This year’s winter has put a lot of pressure on the comfort and reliability of homes all across the country but aside from taking particularly good care of your home’s exterior and trees, the frigid temperatures and heavy snowfall demand special care is taken to prevent your home’s foundation from being damaged by frost heaving. While the damage which this troublesome winter trend causes tends to go unseen until the first thaws of spring, the effects it has on your home’s structural safety and reliability are often very dramatic and very costly to repair.
Frost heave is a naturally occurring process which results from snow and ice melting into your soil, and then refreezing, causing the feet of soil that it seeped through to rise and fall according to this freezing/thawing cycle and leading to an unstable, unlevel surface for your home’s foundation to rest on. Professional concrete foundation specialists see this cycle repeating each year with homes in northern states especially experiencing cracks and shifts from frost heaving. Fortunately there are a few proven methods to protect your home’s foundation from these damaging effects which, if done before the season comes to an end, could save you a lot of money, stress, and danger.
Soil Choice Matters
Since the underground freezing of melted snow is dependent on soil inundation, one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of frost heave on your property is to have soil which is too coarse and granular to allow too much water to be retained. Concrete foundation contractors advise homeowners to exchange finer-grade soil types like clay and silt for coarse sand or a layer of gravel which are naturally more permeable. However, if you’re hesitant to replace your lawn’s soil entirely adding a layer of mulch can effectively reduce the risk of melting snow from refreezing under your foundation as it serves as an organic form of insulation for the ground below it.
Plumbing and Foundation Insulation
It may seem counterintuitive at first but for frost heaving to damage your home the temperature of the ground and air must first go up to allow accumulated snow and ice to melt and seep into the soil. While it’s impossible for you to fully control the effects of warming temperatures and sunlight, homeowners can absolutely have an effect on the temperature of the ground around their home. Hiring professional insulation installers to apply new, more thoroughly covering insulation to your home’s foundation and plumbing can tremendously reduce the risk of heat-loss from your home warming the soil surrounding it enough to cause snow and ice melting.
Control Runoff Water
Probably the easiest way to prevent foundation damage from frost heaving is to control the direction of where melting snow and ice can flow. This method, while very achievable by the average homeowner, does require a fair amount of planning in order to properly control where any runoff water travels. Optimally the best way to do this is to keep any heavy snow piles away from your home though with this winter’s often record-setting snowfalls that may not always be possible. In cases where complete removal of snow from the area is impossible, homeowners should take time to dig channels both above and below ground to allow an easy way for melting snow and ice to flow away from the home and its foundation.