Shoveling ice and snow off the driveway and sidewalk isn’t the only thing homeowners must deal with during Oklahoma’s winter months. You may not realize it, but the frequent temperature warmups we enjoy during winter can also be damaging to a house’s structural condition. The back and forth from freezing to temperatures in the 40s and 50s can be harsh on your home’s foundation, eventually compromising its structural integrity. Here’s why.
Beware of the Freeze and Thaw Cycle’s Effect on Your House
When temperatures get low enough, the ground around your home freezes. Moisture in the dirt expands as it turns to ice, pushing against your foundation. When that moisture melts during warmer winter days, it permeates the ground even more. Any melting ice and snow just adds to the soil’s growing moisture. The next time there’s a freeze, the soil ices up again—and expands even more.
This repeated expansion and contraction can cause undue pressure against a home’s concrete slab. The foundation can shift or crack, leading to additional damage throughout your entire home—like cracks in walls and uneven flooring. If this happens, your foundation will need repairs to preserve your house’s structural soundness.
Common Winter-Related Foundation Problems
Here are some of the most frequent reasons your house may need foundation repair after a harsh winter.
Frost heave causes your home’s foundation to move upwards, which can lead to significant structural damage. It happens when winter temperatures drop below the freezing point. Any water in the soil beneath your house then freezes and expands. When this expansion occurs, the soil rises and presses on the foundation above it, producing an upward movement. This can lead to cracks in walls, floors, and ceilings, resulting in more foundation repair issues.
What to do: There are plenty of ways to prevent this from affecting a home, most of which are best handled by professionals. Here are three of them:
- Add a frost heave prevention system, such as hydronic heating system. In a typical 2,400 square-foot home, a whole house radiant hydronic floor system can cost between $14,000 to $50,000, including all materials and labor time.
- Install pre-construction piers to provide your foundation with ample support below the frost depth. Depending on where you live, your local building regulations will have a specified depth for new builds. But if your home is older, its piers may not be deep enough to meet today’s current weather limits. Piers can be added to older homes to give your foundation more support.
- Use back-fill materials like gravel around the home’s foundation to encourage water drainage, so soil won’t expand as much during freezes. Gravel-filled trenches are effective, but are time-consuming to install and must be constructed correctly to work. Seasoned professionals can get it done right the first time.
Frozen Discharge Line
Not every home in Oklahoma has a sump pump, but if yours does, the discharge line runs the risk of becoming frozen during cold winter months.
Since the sump pump pushes excess water out of the house through its discharge line, it’s important to make sure the line doesn’t freeze. If it does, water can be forced back into the house and may end up causing flooding within the home. And any water damage in your home can potentially damage the foundation.
What to do: To ensure the sump pump discharge line does not freeze, make sure it is either buried at least five inches below the frost line in the yard, or extended out above-grade at a downward slope.
Leaks and Seepage
Depending how much snow, ice, sleet, and wintery rain we get, wintry precipitation can begin to melt and seep into the soil surrounding your foundation when the temperatures rise. If the volume of water around your house becomes excessive, it’s going to find somewhere to go. Sadly, that moisture is likely to end up pooling around your foundation and even leaking into your basement or crawl space.
What to do: To minimize seeping water damage, keep gutters clean of debris. Ensure water runoff areas are smooth and clear, leading away from the home to prevent puddles and leaks.
Snow often accumulates on a roof. This can lead to a problem because heat from inside the house rises, causing the snow to melt. The water from the snow slowly runs down the roof until it hits something that makes it stop—normally, your eaves and gutters.
These spots are not as warm as other parts of the roof, which can lead to the water refreezing. And over time, a dam of ice can build up along your eaves and gutters. Unable to drain away, the ice can melt and refreeze, leading to puddling near the foundation—and damaging leaks.
What to do: The key to preventing ice dams is to keep the roof cold. This normally means making sure the insulation in your attic is adequate. Keeping gutters clear also helps, as it allows melting snow to drain properly.
Winter weather can be tough on the pipes within your home. Temperatures go up and down, causing pipes to expand and contract—weakening them until they no longer seal properly at the wall or even preventing water from moving through them. Frozen pipes tend to leak and sometimes burst. When this happens, large amounts of water can make its way to your home’s foundation, leading to moisture damage.
What to do: Leave a small drip going within the home during the coldest nights, and leave open cabinets under kitchen sinks where the pipes can get coldest.
Prevent Winter Damage with Proper Foundation Care
If you’re noticing cracks in walls, gaps between walls and flooring, or doors on ground level that don’t properly open and close—Edens Structural Solutions offers foundation repair services you can count on to get your home back in safe shape. Check out our reviews to see what fellow homeowners have to say about our services.