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How to Prevent Winter Foundation Damage

Posted September 29, 2021

Canadian winters can be hard on a home. Rapid temperature fluctuations and shifts in humidity threaten to damage your home’s foundation.

Thankfully, there are steps you can take to prevent winter foundation damage and keep your home’s structural integrity intact.

We’ve put together some tips to prevent the most common cold weather foundation issues. First, it’s important to understand what causes foundation problems.

What causes winter foundation damage?

The primary cause of winter foundation damage is frost heave. Frost heave occurs when ground water freezes and expands.

The expanding soil puts pressure on your home’s foundation and any other structure above the frost line such as a deck, shed, or slab-on-grade. Without proper prevention measures, frost heave can cause cracks in your foundation and basement.

Frozen pipes will also cause issues. When the temperature drops below -6 °C pipes may freeze and burst. This causes flooding that can weaken your home’s foundation.

Here are a few tried-and-true tips to protect your foundation from temperature fluctuations.

How to protect your foundation from winter damage

Install proper insulation

It’s important to adequately insulate your basement or slab-on-grade foundation for the climate. Proper insulation will prevent your foundation from cracking. It will also reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions.

Pipes need to be insulated as well. Even if you happen to live in an area that doesn’t typically have harsh winters like us folks in Ottawa, Canada, it’s a good idea to play it safe and insulate. Keeping your home above 12 °C, even when you’re not home, will help too.

Improve drainage

Sufficient drainage will keep water away from the building and prevent frost heave. It also reduces the chance of basement flooding and high humidity levels. We recommend installing French drains or a similar system.

Check foundation piers

If your foundation is built with piers, you should check their condition regularly. It’s a good idea to have a professional inspect your home [Link to: https://www.amsted.ca/news-videos/amsted-home-care-home-repairs-maintenance-smaller-upgrades-sized-to-fit-your-needs/] and advise you on whether you should fix or install additional piers.

Look for warning signs

You’ll want to keep an eye out for signs that your foundation is damaged.

Warning signs to be aware of:

  • Cracks forming over windows, doorways and where the wall meets the ceiling.
  • Cracks in tiles that are installed over concrete.
  • Difficulty opening and closing doors or windows that had no previous problems.
Wall and stair case

If you notice any of the above signs, contact a professional to take a closer look.

We’re here to help

As part of our suite of services to care for your whole home, Amsted offers home inspections and repairs performed by our fully licensed Red-Seal trade professionals. Contact us to get started.