Winter can be hard on your home's foundation, but luckily, there are steps you can take to protect your home's foundation from winter stress and damage. Before the snow starts falling, consider implementing as many of these tips as possible:
1. Grade your yard.
Much of the damage that occurs to foundations happens due to water. If water sits by your home, it can penetrate the foundation and cause cracks. During the winter, in particular, excessive water right next to your home makes the soil wetter, and as a result, it increases more dramatically in size when it does freeze. This puts undue pressure on your foundation, making it more likely to crack or buckle.
If possible, grade your lawn so that you have a slight slope to carry water away from your house. Also, remember to clean your gutters and ensure they are draining properly.
2. Increase drainage in your soil.
In addition to the grade of the soil, you also have to consider how well the soil itself is draining. Soil that is fine or that has lots of clay in it tends to draw in more water. As a result, through the winter, when the top layer of the ground thaws, the bottom layer absorbs a lot of the melted water. This increases the amount of water in the bottom layers of soil, and when it freezes, this creates even more pressure on your foundation.
To test the drainage near your house, dig a hole about the depth of the blade of your shovel. Fill it with water. If the water dissipates into the rest of the soil relatively quickly (within a few minutes), your drainage is fine. If it sits there, you need to increase the drainage.
To increase the drainage in your soil, dig it up, and add some gravel to it. If your soil has a lot of silt in it, consider removing some of it and replacing it with rocky soil or fill dirt. Ideally, you want to increase the drainage to a depth one to two times the length of your spade. This will reduce the amount of water your soil holds, and as a result, when the ground freezes, it won't increase in size so much.
3. Prepare your pipes for winter.
Unfortunately, pipes that are directly exposed to the outside of your home or connected to outside faucets can freeze during the winter. When the water in the pipes freezes, the pipes may burst, and this can fill the foundation with water.
To avoid this type of potential damage, remove hoses from outdoor faucets before the winter starts. Water can pool in hoses, freeze, expand and affect the faucets to which they are attached. Many outdoor faucets have an individual water supply line that be can turned on and off -- turn it off and bleed the excess water out of the faucet.
Alternatively, replace your existing outdoor faucet with one that has the shut-off valve inside the house. If the shut off valve is inside your warm house, it will stop the water at that point, instead of allowing it to sit in a portion of the pipe that is exposed to the cold and likely to freeze.
Additionally, if you have exposed pipes consider wrapping them in pipe insulation. Alternatively, buy a few swimming noodles, cut them in half lengthwise and slip them over the pipes. If you have open spaces around the pipes, seal them with expanding foam.
4. Insulate your foundation.
To really avoid foundation issues, consider insulating your foundation. This measure helps to keep your home warmer, potentially reducing your energy bills, and it also helps to prevent moisture problems in the winter as well as other times of the year.
If you are building a new home, you can simply ask your contractor to use insulated concrete blocks when making your home. Alternatively, speak with a waterproofing company about adding a layer of waterproofing to your interior and exterior foundation walls.
5. Schedule timely repairs.
If something happens to your foundation, you want to schedule a repair as soon as possible. Ensure your foundation is prepared for the winter, using the steps above. Then, every spring do a visual inspection of your foundation.
If you see any new cracks or evidence of shifting, contact a foundation repair person as soon as possible. They can help to stem the problem before it gets any worse, and this helps you avoid expensive repairs down the road.
For more tips on helping your home' foundation to survive the winter, contact a foundation repair expert. For more information, consider websites like http://safeguardwaterproofing.com.