What Is Frost Heaving And Why Should You Care?

It’s that time of year where we get excited about thawing out. The sun melts the snowpack as well as the frost in the ground.

But there are hazards you may not think about with the Spring thaw. The cold plays a huge role in the frost depth in our soil. It gets several feet deep during the winter and it can cause big problems. 

Take a look at the current frost depth. This is the depth that the temperature is 32 degrees or colder, meaning all the moisture in the ground is frozen to this depth. There are some areas that are still incredibly low… Minot is one of them at 59 inches. The average date this frost is gone is April 15th. 

A hazard from this frozen soil is called “frost heaving”. Where literally lenses of ice form causing the soil to swell upwards. The lifting and eventual dropping from melting is tough on roads and even your home. 

This same principle is behind pothole formation and bumpy roads. Water collects in the layers of asphalt and freezes at night, lifting the asphalt and then lowering with melting from the daytime heating. With repeated aggravation from car tires, a hole will form and continue to get bigger. 

As this soil freezes and expands, it can also put pressure on your foundation and basement walls. Cracks are normal but there’s a trick to figuring out whether it’s a normal crack or from frost heaving. 

Find one of those cracks and measure the width. Circle or mark the area so you can come back to the same spot year after year. Keep measuring every year. If this crack grows in width at all, you may have a frost heaving problem. 

To avoid this make sure there is limited soil moisture to freeze. Drain tiles around your home will keep water flowing away from the foundation. On rare occasions, these drain tiles may need a little maintenance. Gravel or sand around the foundation can also help keep the water filtering away.

Make sure rainwater is draining at least ten feet away from your house to keep it from collecting at your exterior walls. This will help ensure moisture doesn’t pool in the soil and freeze during the winter months. 

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