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Here’s How Extreme Temperatures Can Damage Your Home’s Foundation

The changing seasons can be difficult. Temperature fluctuations can weaken your immune system, making you more susceptible to common colds, flu, and allergic reactions. But did you know that temperature changes can also hurt your home?

Extreme heat or cold can damage the foundation of your house in several ways.

1. Frost Heave on Soil

The foundation of your house is set several feet underground to keep it stable. But the level of stability still depends on what type of soil is underneath your home. Soil has numerous variations because it can comprise different percentages of silt, loam, clay, and sand, creating expansive or loose soil.

Expansive soil behaves differently under warm and cool temperatures. It’s made mostly of clay, which has high moisture content. In the winter, the topmost layer of the ground freezes first. As the cold seeps into the layers underneath, the soil below also freezes. So the water inside the clay solidifies, making the soil expand and lift the upper layers. This process is also called frost heave.

The ground thaws when the temperature spikes again after winter. The soil contracts and causes the foundation to come back down as well. But it’s highly unlikely that it goes back to its original position. The movements in the ground can damage your home’s foundation, usually in the form of concrete cracks.

Safeguard your home from the effects of frost heave by making sure the contractor builds the foundation beyond the frost depth, or the line at which groundwater freezes. The foundation must be deeper than the frost depth to make it hard for the frozen water to climb. Concrete and masonry companies can repair the cracks on your walls and floors and make them look good as new.

2. Concrete Expansion

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When objects are exposed to heat, they tend to expand, and concrete isn’t an exception. This is because the kinetic energy of objects increases at higher temperatures, causing their particles to vibrate more. The particles separate from each other as they vibrate, so the material expands.

Changes in temperature can cause concrete to expand and contract, regardless of the structure’s weight. The thermal expansion of concrete relies greatly on the type of aggregate since each has different thermal properties.

The coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) measures the concrete’s shrinking and swelling due to temperature. The Penn State University College of Engineering says that the difference between the CTE of the aggregates and the cement paste may exacerbate the impact of temperature fluctuation.

When the temperature on the exterior part of the concrete is higher than the temperature inside the house, the thermal difference may cause cracks. This is why concrete joints are important. These are those deep gridlines you see between concrete slabs. These spaces allow the concrete to expand and shrink due to temperature without causing any damage to the structure. Pre-plan your concrete cuts and spaces to ensure a flawless finish.

Weather changes are beyond your control. And the impact on your home is likely without preventive measures. Keep your home intact and ensure its stability from construction through maintenance.