Extreme Cold and Your Home

Lessons from Winter Storm Bella

frost heaving foundations

Last year, weather forecasters spent most of the fall season practically promising residents of the Northeast and Midwest that they would likely face a mild winter. Then Winter Storm Bella swirled onto the scene and flipped the script completely.

Early reports recognized that the situation was not as expected:

“Any preconceived notions of easing into the snow season should be thrown out with this winter storm. Instead of a gentle dusting, the first measurable snow of the season is, for some, a 6-inch-plus dumping from South Dakota to Michigan. At least a foot of total snow has been reported in five states.” (The Weather Channel).

Michigan wasn’t the only state affected, of course. By the time Bella was done, she had dumped up to sixteen inches across many states, including South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois.

Prepare for Unpredictable Winter Weather in Advance

Anyone who keeps up with extreme weather events knows the general unreliability of long-range weather forecasting. There are just too many variables feeding into the prediction model to make faith in the outcome logical. While we appreciate that our local meteorologists can warn us of what to expect for the next few days, we don’t believe that long-range forecasters can accurately predict overall seasonal fluctuations perfectly.

The right time to think about how extreme cold will affect your home is not once the cold has struck. We never really know what any given season will bring so it’s in our best interests to ensure that we’re ready for whatever the season throws down.

Of course, even given the unpredictability of weather forecasting, we don’t expect to see the sort of snow here in Texas that Winter Storm Bella dumped on the Northeast. Nevertheless, extreme cold and snow aren’t the only weather conditions that can affect your home. Foundations are particularly susceptible to weather-related damage – just a few hard frosts could negatively impact your foundation.

Preventing Frost Related Foundation Damage

According to experts at MIT, frost-related foundation damage is largely a result of a process called “frost heaving.” When soil freezes, it forms a hard, rigid mass with particularly high strength. A series of “ice lenses” develop in the soil, continually forming and thawing as temperatures fluctuate. Even though the ground might not show any change discernible to the human eye, the pressure as the ice expands and contracts leads to “heaving.”

Results of Frost Heaving can be Surprisingly Large

The expansion of soil from the formation of ice lenses varies over a wide range, but vertical movements of 4 to 8 [inches] are not unusual and as much as 24 [inches] has been reported (MIT).

Frost heaving can be prevented, but the process is complicated and well beyond the DIY skills of most people. In order for homeowners to ensure that their foundations are completely unaffected, they would need perfect control over at least one of the three elements involved in heaving: 1) the freezing plane in the soil, 2) the type of soil, or 3) the water supply in the soil.

Texas Soil is the Culprit of Most Foundation Problems

Once again, we’re brought back to the core reality that most foundation complications are not a result of faulty construction but of the type of soil that the foundation rests on: specifically, the clayey soils prominent in our part of Texas.

With our deep understanding of the geology of Texas Prairie Land Soil, we here at Perma-Pier Foundation Repair of Texas are well-equipped to diagnose and repair foundation problems.

Although we’re unlikely to face the extreme weather fluctuations that our Northeastern friends experience during the winter, it’s likely that more than a few of us will face our own weather-related surprises. It’s always best to be prepared.

For more information about our foundation services, or to chat with us about how drainage solutions could keep your home or business from facing future foundation failure, please contact Perma-Pier Foundation Repair of Texas. We look forward to putting our expertise at your disposal.

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