Shoveling the driveway and spending an arm and a leg to heat your home aren’t the only drawbacks of winter in the Midwest. The cold temperatures also affect your home’s foundation and may even be compromising its structural integrity. Get familiar with these adverse effects that winter can bear on your home, as well as some ways to prevent them from happening:
Frost heave is a condition that causes a foundation to move upwards, leading to structural damage. When temperatures drop below freezing, moisture in the soil beneath a home freezes and expands. When the soil expands, it causes lateral pressure to the foundation above it and causes an upheaval movement. This movement can cause cracks in the walls, floors, and ceilings, leading to further damage.
The only time you would see frost heave is if the home has a slab foundation (with no basement) where the footings don’t go deep enough to get below the frost line (the average depth frost reaches into the soil in the winter, usually around 30”-36” in our area). You will never see frost heave a basement unless the interior is exposed to frost when under construction, and even then you’re more likely to see just the floor heave.
Frozen discharge line
If your home has a sump pump, the discharge line is at risk of becoming frozen during the winter. The sump pump pushes excess water out of the home through the discharge line. If this line becomes frozen, water is forced back into the home and may cause basement flooding. To ensure the discharge line does not freeze, make sure it’s situated at a downward angle, so water cannot collect inside.
Leaks and seepage
When temperatures warm up after a storm, the snow will begin to melt and seep into the soil surrounding your foundation. If the water becomes excessive, it can find its way into your basement through cracks, windows, doors, etc., and cause flooding. Peeling paint, musty odors, and dampness are signs that water is leaking into your home.
For more information, see Causes of Water Seepage.
When snow accumulates on a roof, sunlight hitting the roof, rising daytime temperatures, or even rising heat from inside the home (if there isn’t enough insulation) can cause it to melt.
Water runs down the roof until it hits the eaves, which are not as warm as other parts of the roof, and it refreezes. A dam of ice begins to build, and water cannot flow off of the roof. Instead, it seeps into the home, causing cracks and rotting walls and other structural components.
Foundation maintenance can prevent weather-related damage
Winter temperatures and storms can cause some very unwanted damage to your home. To prevent these issues, it’s important to properly insulate your home to stabilize it and prevent heat from escaping.
More importantly, fix problems (substantial cracks, settlement issues, etc.) as soon as they crop up. Harsh conditions will only worsen these problems, and you’ll be kicking yourself when they become severe.
Signs of foundation problems
- Windows and doors that are hard to open and close – If the problem is limited to one window or door, it’s probably not related to a foundation issue. However, problems with multiple windows or doors are a cause for concern.
- Uneven floors – If you drop something round on the floor, does it always roll toward one area?
- Ceilings and floors are separating from the wall – Even slight separations could indicate a foundation problem.
- Cracks in floors – Look for cracks that run across the floor, wall to wall.
- Cracked walls
- Bowed walls
- Torn wallpaper – The wall behind the wallpaper might be cracked.
- Wall rotation – This happens when the soil around the house is saturated with water that can’t drain off. The outside foundation wall sinks into the soil while the inside wall pulls up because it’s sitting on dry soil. This causes the wall to rotate.
- Diagonal cracks from corners of windows and doors – If these are hairline cracks, they might not be related to a problem with your foundation. However, larger cracks should be checked out.
- Stair step cracks in brickwork or masonry.
- Chimneys or porches that are pulling away from the house – This could be a problem with the foundation under the chimney or porch. However, it could also indicate a problem with the home’s foundation.
If you have foundation maintenance issues this winter, contact the experts at Epp Foundation Repair.