Foundation heave, also known as frost heave, is when concrete slabs or your foundation are thrust upward, creating a large crack. Frost heave can create unmistakable damage to your concrete—but there’s a way to fix it. Learn all about foundation or frost heave in Colorado and how experts can help you overcome it.
What is Foundation Heave?
Foundation heave is the upward movement of a concrete slab or foundation, caused by pressure inflicted from the expanding soil below. This issue is especially prevalent in Denver, Colorado Springs, and Grand Junction, where sensitive and poorly drained bentonite clay soil causes issues for many different homes.
Foundation Heave and Foundation Settlement Are Different
It’s common for homeowners to confuse foundation settlement with foundation heave—that’s because the symptoms can appear similar. In reality, heave and settlement are born from two very different soil behaviors.
Foundation settlement occurs when the soil is too weak to support the foundation itself. You’ll notice parts of your home sinking and cracking. It’s common to spot cracks on your home’s exterior when it’s suffering from settlement. Think of settlement as passive damage; the soil itself isn’t causing damage, it’s just failing to support your home.
Foundation heave happens when the soil beneath your home expands and cracks your slab. It’s not as common to see cracks on the exterior of your home when you’re dealing with foundation heave. Foundation heave can be thought of as active damage to your foundation, as the pressure of expansion is directly causing damage and displacing your foundation.
What Can Set Off Foundation Heave
Soil can expand up to 10% of its original size once it freezes, which will apply pressure to the concrete slab above. You’ll find that frost heave, hinted by the name, is common during periods of snow or icy weather, where the moisture content in the soil freezes. As a resident of greater Pikes Peak, Denver, or Colorado Springs, you’re no stranger to freezing cold temperatures. Snow can add moisture to the soil around and beneath your home, and once it freezes, your foundation is in trouble.
Burst or Leaking Pipes
When you have a pipe burst or a major leak below your slab foundation, foundation heave can be a residual effect. As the flood source soaks into the soil beneath your home, the clay will expand and inflict pressure upward to your slab, causing a major crack. Potential leak sources include water pipes, sewage pipes, and HVAC ductwork.
Risks of Foundation Heave
Floor cracks are the central sign of foundation heave. You may visibly spot large fissures in the concrete floors of your home, namely your basement, garage, or tiled areas. The floor may look like it’s heaving upward, sort of like a fault line.
Interior Wall Cracks
Cracking on your drywall on the interior sections of your home is common when homes are suffering from foundation heave. It may appear as though your exterior walls are moving down and away from your home. On the interior partition walls of your home, you’ll see cracks in the drywall itself. Cracks sourcing from foundation heave typically meet around the strongest point of the heave.
Tilting Section of the Slab
When foundation heave takes root in your home, the slab on each side of the crack will tilt. You may notice that the unevenness can also cause doors and windows to have trouble shutting, and your walls may lean or bow.
If you’re already dealing with the effects of foundation heave, you’ll need to focus on repair first, then prevention. Polyurethane injections are a lightweight and less invasive way to repair and lift your foundation slab back to health. In some cases, pier systems can be used for heavy duty strength, to lift your foundation from the bedrock below your home for a permanent solution.
Preventing foundation heave is an all-hands-on-deck operation; but once you have the proper precautions in place, you’ll thank yourself.
- Drainage. To prevent heave from wreaking havoc on your home, a drainage system is vital. Ensuring that water and moisture are directed away from your foundation in the case of rain or leaks can save your foundation. This can include a sump pump or interior drainage system in your basement, or gravel around your foundation.
- Heating System. Installing a heating system below your home can also help prevent freezing soil from getting close to your foundation.
- Gutters. Having high quality gutters on your home is also important for preventing frost heave; in the case of rain, water will be directed away from your home instead of puddling around it. It’s also imperative to keep the soil around your home clear of any snow.
Yard Grading. Ensuring any water or sleet in your area is directed away from your home can make all the difference when it comes to foundation heave. Having a positively graded yard, meaning your home is at the highest point of your landscape, can ensure that water and moisture drains away from your home.
The cost of foundation repair ultimately depends on the complexity of your foundation damage, the size of your home, and the scale of the particular solution. You won’t know the price for sure until you have an expert inspect your home and explain to you the solution needed. If there’s one thing for sure, the cost of foundation repair will only go up the longer you wait to have something repaired. Foundation issues only get worse over time, and the price and scale of repairs will reflect that.
If you’re curious about the level of damage to your home and the potential cost for repairs, reach out to Peak Structural for a completely free inspection and no-obligation quote. This way, you can have a starting point for repairs, discover financing options, and decide if having work done now is right for you.
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Contact Peak Structural for A Free Inspection
At Peak Structural, we’ve seen everything Colorado has to offer when it comes to foundation heave and other common foundation problems. If you suspect foundation heave or foundation settlement in your home, call on your local experts. We’re proud to offer you an inspection free of charge to help you get to the bottom of your home’s issues.
Our experienced foundation professionals will complete a holistic inspection of your home and explain to you exactly what’s going on. They’ll then hatch a plan with you based on your home’s needs, your lifestyle, and your budget. It’s easy to get started with Peak Structural—contact us, today.