How Cold Weather Can Impact Your Home Foundation

The winter months in Texas often bring mild temperatures, but the occasional snow, freezing rain, and ice can still have a detrimental impact on your home. These cold weather events can cause irreversible damage to your foundation and other structural elements of your house. To understand the effects of the recent freezing temperatures and cold outbreak on your foundation, let’s examine the ways in which freezing temperatures and snow can harm your home.

Heaving Due to Frost and Freezing

Although frost heave is uncommon in Texas, it can still occur in areas with mild winters due to repeated freeze-thaw cycles. When temperatures fall below 32°F after a snowfall or freezing rain, the topsoil freezes, turning moisture and water into ice. As the weather warms up, melting snow and ice start to saturate deeper soil layers. If cold weather returns, the trapped water will refreeze and expand, causing the soil to also expand. The longer the cold persists, the deeper it penetrates the soil. This results in deeper soil layers expanding, even below the foundation. This expansion creates a significant amount of pressure under the home, potentially leading to an upheaval movement and cracks in the foundation, slab, walls, floors, and ceilings.

Concrete Expansion and Contraction Due to Temperature

Fluctuating temperatures due to extreme cold can take a toll on concrete foundations. The perimeter of the foundation is typically exposed to rapid cooling and freezing, while the interior remains relatively warm. This differential in temperature results in contracting of the cooler section more than the warmer section, leading to tensile stresses between the frozen and warmer parts of the foundation. These tensions can cause cracks to form, and repeated fluctuations may cause existing cracks to worsen in size and depth

Foundation Movement Caused by Repeated Freezing and Thawing

Contrary to belief, clay soil is not immune to cracking from changing water levels in the soil during any season. Dry spells in winter, similar to droughts in summer, can result in reduced moisture in the soil causing it to crack, shrink, and pull away from the foundation. This leads to cracks and voids in the foundation’s perimeter and under it. If snow accumulates near the home during winter, the foundation and surrounding soil may absorb significant amounts of water once the snow and ice start to melt. This often leads to deep soil saturation, causing the soil to become soft and unable to support the home’s weight. Different rates of water absorption can cause areas of the soil to soften at different times, leading to unequal settling of the foundation. This is known as “differential settlement.”

Soil Erosion Caused by Drainage Issues

Erosion of soil can occur when water from rain or snowmelt flows on the ground surface after the soil has become saturated. This can change the slope of your landscape, causing water runoff to not effectively be redirected away from your foundation, leading to damage. Overflowing gutters or downspouts that are not properly directed can also erode soil near the foundation, exposing its base and leading to foundation issues from water absorption. To prevent such issues and safeguard your foundation from snowmelt and rainwater, it is important to regularly regrade your landscape to slope away from your home, clean your gutters at least twice a year, and redirect downspouts as necessary.

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    AAA Foundation Service

    To protect your Houston home from winter’s damaging effects, it’s crucial to take steps to prepare it each year and to regularly inspect its exterior. Quick action to address any known foundation issues is particularly important, as harsh conditions like cold weather, heavy rain, and drought can exacerbate problems and increase repair costs over time. Whether your home is old or new, don’t wait to seek the expertise of professionals in fixing foundation issues. Call us today and we will get you setup with an in-depth inspection, free repair estimate, and a list of solutions for any of your foundation needs.

    Chris Bartlett
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