Concrete HeavingConcrete Heaving

The foundation is the strongest part of your home, and any weaknesses or structural problems can cause catastrophic problems for the rest of your house. One of the worst and most common issues that can affect your foundation is concrete heaving.

Most foundation damages decrease a home's value by 10% - 15%. If your home is worth $350,000, it could lose $35,000 - $52,500 in value. That loss is worthy of investigating solutions if your home is at risk.

What is Concrete Heaving?
Homeowners find the topic of concrete heaving even more critical than geologists do. That is because homeowners need to provide heave protection for concrete slabs and foundations to make sure their home stays warm, safe, and dry. You do not want to deal with concrete heaving around a pool, slab, or basement floor if you can avoid it.

Concrete heaving is caused by frost heave that forces the concrete supporting your home to shift and break.

What is Frost Heave?
Geologists have studied the effects of frost heave and its impact on land, water, and structures for many years. When water freezes, it expands 9% in volume from liquid to solid form. The ground, and its soil, typically contains moisture that allows the soil to freeze. Frost heave happens when that soil expands.

The soil beneath the ground needs a water supply, such as available groundwater, to flow through narrow spaces between soil particles via capillary action creating ice lenses. Increasing amounts of ice grow from the surface's freezing temperatures that penetrate the soil and creates a freezing front or freezing boundary.

An ice heave is a force caused by large bodies of freezing water. A frost heave refers to the force caused by freezing soil.

Certain kinds of soil are more susceptible to this kind of activity, such as silty and loamy soils with a fine grain. Coarse granular and grained soils may not be as conducive to water flow because they are less likely to absorb the moisture needed to create expansive soil.

Effects of Frost on Concrete
Freezing weather can cause concrete to expand or swell. If you drive, you see the damage clearly on roads, which become filled with annoying potholes. When you can see temperature effects on roads, keep in mind that this could be affecting your home, causing cracks in your foundation walls and other foundation heave problems.

What is Foundation Heave?
Caused by soil expanding under your home, foundation heave can be powerful enough to lift your entire house. Excess moisture and extreme freezing temperatures that create frost heave are the two most significant causes of foundation heave damage. It causes cracks to your home's floors, interior and exterior walls, and ceilings and damages the structural integrity of your entire house.

Foundation heave can cause your entire home to become dangerous and uninhabitable. You could experience mold and mildew, plumbing problems, and even structural problems that could cause you and your family to be injured. Plumbing leaks and breaks in plumbing lines may be the first clue indicating you need to make foundation repairs. Plumbing repairs that run into foundation heave repairs are dangerous if you do not deal with problems quickly.

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Frost Heave?
No. Homeowners insurance typically lists frost heave as an excluded peril. To protect your home from the structural damage caused by frost heave, make sure your foundation meets basic standards when the foundation is below the frost level.

Water damage is another related possible home insurance exclusion, and you will probably not be able to recover repair costs for damaged foundations covered by flood insurance. A typical homeowners insurance policy also typically excludes earth movement damage, such as an earthquake, tree roots encroaching on your foundation, sinkholes, mudflows, and landslides.

Signs of Slab Heave
Looking for signs of slab heave helps you minimize the damage caused by frost heave.

  • Are you starting to see cracks on your inside walls?
  • Are there cracks on your floors, especially on your garage floor?
  • Are there slabs that seem to be out of place or tilting to an angle?
  • Can you see cracks joining together, forming a triangle?

If you see any of these clues, act immediately to determine if you have a severe problem.

How Deep Does the Ground Freeze?
The frost line is the depth that water freezes underground. There is a big difference between a frost line in KY and a Florida frost line and a frost line in New York. Not just the temperatures but the ground composition can influence what kind of soil heave you experience.

Foundation Heave
Photo Credit: hammerpedia.com

You should learn what types of conditions to expect in your area and ensure your home adheres to the correct standards for safety.

How Deep Is the Frost Line in My Area?
The National Weather Service offers a free map so you can check the frost line in your area. The agency updates the map every day and uses several reliable sources to get its information. The site also offers other information about the locations and history of the geological changes. You can check if the soil will freeze and when there are frost advisories in your area.

How Long Does It Take for the Ground to Freeze?
Depending on several factors, such as soil composition and overall temperature, it can take from 6 - 8 weeks to 10 - 12 weeks in larger areas.

Snow Shaking GIF by funk

At What Temperature Does the Ground Freeze?
Technically, 32 degrees Fahrenheit is freezing, but the soil temperature can differ from the air temperature. That is why it takes longer for the ground to freeze, even if temperatures outside remain at or below 32.

At What Temperature Does the Ground Thaw?
The ground can start to thaw as soon as the outside temperature rises above the freezing level, but the ground temperature is often different from the air.

Does the Ground Thaw from the Bottom Up?
The top becomes warm first from the exposure to warmer air, so the surface thaws first before moving downward.

Hope that helps!

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At your service,
Young Alfred