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Technical Papers

Foundation Repair - Freeze / Thaw Cycle and My Foundation Damage

Friday, January 27th, 2023 by Aaron Stull

Freeze / Thaw Cycle and My Foundation Damage - Image 1Foundations are the structural base of a home or building, and they play a critical role in the overall stability and integrity of the structure. Cold temperatures and the freeze/thaw cycle can cause significant damage to foundations, potentially leading to cracks, bowing walls, and even complete collapse.

When water infiltrates the soil around a foundation, it can freeze and expand, putting pressure on the foundation walls. This can cause cracks to form in the walls, which can weaken the overall structure and allow water to seep into the basement. As the water continues to freeze and thaw, the cracks can widen, leading to more severe damage.

Bowing walls are another common issue that can occur as a result of the freeze/thaw cycle. Bowing walls occur when the pressure from the expanding soil causes the foundation walls to bend inward. This can lead to structural failure and can also create gaps between the foundation and the floor above, allowing water to seep into the basement.

The freeze/thaw cycle can also lead to heaving of the foundation. Heaving occurs when the soil expands due to the freezing water, pushing up against the foundation and causing it to lift and shift. This can cause cracks in the foundation and can also lead to uneven floors and doors that stick or won't close properly.

The damage caused by the freeze/thaw cycle can be particularly severe in areas with heavy clay soils. Clay soils have a higher water-holding capacity, which means that they are more susceptible to freezing and thawing. Additionally, clay soils can expand and contract significantly with changes in temperature, which can put extra stress on foundations.

The freeze/thaw cycle can also cause damage to concrete foundations. Concrete is porous and can absorb water, which can freeze and expand inside the concrete, leading to cracks and weakening of the structure. Additionally, deicing salts and other chemicals used to melt snow and ice can seep into the concrete, causing additional damage.

Preventing damage from the freeze/thaw cycle requires proper drainage around the foundation. This includes grading the soil away from the foundation, installing a drainage system to remove water from the area, and ensuring that gutters and downspouts are functioning properly to direct water away from the foundation.

Installing a waterproofing membrane on the exterior of the foundation can also provide additional protection. A waterproofing membrane creates a barrier that prevents water from entering the foundation, reducing the risk of damage from the freeze/thaw cycle.

Regular inspections and maintenance of the foundation can also help to prevent damage from the freeze/thaw cycle. Early identification of cracks or other issues can allow for prompt repairs and can prevent more serious damage from occurring.

If your home already has foundation damage, it is important to address it as soon as possible. This can include installing additional drainage systems, underpinning the foundation, or even completely rebuilding the foundation.

In conclusion, cold temperatures and the freeze/thaw cycle can cause significant damage to foundations, potentially leading to cracks, bowing walls, and even complete collapse. It is important to take steps to prevent this damage, such as proper drainage and regular inspections and maintenance of the foundation. If your home already has foundation damage, it is important to address it as soon as possible

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About the author
Aaron Stull is a second generation foundation repair specialist from the greater Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area.

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205 31st St
McKeesport, PA 15132
1-412-872-2550
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