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Common Winter Foundation Problems & How to Fix Them

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Winter in Canada is always an event. Even the mildest of Canadian winters is guaranteed to produce plenty of rain, sleet, ice and (often) snow as well.

This coming winter is projected to break new records, with an especially harsh potential impact on Ontario.

Very cold temperatures, storms, ice, sleet and snow are all in the forecast this winter season.

While this can be great news if you are already eyeing the slopes with eagerness, it isn’t quite so awesome for your foundation back at home.

In this post, learn about the most common foundation issues in winter and what to do to fix them.

Warning Signs Your Foundation Is in Trouble

First, you need to learn about the telltale warning signs your foundation will send up when it is compromised.

  • You see new wall, ceiling or floor cracks inside or out

  • Your chimney appears to be leaning

  • Doors, windows and/or drawers won’t open or stay shut

  • Flooring starts to pop up or shift

  • The floor begins to slope or dip.

  • Hot spots start to form in areas on the floor.

All of these warning signals can indicate your foundation is on the move and your home along with it.

Common Winter Foundation Problems

These are some of the most common foundation problems that keep our service technicians busy all winter long.

Frost heaves

If you have never heard the term “frost heave” before now, you are definitely not alone. Yet you are likely already quite familiar with their effect from simply walking around outside in winter weather.

Frost heaves refer to what happens when moisture trapped underneath the soil surface freezes. Frozen water takes up more space than liquid water. If your soil has moisture-retention properties, trapped frozen water can take up a significant amount of space.

This phenomenon earned the nickname of a “heave” because when the water freezes, it pushes out, seeking more space in all directions, including up.

If you’ve ever had the experience of walking across your lawn one day after a storm has produced a noticeable temperature drop in its wake, you might have caught yourself thinking, “Wow – when did this small hill form?” That is how noticeable the impact of a frost heave can be.

Now imagine what happens when the heave occurs near your foundation. The upward, outward soil expansion will place extra pressure on your foundation. This can in turn cause cracks or outright buckling of the cement.

Freeze-thaw cycles

Freeze-thaw cycles affect your foundation a bit differently than do frost heaves. Every foundation and basement space has micro-fissures and tiny cracks, many not even visible to the naked eye. Nevertheless, they are there.

During winter’s thaw cycles, water naturally finds its way inside these tiny apertures and travels as far as it can go. Then when a freeze arrives, that water freezes. It expands and pushes the aperture just that much wider apart.

With repeated freeze-thaw cycles, what was once a microscopic fissure easily becomes a small visible crack that widens further over time.

Soil shifts

Soil shifts are common during severe winter weather. Think back to the last time you went through a major snowstorm. All that snow looked so light and fluffy as it came down. But once it reached the ground and started to pile up, it actually weighed quite a lot! Trees can take some of that weight off, but can withstand lasting damage as a result.

Enter the soil shift. Suddenly, open areas around your home will have to find a way to somehow cope with all that sudden weight. After all, your foundation was only rated to support a home of a certain weight. When that weight limit suddenly increases, your foundation will bear the brunt of the impact.

While shifts of four to eight inches are relatively normal, much greater shifts have occurred during severe storms.

Frozen pipes

Frozen pipes are something every Canadian homeowner understands and dreads. What can make them much, much worse is when a subsequent thaw cycle coincides with another common winter event, the power outage.

If you don’t have a backup sump pump in place, the likelihood of significant basement damage and foundation shifting is high.

How to Fix Winter Foundation Problems

To be honest, we vastly prefer taking a proactive approach for the sake of your wallet and mental health.

No one does well when faced with a wet basement, leaning chimney, sagging crawl space or sloping floor. These are some of the most stressful experiences you will have as a homeowner.

But we also realize that, budgets being what they will, foundation repair may not even be at the top of your list.

Here is what we recommend as a remedy for these types of common winter foundation problems.

Back up your sump pump

The first key thing to do is get your sump pump a backup. A battery-powered or generator-driven backup pump is the key to preventing major flooding catastrophes.

Interior basement waterproofing

With interior basement waterproofing, you can actively repel inward-seeking moisture from hydrostatic pressure, frost heaves, freeze-thaw cycles and other causes.

Upgrade your drainage system

Downspout extensions, refreshed grading, clean and clear window wells and floor drains, and enhanced gutters and downspouts can keep winter water from impacting your foundation.

Insulate those pipes

Finally, you don’t want to head into winter with exposed pipes or unprotected exterior spigots. This may mean insulating exterior-facing walls, adding insulating spigot caps, using space heaters in less accessible places to keep pipes warm or all of the above.

Get in Touch

Are you concerned about the stability of your home’s foundation this winter? Our FREE EasyQuote process is fast and easy!

Contact us online or give us a call at 1-866-875-6664.

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