Fall is here, winter will be upon us before you know it, and it’s time to think about weather-proofing your home. If you’ve got a basement, it’s wise to think about waterproofing it ahead of winter storms. A basement that’s not protected against the elements is susceptible to major damage once the weather gets rough, and that can be bad news for your whole house.
When you think about the problems winter can cause for you as a homeowner, you’re probably thinking about skyrocketing heating bills, frozen gutters, icy steps, and snow that needs to be shoveled. What you may not be thinking is the way that the plunging temperatures can impact your foundation and basement. The truth is that cold weather causes problems in several ways.
- Frost heaving is a major issue. When moisture in the soil freezes and expands, or the freezing point penetration goes deep enough to form ice under the footings of the foundation, the expanding soil shifts the foundation. It can lift the foundation enough to crack the wall, and then when the weather warms up the foundation settles again. Builders typically install footings below the normal frost line to prevent this from happening, but in older homes, they’re often not deep enough.
- Part of the problem is that concrete is porous. Especially when the foundation was poorly constructed at the time the home was built, inexpensive concrete was used, or the concrete was mixed incorrectly, it can be vulnerable to water saturation. Freezing temperatures cause that water to expand as it freezes, and that makes the pores in your concrete foundation expand as well. When the temperatures rise, they contract. This movement can cause the foundation to deteriorate over time, creating small cracks and crevices that eventually lead to big problems with your foundation’s stability. Cinder block is even more susceptible to problems than poured concrete, and this can sometimes lead to ice formation in the basement walls.
- Ice-block formation can cave in a foundation. When water saturates the soil around an unheated basement, the ice that forms can push up and inward. This is why houses that are closed up for the winter often have damaged foundations when they’re opened in the spring. In addition to a heated basement, proper landscaping can solve this problem, with plants keeping the soil dry enough that there’s not enough water to create an ice block. Well-draining soils that don’t hold water are another solution.
- Probably the worst kind of freezing for your basement is ad–freezing. This happens when the heat rises into the atmosphere and causes the soil to cool to the point that the top layer of soil reaches freezing temperatures and forms a layer of ice. If this ice forms on clay soil, the bottom layer of the ice sucks water from the soil underneath the top layer. The top layer becomes thicker while the soil beneath it becomes dryer, and this allows cold temperatures to penetrate lower. Once the freezing temperatures reach water under the soil, another layer of ice forms. This results in a number of ice layers shifting soil upwards in the direction of the heat loss. When these ice layers latch onto the surfaces of foundation walls or poles, they can lift them and cause horizontal cracks. If those posts or walls don’t have adequate support, they can carry portions of the house up with them.
- While moisture is a problem for your foundation, loss of moisture is as well. Loss of moisture in the soil around the foundation can cause the soil to shrink. This leads to the foundation settling. It’s a misconception that this only happens in the summer, as melting snow or ice can lead to a similar problem. Pay attention, looking for gaps or cracks in your soil that indicate the need for more moisture. Water your lawn, but don’t overwater: that will cause the opposite problem.
- Of course, your basement is more than your foundation. Foundation issues certainly cause trouble for the basement, but they’re not the only winter hazard basements face. After a snowfall, the snow that has accumulated on the ground melts and can quickly become a problem for your basement. Your basement needs to be able to stand up to all that water. After the winter, when the ground thaws, a basement that isn’t properly waterproofed faces another challenge. During the spring thaw, the frozen moisture in the earth will lead to significant moisture in the ground, and all that water can easily flow into an unprotected basement.
When you’re ready to protect your basement against winter weather, you can trust our experienced professionals to do the job right. At Budget Waterproofing, we’ve got more than 55 years of experience servicing both commercial and residential customers throughout Maryland. We’re proud of our craftsmanship and confident in our skills, and all of our technicians are fully licensed and insured. Whether you need basement waterproofing, a drainage system, crawl space waterproofing, or egress window installation, we’ve got you covered, with the experience and skills necessary to improve your basement and protect your family. For more information, contact us today.