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how cold affects your foundation

Winter Cold and Your Foundation—What Are the Effects?

Here’s what cold does to the foundation and what you can do to protect it.

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When people winterize their Indianapolis, IN, homes, they rarely give thought to their foundation. The ugly truth is this part of your home is a risk from serious cold and precipitation. Cold causes the structural support to shrink, and precipitation worsens existing problems like cracks. 

Let’s look at ways the cold affects your foundation and how you can protect the ground beneath your home from snow, ice, and frost. 

how cold affects your foundation

Effects of the Cold 

Many awful things can happen to your foundation once the temperature falls. During the winter period, the soil will be absorbing moisture from melting, light rain and snowstorms. Temperatures also swing wildly. The cold temperatures freeze moisture, so it won’t evaporate or get soaked fully into the soil. This water causes the soil to expand and heave. 

Frost heaving is a common problem during this time, and it makes the soil very unstable. Heaving is responsible for destabilizing the foundation, leading to foundation cracks and uneven settlement. The frost heave cycle makes the soil very unstable. The extent of damage increases if temperatures drop below 40 degrees and remain there for at least three consecutive days. 

Heaving happens when there are freezing temperatures, frost-susceptible soil, and water or moisture. Usually, the ground starts freezing from the top. Because the frozen part of the ground is harder than the unfrozen part, it locks your foundation in place. As the freezing progresses downward, it causes the underlying soil to expand and push the top layer. This upheaval creates gaps and spaces in your foundation. 

Protecting Your Foundation in Winter 

If you haven’t taken steps to protect your home’s foundation, now is the appropriate time to do so. Implement these measures to minimize the effects of the cold and melt runoff on your foundation.  

Seal all minor cracks 

We tend to overlook small cracks, forgetting they have the potential to widen during the freeze and thaw cycle. If there are foundation wall cracks, ask your local contractor to inspect and repair them quickly. This way, you’ll prevent foundation damage and water infiltration. 

Fix loose or damaged gutters 

Make sure your gutters are in good shape so they can do their job properly in winter. Clear debris or dirt as these can obstruct water flow. Adjust the downspouts properly and make sure any water that flows from them goes away from your home. When they’re functional, gutters and downspouts will protect your foundation by keeping rain and melting ice from your foundation. 

Heap soil on your foundation 

Your foundation is at great risk of damage due to frost and water. Before winter sets in, bring in additional topsoil and use it to adjust the soil level around your home’s perimeter. Once you’ve covered the foundation, rake the soil to create a slope that goes out from your home. The extra soil will protect the foundation frost and allow snowmelt to flow away. Some people apply mulch or hay to insulate the foundation and to improve drainage. Don’t follow suit. Moist hay or mulch against your home will attract pests, and this could lead to pest infestation. 

Control humidity 

Turning off the dehumidifier may seem like the right thing to do when winter arrives. But you’re forgetting that precipitation and melt-offs are common. Excess humidity can ruin your foundation and its walls in winter. To avoid problems, leave the dehumidifier during the winter period. Make sure the device is at its lowest setting so it can activate when humidity becomes a problem. 

Other measures 

Cold weather in winter is a leading cause of foundation and crawl space problems. If you have a crawl space, enclose it with a plastic vapor barrier. This liner locks out moisture, drafty air, and pests that can damage your crawl space. Check the water faucets on the outside and garden hoses to make sure they’re off and not leaking. Avoid turning on a frozen pipe in winter as it can cause water to leak. 

If you take precautions now, you will avoid the frustration of dealing with moisture and water issues when it’s freezing outside. Be sure to schedule a free foundation inspection and repair quote with the expert team at Indiana Foundation Service. We will perform the necessary repairs and help you weatherproof your foundation so it won’t deteriorate during winter.

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