Construction Studio Design Tips

Mercury Falling, Soil Rising: How Frost Heave Damages Basement Foundations

Finding cracks in your basement's concrete foundation floor is a homeowner's worst nightmare. These cracks can have a number of underlying causes, such as subsidence or soil expansion, but many homeowners are unaware of the danger posed by frost heave.

Now that summer is well in the rear-view mirror and temperatures are dropping, your basement foundation may be vulnerable to frost heave damage.

What Is Frost Heave? 

When water freezes and turns into ice, it expands. This occurs even if the water has been absorbed into a solid material, such as soil or clay. When temperatures at the ground level drop below freezing, any moisture contained within the soil beneath your property will start to freeze and expand, forcing the soil upwards. This phenomenon is known as frost heave.

Cold air sinks, so as temperatures get colder, more and more moisture within the soil will freeze and expand, as the cold air penetrates deeper into the earth. During prolonged cold snaps, this can cause substantial frost heave.

As you can imagine, the force created by hundreds of tons of expanding soil can place your basement foundations under an incredible amount of strain.  If the soil beneath your basement expands because of frost heave, the upward force generated by the expansion can cause severe cracking in the foundation slab. 

Is Frost Heave Causing Cracking In Your Basement Foundation?

For frost heave to occur, the ground-level temperature will need to be below zero, and the soil beneath your property must contain a significant amount of moisture.

If temperatures are not cold enough, or your property is situated on well-drained soil with low clay content, frost heave is highly unlikely to cause damage to your basement foundation. If the area you live in frequently drops below freezing, and your home is built on land with absorbent soils or a high water table, frost heave is more likely and more dangerous.

How Can Basement Foundation Cracks Be Repaired? 

If your basement foundation has suffered significant cracking, you should call in a professional basement foundation crack repair service as soon as possible. Foundation cracks don't just look unsightly — they can cause serious problems with dampness and flooding, make your basement floor unsafe to walk on, and may even put the structural stability of your entire home at risk.

If the cracking in your basement foundation is relatively minor, it may be possible to have them fixed and sealed using injection repair. Your repair service will inject epoxy resin or hydraulic cement into the cracks. These materials bond with the surrounding concrete as they harden, creating a tough, waterproof seal that will restore most of the foundation slab's strength and stability.

If the cracking is severe, it may be necessary to have at least some of the foundation removed and replaced with new concrete. This is a more expensive fix but will protect your basement and the rest of your home from expensive structural damage caused by weakened foundations.

If frost heave has caused the cracking, your foundation repair service can also take steps to prevent frost heave from recurring in the future. Drainage pipes and pumps installed beneath the basement foundation will reduce the soil's moisture content, minimizing frost heave when winter rolls around. 

To learn more, contact a company like Glenn Marsee & Son Foundation Repair