Frost Heave and Your Foundation

Thursday, March 4th, 2021 by Chelsea Bowen

Heaving Foundation Due to Soil Pressure

The ground in our region freezes for many months at a time. Below-freezing weather affects all aspects of life for the people who live here. Below freezing temperatures also affect the life-cycle of a cold-climate home. From the time frozen soil expands to the after-effects of thawing and soil washout, we are entering the season where homeowners begin to notice new gaps, cracks, and bowing in their foundation wall. 

Foundation issues are almost always caused by the soil condition around your home. Knowing more about how this happens, what to look for, and options for repair will better equip you to keep your home a healthy and safe space year-round!

When Frozen Soil Expands

The basic science of what happens with frozen soil is this: as the air temperatures cool, the soil absorbs more moisture. As temperatures drop below freezing, the soil freezes too. Frozen soil takes up more space as it freezes, placing enormous pressure on the foundation walls, and causing crawl space support beams to shift. The exact opposite happens as the soil thaws in the spring.

When Frozen Soil Thaws 

Minnesota and Wisconsin both have a high amount of clay in the soil. Once this type of soil absorbs water, it takes longer for it to dry out again, compared to sandier, rockier soils. Oftentimes, this means that our foundation walls experience longer periods of extreme pressure during wet periods. It also means that our basements see water more often.

Cycles of Freezing and Thawing

The constant cycle of groundwater freezing and thawing means that the soil is doing a lot of expanding and contracting. With that, comes a constant change in pressure against your foundation walls. Once the soil finally thaws completely, it will begin to lose moisture. Once clay-rich soil dries, it shrinks and creates gaps that result in foundation settlement.

Foundation Cracks and Gaps

Cracks and gaps in your poured concrete walls and chipping foundation blocks indicate the start of foundation failure. Minor cracks and gaps may not be a big concern initially, but once a crack forms, it can only get bigger with time. Any instability in your wall will worsen when those periods of high soil pressure return.

Water in the Basement 

The truth is, your basement walls have a tough job. They are responsible for holding up your home while standing up to enormous amounts of soil pressure throughout the year, and they have to battle groundwater during springtime thawing and periods of heavy rainfall. Cracking and gaps in your foundation walls often lead to water intrusion. Installing a basement waterproofing system is one way to combat your basement from flooding, but oftentimes water leaks occur because of a foundation issue, so it is best to have a foundation expert inspect your home.  

Wall Support and Foundation Repair Systems

DBS has nationally-backed products to repair bowing walls and sinking foundations. Helical and push piers provide support for sinking structures by dispersing weight to load-bearing strata beneath the soil's surface. Wall anchors and braces work inside your basement to restore bowing and cracked walls to their original positions.

Heaving and Settling Season is Now!

Countless homeowners call us each spring looking for helping with water issues and cracking foundation walls. If you had a bit of water in your basement last spring, chances are it will show up this year, too! Call us today for a free, no-obligation estimate to beat the springtime thaw!

DBS your local experts in All Things Basementy! 1-218-525-0720

our service area

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Our Locations:

5116 Jean Duluth Road Suite 300
Duluth, MN 55803

1584 93rd Ln NE
Blaine, MN 55449
DBS service area