Many people think of snow as only one of two things: either a beautiful picturesque blanket for your front yard or as a hassle to shovel every year. However, many people, even homeowners, don’t think of the third thing snow can be: a danger to your home’s foundation, especially if you’ve been neglecting it for quite some time.
Snow can definitely be dangerous for your home’s foundation. However, many people don’t understand exactly how snow can have an adverse impact on their home’s foundation, which leads them to not do anything. It’s important to know that snow can have negative impacts on your home’s foundation. Here’s everything you need to know about it.
The Dangers of Snow
There are many potential dangers that occur in and around your home because of snow. This largely has to do with the fact that snow actually takes multiple forms, and every form is slightly different. Here’s a rundown of the various dangers you might associate with snow.
Cold Air and Drying Soil
One of the biggest problems with snow regarding your foundation is the fact that snow requires very cold air to form, and cold air tends to go hand in hand with dry soil. As the air dries, the soil dries as well because the air tends to pull moisture out of the soil. This drying effect doesn’t limit itself to a specific type of soil, either; pretty much any soil around your home could end up dry.
Most of the time, when soil dries, it starts to form or sustain cracks. Those cracks are definitely bad for your foundation. Additionally, as the soil dries, it will shrink. When it shrinks, it pulls away from your foundation wall, leaving it with no support from the dirt as it was supposed to receive. This is absolutely bad for your home and the soil around it.
What happens when snow lands on the ground? Eventually, whether it takes days or months, it will melt. This is only untrue in a very small number of super-cold locations. In most areas of the world, the snow will eventually melt. That snow melts into water, and there’s nowhere for the water to go except down through the soil it’s sitting on top of.
That means this snow eventually rehydrates the soil that it was initially pulling moisture from. Although you might think this sounds like a great idea, it’s actually a huge problem for your foundation. All of a sudden, you’re going to have a lot of hydrostatic pressure, which is the pressure water exerts when it’s at rest, and a lot of expanding soil as it absorbs the moisture and swells up.
When that snow melts into water, it’ll also get into any cracks you have on the outside of the foundation. Sometimes, these cracks might be only on the outside of the foundation. Other times, they may go all the way through to the inside of your basement or crawl space. However, water can get into almost microscopic fissures in your walls, which means it’ll be able to get into any of them.
The problem then comes if a cold snap hits once again. In this situation, the water will refreeze into ice instead of snow. The biggest problem here is that ice is bigger than water; as water freezes, it also expands. Any water in the cracks in your wall will also expand, making those cracks larger, even if it’s only microscopically. Over long periods of time, this process can lead to giant cracks in your walls that came from refreezing water.
Flooding Basements and Crawl Spaces
Once you have giant cracks in your basement or crawl space, what could that turn into? The larger the cracks in your basement or crawl space, the easier water can get into them. What that means is that one way or another, whether it’s through the water table, melting snow, or a flood from rain or another source, your basement or crawl space becomes much more of a target for floods.
A flood of any kind, even a flood that’s relatively minor, can be absolutely catastrophic in a basement or crawl space. In basements, which many people use for storage or even for living spaces, a flood can destroy huge amounts of property. In crawl spaces, a flood can have a significantly negative impact on the structure you’ve built to allow people access to your plumbing or electricity.
Will the Summer Season Help?
Some people wonder whether the summer season, with its high temperatures, can help. After all, if low temperatures are bad, surely these problems will fix themselves when you move back into higher temperatures, right? The unfortunate thing is that the summer season probably won’t do anything to quell your problems.
Droughts in Summer
Of course, most people think of summer as having less rain than winter. Summer is definitely the time during which there’s more possibility for droughts. That, combined with the hot sun, can cause a change in the dirt around your home’s foundation. However, it’s probably not the change you were looking for, because it’s really not helpful for your winter woes.
In fact, the drought can cause problems of its own. Drought tends to cause serious concerns in the soil around your home. These concerns typically stem from the fact that they dry out the soil. That dryness can cause cracks in the soil, and those cracks sometimes never heal. The cracks can be an important part of allowing melting snow deep into the soil when winter rolls around.
High Levels of Moisture in Summer
Although most people think of summer as being generally dry, there can be very high levels of moisture in the summer. Warm air can carry more humidity than cool air, so it’s possible for the air to be more humid, even if there are fewer rainstorms and more sun. The possibility for this varies by location, but it’s certainly not uncommon on the East coast.
These high levels of moisture can impart some amount of moisture back into the soil. Because the soil is typically so dry during the summer, it sucks up the moisture very quickly. That means it often expands, only to shrink once again whenever the moisture levels in the air return to dry. This expansion and shrinking process, though it might be less prominent, is still extremely annoying to many individuals.
Cracks in the Soil
When droughts cause cracks in the soil around your home, that can actually be a very serious concern. These cracks in the soil around your home allow water to more easily get deeper into the ground, which makes it easier for melted snow and other types of water to invade your basement from the ground up and significantly impact the structural integrity of your home.
Hydrostatic pressure can become a huge problem with this structure. Hydrostatic pressure typically exists around your home because most homes have at least some amount of water in the dirt around the foundation. However, when you’re allowing more and more water from the surface to leak into the lower levels of the dirt strata, you’ll notice hydrostatic pressure becomes even more of a problem.
In the world of home repair, “expansive soil” refers to soil that both expands and contracts more than soil underneath a foundation maybe should. Expansive soil can cause a variety of issues; when water enters the soil, it becomes larger, exerting more pressure onto the foundation. When water exits the soil, it becomes smaller, removing that pressure.
Although you would assume you want only less pressure on the foundation, the truth of the matter is actually that you want the same pressure on the foundation at all times. Ideally, you want the soil to expand and contract as little as possible, so the foundation walls can become used to whatever amount of pressure the soil exerts, no matter what that amount of pressure is.
How Can I Fix These Snow-Based Problems?
What can you do to fix the problems you see from snow every year? There are actually many fixes you can have for snow-based concerns. Depending on the extent of your snow issues, you might want to consider one or more of these problems for your fix.
Additional Foundation Support
The first thing you can do is add foundation support to your basement or crawl space. In some situations, the problem is that the dirt around the foundation is pushing too hard on the foundation itself. Under these circumstances, the pressure can eventually build to a point where the foundation wall actually crumbles in on itself.
However, if you’re able to support the wall with something like a wall anchor, you may be able to mitigate the worry of foundation walls collapsing almost entirely, even if the dirt is pressing in dramatically. If you’re having issues with foundation settlement impacting your floor and walls, you might consider something like helical piers or another pier system to stabilize and even lift those areas once again.
Replacing the Soil Around Your Foundation
In some extreme cases, you might need to replace the soil around your foundation entirely. This may be the case if, for example, you have an extremely expansive soil around your foundation and you feel like it’s having a major impact on your foundation walls. An expert team can come in, remove the soil currently around your foundation, and fill in a better soil.
Of course, many people won’t need soil replacement around the entire foundation. Even if you do need some amount of soil replacement, you might not need the soil entirely replaced. However, you should keep this option in mind just in case it comes into play and you need to replace your foundational soil.
Basement and Crawl Space Waterproofing
Waterproofing can really help if your basement or crawl space regularly has water issues because of the water in the ground around your foundation. If you find that water is a common problem in your basement or crawl space, you might need to look into waterproofing options like interior drainage and a sump pump that can help you manage the impact it has.
Instead of just doing the same things over and over again and hoping things will change, why not seek out something that actually might change what’s happening to your basement and crawl space? Waterproofing is a useful tool that may not be the first thing you consider, but it should be something you pay attention to.
Obviously, it’s important to inspect your foundation whenever possible. Foundation inspection can bring to light all sorts of issues you never even noticed. Do you know whether your foundation walls are bowing in because of water pressure? A foundation inspection can let you know whether they are or not and whether to be concerned.
These foundation inspection options are an important part of keeping yourself and your family safe. Obviously, catching problems before they really become something important is something you should do no matter what you’re dealing with. When it’s your home’s foundation, catching a problem could be a matter of life and death.
Understanding Your Ability to Rebuff Snow
Although it can be beautiful when you look out the window, it’s important to know that snow can also have a pretty significant detrimental effect on your home’s foundational stability. If you allow snow to run rampant in and around your home, you’re very likely to end up with some negative impacts from that, especially in your basement or crawl space.
The good news, however, is that you have plenty of opportunities to make sure this doesn’t continue. The beautiful snow doesn’t have to be something you regularly dread. Your best bet if you’re looking to avoid the scourge of snow is to pay attention to the options available from a JES foundation repair expert. Consider requesting a free inspection today so you can get an assessment from a repair expert.