While many homeowners diligently winterize their homes, the foundation often gets overlooked. Unfortunately, the colder months can pose significant risks to this structural element of the house. Cold can cause the structural support to contract, and precipitation can exacerbate existing issues like cracks.
Let’s explore the ways in which winter conditions can impact your foundation and how you can safeguard the integrity of your home’s base from the challenges of snow, ice, and frost.
Understanding Winter’s Impact on Foundations
During the chilly season, numerous challenges arise for your foundation. As winter progresses, the ground absorbs moisture from various sources like melting snow or rain. Combined with fluctuating temperatures, the moisture freezes and expands, preventing complete absorption into the soil, leading to a phenomenon called “frost heaving.”
Frost heaving is particularly troublesome, destabilizing the soil and consequently your foundation. This process can lead to foundation cracks and uneven settlement. The instability intensifies if temperatures consistently stay below 40 degrees for several days. Essentially, freezing temperatures, moisture, and frost-susceptible soil lead to heaving. The soil begins freezing from the top, and as this freezing extends downward, the soil underneath expands, leading to potential gaps in your foundation.
Steps to Safeguard Your Foundation in Winter
- Address Minor Cracks Promptly: Small cracks may seem insignificant, but they can widen due to the freeze-thaw cycle. Ensure you consult a professional to inspect and address these cracks to prevent foundational damage and water seepage.
- Maintain Gutters and Downspouts: Keep your gutters debris-free and ensure downspouts are correctly oriented to channel water away from your home. Functional gutters can prevent rain and melting ice from affecting your foundation.
- Soil Management Around Your Foundation: Before winter hits, consider adding topsoil around your home’s perimeter to protect against frost and direct snowmelt away. Always ensure the soil slopes away from your house. While some suggest mulch or hay for insulation, these can attract pests and might not be the best choices.
- Regulate Humidity: Contrary to popular belief, maintaining your dehumidifier during winter is essential. Excess humidity can damage both your foundation and interior walls. Ensure the dehumidifier is set to a low setting to activate when necessary.
- Additional Protective Measures: Winter often exacerbates foundation and crawl space issues. Consider enclosing your crawl space with a plastic vapor barrier to keep out moisture, cold air, and pests. Regularly check outdoor faucets and hoses for leaks, and be cautious of activating a frozen pipe, as it can result in leaks.
Being proactive can save homeowners from the hassles of addressing moisture and foundation concerns during the colder months. Remember to schedule regular foundation inspections with a reputable contractor or service to ensure the longevity and safety of your home’s foundation.