A home is the biggest asset that most Americans have. And not surprisingly, a large amount of planning and premeditation goes into the construction process – especially when considering your home’s foundation:
• California builders take into account earthquakes
• Home builders in the St. Louis area construct foundations with tornadoes in mind
But with changing weather patterns, this level of planning is not always possible. Missouri, for instance, received unrivaled amounts of rainfall in 2013. In the majority of the worst hit cities like St. Louis, construction teams didn’t necessarily build home foundations with such severe flooding in mind.
And that’s just the rainy season.
Winter provides a totally new set of risks to your St. Louis home’s foundation, with 2 of the greatest dangers being frost heaving and freezing pipes. Let’s check out these two common winter threats and then talk about practical solutions.
How Frost Heaving Leads to Foundation Damage
Frost heaving takes place when top-level soils freeze and thaw, producing upward suction that draws more water – which then freezes and thaws even more. In time, this frost cycle leads to uneven pressure, creating shifts and cracks beneath your home’s foundation.
Silty terrain and soil with high water capacities are notably problematic since they do a bad job of draining the area around your property. By comparison, grainier soils (sand, gravel, etc.) are less likely to produce frost heave since they’re much more porous. Regrettably, Missouri homes in St. Louis, St. Charles, Chesterfield, Warrenton, and Florissant, Missouri are typically built on silty terrain.
How Pipe Freezing Can Harm Your Foundation
Your home’s foundation was designed to last. And typically, normal freezing isn’t a major issue. Your foundation might show concrete flaking or even splitting. But these are pretty rare. Significantly more common and destructive is pipe freezing. As ice within the pipes expands, this can lead to bursting, causing lasting water damage to your home’s foundation.
The issue is most common in places where:
• Pipes are directly exposed to outside temperatures (i.e. external sinks and washrooms)
• Pipes are indirectly subjected to outside temperatures (i.e. unprotected crawlspaces under your home)
• Exterior faucets aren't properly turned off during wintertime
As soon as you understand their causes, dealing with both of these common threats gets easier.
Techniques for Avoiding Frost Heave
Even though you cannot avoid seasonal frosting, you can protect your home’s foundation by implementing better water drainage management. Common solutions include:
• Swapping out surrounding soil with more porous alternatives
• Burrowing top-level and underground reservoirs to reroute water away from your home’s foundation
• Insulating your home’s foundation to slow down geothermic heat loss and reduce frosting before it occurs
Preventing Pipe Freezing
Safeguarding your foundation from pipe freezing is likely easier since you understand in advance where potential issues exist. Here are a couple of the most common preventative measures you can take:
• Turn off all exposed water pipes during the wintertime when you are not making use of them
• Seal off any leakages around pipes that enter your house to prevent cold air from seeping in
• Insulate pipes in crawl spaces, attics, and outer walls
• Make sure that your home’s core temperature doesn’t fall under 55 degrees Fahrenheit – even when you’re not around