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How Does the Cold Winter Affect Your Foundation?

Find out the negative impact of frost on your foundation and home and what you can do about it.

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Cold weather does more than just force you to have hot chocolate. Frost, ice dams, and cracks can all impact your foundation. Extreme winter temperatures and snowstorms also can assault your home. 

Foundation damage can happen even before the temperature dips to the freezing point. The extent of damage gets worse if the temperature drops below 40°F for three consecutive days. Let’s look at how the winter cold impacts your home’s foundation and how you can save it from damage. 

The cold temperatures cause ice to freeze below your concrete foundation. Find out what’s causing the heaving and take the appropriate measures. You can avoid foundation damage by keeping water out and reducing frost penetration. 

heaving and uneven floor

Frost Heave 

Frost heave occurs only in freezing temperatures and when there’s water and soil that’s susceptible to frost. The ground starts freezing from the top. Because the frozen part of the earth is much harder than the unfrozen part, it holds the foundation. As freezing progresses downward, the soil below starts to lift the upper layers. The ground below the foundation shifts and fills the spaces and gaps that form. 

Eventually, the unfrozen part of the foundation does freeze. 

When the temperature dips, the water in the soil below your home freezes and expands. The expansion causes lateral pressure that results in the upheaval movement. This shift causes wall cracks, floor cracks, and ceiling cracks. After some time, thawing ice lens may cause the ground to collapse. This leads to an uneven foundation and other structural problems. Your floors, footings, walls, and slab pavement may be affected. 

Frozen Discharge Line 

If you have a sump pump in your basement or crawl space, the possibility that the discharge line could freeze during winter is very high. This component is supposed to move excess water out of the home. When it becomes frozen, water will be forced back to your home and this may cause flooding. 

Make sure the discharge line is angled downward so it won’t collect water. A basement waterproofing expert also can install the FreezeGuard™ attachment on the exterior discharge line to keep the water draining. 

Leaks and Seepage 

After some time, the weather will warm up a bit. The snow will start melting and seep right into the soil around your foundation. The soil will become saturated and the excess water will find its way into the basement via cracks, doors, and windows. Flooding, peeling paint, dampness, and musty odors are all signs water is getting into your house. 

Ice Dams 

When snow starts building up on your roof, the heat from the inside might cause it to melt. Water starts running down your roof until it gets to the eaves, which are colder than other parts of the roof. 

This water refreezes. Ice dam starts to build and water isn’t able to flow from the roof. With nowhere to go, water begins to seep into your home. This might cause cracks to form and sections of the wall to rot. 

Foundation Settlement 

This is a no-brainer. As the weather warms up, the frozen ground thaws, causing the foundation to move back down. Since the space underneath the foundation is filled partially, the foundation won’t settle in its original position. 

Protecting Your Home 

Harsh winter weather and freezing temperatures can destabilize your foundation and cause structural problems. You can avoid structural problems by insulating your home properly to prevent heat loss. If you notice substantial cracks or settlement, fix them quickly. The conditions will get worse as winter progresses. Remember to grade your soil to improve surface drainage. Maintain your gutters and have cracks in the foundation repaired to prevent water infiltration. 

The freeze-thaw cycle won’t just cause foundation movements; it will exert pressure on your foundation walls, causing them to crack. Cracks and openings could also cause secondary foundation problems. Your problems could get worse if the soils are unstable, as you will end up with severe structural damage that’s disruptive and costly to fix. 

Don’t let the extreme cold weather damage your foundation. Complete Basement Systems can help you fight back against the extreme cold and save your home’s foundation. We provide a range of affordable foundation repair solutions that can fix the damage caused by frost heave while protecting this area from future problems. Get in touch to schedule a free foundation repair inspection and quote today.