Cold Effects on Foundations

Ice Effects: How Cold Affects Concrete Foundations

Cold weather can have a major impact on your concrete foundation. When the ground freezes and melts, it causes the soil to heave and contract. This is called the frost heave cycle. Ultimately, this cycle can have a negative impact on your foundation because it causes instability in the soil. If the temperature falls below 40 degrees for three consecutive days, the likelihood of foundation damage increases.

How Frost Heave Damages Your Foundation

Close up picture of six sided snowflake

Frost heaving is caused by freezing temperatures that can damage structures in two ways. Cold temperatures cause ice to freeze beneath the concrete foundation, producing frost heave. Frost heaving is the movement of the soil due to the formation of ice lenses. Ice lenses are long crystals formed by layers of ice within the ground. The other way that the foundation can be damaged is by the ground collapsing, caused by thawing ice lenses. In order for frost heave to occur, there must be freezing temperatures, water, and frost-susceptible soil. All three conditions must be present. The process involves the following steps:

  1. When the ground freezes, it starts from the top. Since the frozen area of the ground is much harder than the unfrozen area, it locks the foundation in place. As the ground continues to freeze, the freezing process progresses downwards causing the soil below to lift the top layers. This pulls the foundation up, creating gaps and spaces beneath the foundation.
  2. The ground beneath the foundation moves, filling the gaps and spaces that have opened up. The unfrozen area under the foundation eventually freezes.
  3. As the weather warms up, the ground thaws causing the foundation to come back down. Because the space under the foundation is partially filled, it doesn’t go back down to its original position.

There are a variety of repair methods used by foundation contractors. Contact a foundation repair professional