Winter can be a bugger. The days are shorter; your skin gets incredibly dry; the floor is slippery; you can’t go out if you don’t shove the way or scrape/defrost your car. But these are not the worst that can happen in winter. Things can get worse if you have foundation problems at your home.
Most common foundation problems
It is not unusual to have foundation problems at home. Most people are used to expect foundation surprises during spring, but they can also happen during the winter. Some of them can be ice dams, frozen pipes, frost heaves, and if you’re noticing one of them (or, worse, all of them), you might have foundation problems. A house is like an organism, and problems are usually never isolated. A problem on your roof can cause problems in your house walls and expand to your foundation. So, let’s talk about the most common foundation problems.
In winter, the heat of your house goes up to your roof – as warm air is lighter than cold air – that makes your roof warmer, except for the outer part of it, the eaves. When the snow contacts the ceiling’s warm surface, it melts and runs to the cold eaves, freezing again. The problem with that is, once you have ice dams, it prevents melting snow from flowing off of the roof, making water to form behind the dam. That water can leak into the home and cause damage to the structure.
How to deal with Ice Dams?
Trying to get rid of dams with a hammer or shovel is not a good idea, as it can damage your roof. If you’re looking for a quick fix, you can blow some cold air where the water is leaking inside the house. You can use a snow rake to keep the roof free from snow. For long-term ways to avoid ice dams, you can insulate the attic floor. That would prevent the conduction of heat through the ceiling, keeping ice dams from forming.
It might seem like it’s not much of a problem, but frozen pipes can be a real headache (and costly). It is not just a matter of icy water that will eventually melt again. When water freezes, it expands, putting pressure on the pipes until they can not hold it anymore and break. It happens most frequently with pipes that are outside the house or in unheated areas, such as basements, attics, or even kitchen cabinets. If water does not come out of your faucet, you better get down to your basement and check if it’s not frozen inside the pipes. If your house is built over a slab foundation, and you have broken pipes underneath it, the chances are that you will have to excavate through the concrete on your foundation to fix them.
How to deal with frozen pipes?
If you’re a handy person, you can try to thaw it yourself. For that, you will need to follow a couple of steps: First of all, your faucet should be open, then you will have to heat the pipes until the water flow is normal again. You can do that with towels soaked in hot water, a hairdryer or a heating pad. Of course, this is only fixing the problem temporarily. If you’re using a heating pad, note that you can’t leave it there unattended. Remember also not to use any fire devices such as a blowtorch or charcoal heaters. You wouldn’t want to burn your house. If you’re not sure if you should do it yourself, call for professional help. If your frozen pipes are inside an exterior wall, you will also need professional help.
In wintertime, almost everything freezes, including the ground. When it happens, the soil around the foundation expands, adding pressure to the structure. As the pressure gets higher, it might cause the foundation to crack or blocks and bricks to bow. That can lead to another problem called “adfreezing,” which happens when things adhere to each other via ice. When the foundation has frozen soil to it, it can cause vertical shifting. Those cracks can also let moisture go into the basement once the ground begins to thaw. This type of problem can cause the foundation to shift, which will need professional fixing. See how everything in a house is connected?
How to deal with frost heaves?
To deal with frost heaves after it happens is to deal with fixing the damages it causes. The keyword here is prevention. Thinking ahead will help you to avoid all those problems. The first way you can prevent frost heave from damaging your house is to have your foundation footings built below the frost line. That can avoid the heave, but if the excavation is backfilled with soil that is vulnerable to frost, you can still have adfreezing problems. The best option, when possible, is to use soil that is easy to drain, rather than frost-susceptible soil.
What should I do if I have one of these foundation problems?
Well, this is easy to answer. If you’re noticing cracks, can’t defrost your pipes or have any other type of problem with your foundation, give us a call. We have the best and most qualified professionals to help you.