressure on our foundation and cracks.

What if there are cracks in our foundation already?How are they affected by frost?

Effects Of Frost On Cracks

Frost heaving can move foundations as well as put lateral pressure on their walls. Cracks can develop from each.

But what if I already have cracks in our foundation?

Maybe we’ve had a small settlement crack in our basement wall for years.It hasn’t gotten worse, and we don’t seem to be getting water or moisture coming in through it.

Should we still be concerned about a crack like this as winter approaches?

Yes. A deep frost can cause the concrete to shrink, thus opening up any gaps to their maximum width.This allows a greater possibility for water and moisture to enter. Especially as rain falls or snow melts while the cracks are still enlarged due to freezing temperatures, water can get in and cause mildew, mold, and property damage.

Additionally, once water is in a crack, it can freeze. As water freezes, it expands.So if water gets in a crack and then freezes, it will open up a crack even more.

So, all of a sudden, that small settlement crack that was 1/16″ or 1/8″ wide is now 3/8″ or 1/4″ wide.Once a crack is 1/4″ wide, it is considered a structural crack. Also, the wider the crack, the greater the possibility that insects will be able to enter our home (including termites that can cause thousands of dollars worth of damage).

Of course, water is able to enter a home throughout the year from the soil surrounding the foundation and underneath it. But winter provides an additional way that water can get in through the cracks in our foundation.

Ice dams on the edge of a roof can block water from melting snow above it and cause it to seek another path. Oftentimes, this water is able to run down the house behind the siding and sit on top of foundation walls. If there is a crack there, water will get into it and cause the problems mentioned above.

Garage foundation walls and floors are most prone to the effects of frost damage. Because they are often unheated, there can be freezing inside as well as outside.This maximizes the widening of any cracks and the damage that can result, especially if any water is present.

At Crack-X,we can repair foundation cracks before a deep freeze sets in and widens them.Our injection process creates a sealed crack that fills in the entire void and prevents water and ice from making it worse.

Need help? Call us at 978-687-4195

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