What Happens To A Concrete Foundation In Winter?


Cold weather does a lot more than get you to crank the thermostat and reach for a mug of hot cocoa – it can affect the unseen parts of your home, including your concrete foundation. You might not notice the impact the cold is having on your basement and foundation until it’s too late!

When the weather gets cold, know what effects it can have on your home – here’s what happens to a concrete foundation in winter. 

How Does A Cold Winter Affect A Concrete Foundation?


FoundationFrost heave occurs when the ground starts freezing from the top down. Because the frozen soil is harder than the unfrozen parts below, it holds the foundation. As the freezing spreads downward, the soil starts to expand, lifting the upper layers. The ground below the foundation shifts and fills the subsequent spaces and gaps, creating the heaving effect.

Sub-zero temperatures can also cause ice build-up in your drainage lines. The discharge line attached to your sump pump could freeze during winter, stopping it from moving excess water out from around the foundation. When it freezes, water could be forced back to your home through cracks in the concrete and weaknesses around doors and windows, leading to flooding.

Foundation settlement can be another issue. As the weather warms up, the frozen ground thaws, causing the foundation to move back down. Because the space below the foundation is partially filled, the concrete won’t settle in its original position, creating problems down the line. 

Finally, the freeze-thaw cycles of winter exert a ton (quite literally) of pressure on your foundation walls. The force can create cracks and openings that could get worse if the surrounding soil is unstable. Unless properly handled, you may end up with structural damage that’s bad for the home and costly to fix. 


Protecting Your Concrete Foundation From The Effects Of Winter


There’s a lot you can do to prevent problems with your concrete foundation in winter. To stop the harsh weather and freezing temperatures from destabilizing it and causing structural problems, start by ensuring your home is insulated to prevent heat loss. Rigid insulation can protect waterproofing and structural walls, keeping them at moderate temperatures and doing a lot to stop harmful freeze-thaw cycles.

You notice substantial cracks or settlements, fix them quickly. The conditions will get worse as winter progresses. Remember to grade your soil to improve surface drainage. Maintain your gutters and have cracks in the foundation repaired to prevent water infiltration. 

Other than that, keep the surrounding property and structure in proper shape. Grade the surrounding landscaping to improve surface drainage, maintain your gutters, and keep water from pooling on the ground where the concrete goes below the soil.


Can You Pour A Concrete Foundation In Winter?


Making sure the foundation is stable in the face of winter weather starts with the pour. If you’re having concrete for a new build set in winter, the builders must make sure that the ground on which they will pour the foundation is free of snow and ice while not being frozen. 

It’s key to preventing false support. During the frost, soil volume increases because the water in it turns to ice. It affects the soil’s support capacity. When the water in the frozen ground melts, structures can collapse. Freezing also increases moisture levels, which affects how well the concrete can develop its strength.

While concrete is resistant to cold – its freezing point is around -2.78°C – the high resistance doesn’t prevent it from freezing at all. Builders must protect the concrete until it cures to 500 pounds per square inch (psi).

Of course, this can’t solve every problem – for the drainage issues that arise from the cold weather, come to the experts at Ashworth Drainage! We’ll make sure your home can withstand all the forces of winter.