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Signs of Frost Heave and How it Affects the Basement

Friday, January 29th by Jennifer Bucci


Frozen dirt and grass.

Frost heave can be a threat to your foundation and basement.

If you live in an area where winter temperatures can drop below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, or 0 degrees Celsius, you may want to listen up. 

We all know the negative effects cold weather can have on our home and our bodies. Whether it be the scare of frozen pipes or achy joints, you get the gist of what extended cold weather can do. But, do you know the effects this cold weather can have on your foundation and basement? You may have heard of the term frost heave before, but it’s worth understanding what exactly that is.

What is frost heave?

Frost heave is a term used to describe the negative effect cold air and soil moisture have on your foundation. As cold air sinks into the ground, moisture within the soil begins to freeze. The freezing of this soil moisture makes the ground swell up, causing the soil to lift, or heave. Melting snow and excess rainwater can add to this swelling once moisture gets trapped within the soil and temperatures drop below freezing again.

Now before you panic, there are a few facts you should know about:

  1. Frost heave only happens to certain soil types

    Not all soil is susceptible to frost or expansion. For instance, gravels and sands don’t heave. But, if you live around soil made from types of clays, silts, and very fine sands, you could be at risk.

  2. Proper drainage can eliminate the chance of frost heave

    When water is prevented from reaching the freezing zone in frost-susceptible soils, this could altogether eliminate the chance of frost heave happening where you live.

  3. If soil heat loss is prevented or reduced, frost-susceptible soils may not heave

    Heat loss in soil depends upon many factors, including solar radiation, snow cover, wind, and air temperature. In other words, just because it’s cold out doesn’t mean the soil will heave.

Although there are some factors that can eliminate the chances of frost heave, it’s good to know what does cause this to happen, the dangers of it, and who to call when these issues arise. In fact, the United States Department of Agriculture estimates that one-half of American homes are built on expansive soils, and the American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that a quarter of all homes have experienced damage from these soils.

How your basement and foundation could be in danger

Cracked foundation walls

Make sure to contact your local foundation repair contractor if you notice any serve issues, such as foundation wall cracks.

Despite frost heave affecting the soil outside, it could negatively affect your basement and your foundation too. Your basement is below-grade space, which means it’s below ground level. Frost heave can immediately impact the health and safety of your basement space and can show signs such as: 

  • An uneven basement floor 

As soil freezes and expands, it could push up the floor of your basement, causing it to clump up and become uneven. 

The soil expanding around your foundation can cause the walls of your basement to push in, which causes the walls to bow in.

  • Wall and floor cracks

The pressure from soil expansion can create horizontal wall cracks and cracks in the floor. Frost heaves can be a widespread cause of property damage that most homeowner’s insurance plans don’t cover.

If you notice any of these signs around your basement or foundation, you should seek immediate help from your local foundation repair contractor. A professional will be able to examine the issue and come up with a solution specific to your home. Even after temperatures begin to rise again and the soil defrosts, the damage done will still remain. These issues will only worsen and further put your foundation’s health at risk. Check out our foundation repair solutions here

Basement Systems has a national network of basement repair and foundation repair contractors who can assist you with any of the above foundational issues caused by frost heaves. Contact your local Basement Systems contractor today for your free evaluation and estimate. 

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