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Ohio Winter Woes: The Damaging Effects of the Freeze-Thaw Cycle

The freeze-thaw cycle is a natural process that can lead to ice dams and damaged gutters, foundation cracks, basement leaks, and more.

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Just because flora and fauna generally remain dormant during the winter months doesn’t mean your home does. While problems in your basement, foundation, and other areas of your home are typically more noticeable during the warmer and wetter months of the year,  your home can still easily experience damage in the winter. Your house is not a living, breathing being, but its strong and delicate parts alike feel the effects of the winter cold right along with us.  

One of the biggest things that impacts your home’s foundation and other areas of your property including concrete structures like your driveway is the freeze-thaw cycle. This natural process can lead to ice dams and damaged gutters, foundation cracks, basement leaks, and more. Read on to learn more about the freeze-thaw cycle, how to spot problems related to it around your home, and how the local basement and foundation experts at Ohio Basement Authority can help repair and protect your home. 

The Freeze-Thaw Cycle in Central and Southern Ohio 

While Central and Southern Ohio areas like Columbus and Cincinnati don’t experience the harsh lake effect snow common in the northern part of the state, that doesn’t make winter any less brutal. Temperatures can plummet and fluctuate throughout the winter, and even go through drastic changes within the course of a day. Winters are typically cold in Columbus and Cincinnati, with many daily temperatures hovering at or below freezing (32°F). Weather Underground’s forecast includes some mild days ahead for these major metro areas. 

The freeze-thaw cycle happens when temperatures frequently fluctuate from above freezing to below freezing, and this is a common occurrence in Columbus and Cincinnati. The most common problems with the freeze-thaw cycle involve water. When water freezes and transforms from its liquid state to solid ice, its particles expand up to 10 percent. This can wreak havoc on the soil, concrete, foundations, and other structures around your home. 

How the Freeze-Thaw Cycle Can Damage Your Home 

The freeze-thaw cycle can impact your property in a variety of ways. Here are some common areas around your home where you might notice problems with this natural phenomenon. 

Your Roof, Attic, and Gutter and Downspout Systems 

While Columbus and Cincinnati aren’t known for their snowfall totals like Cleveland and other Northern Ohio locales, these areas can still experience their fair share of snowfall. It may be picturesque, blanketing area rooftops, but can be a mess once it starts to melt. Along with sunlight and warming temperatures, any heat escaping from the roof can melt the snow, which freezes once temperatures drop again. This can take its toll on the roof and attached gutter and downspout systems in the form of ice dams and icicles. 

If water cannot properly drain from the gutters and downspouts, it can puddle next to the foundation and lead to interior leaks and structural damage. Water also can leak inside your attic or upper floors and cause damage such as wet and moldy insulation. 

Foundation Damage 

It is common for foundations to sustain damage from the freeze-thaw cycle through heaving or frost heaving. Wet soil underneath a home’s foundation can expand significantly when it freezes. The expanding soil pushes up against the foundation and/or slab, which can lead to areas bulging or lifting and affecting the home’s health, safety, and structural integrity. This is similar to hydrostatic pressure that presses against foundation or basement walls and can result in cracking and bowing walls as well as basement leaks and floods

Other Concrete Damage 

Just as frost heave can lift up foundations and interior slabs, the freeze-thaw cycle can do the same to exterior concrete. Sidewalks, driveways, patios, concrete pool decks, and garage floors can crack and bulge because of expanding, frozen soil underneath. This not only affects your home’s curb appeal, but its safety as well. 

How to Address Freeze-Thaw Damage Around Your Home

Nobody can control the weather and naturally occurring events like the freeze-thaw cycle, but it is possible to control how your home reacts to these stressors. Your home needs to be a safe and stable building from the ground up. Here are some installations and repairs that can help your home withstand with winter weather and the freeze-thaw cycle:  

Foundation Stabilization 

Your local foundation experts at Ohio Basement Authority have a variety of options to permanently repair and stabilize problematic foundations. If your inspector determines that foundation settlement is affecting your home, helical piers, push piers, or slab piers may be recommended. These piers are driven deep into the ground and down to more stable soil to permanently stabilize and help lift your foundation. For cracking, bowing walls, wall anchors or specialized wall braces can be tightened to help straighten the walls over time, and carbon fiber straps will hold the walls in their current positions and protect against further movement. 

Basement or Crawl Space Waterproofing 

If the freeze-thaw cycle led to or helped uncover leaking in your basement or crawl space, our team can install waterproofing solutions to keep your home dry. These include an interior drainage system and sump pump, as well as a vapor barrier for the basement walls or full crawl space encapsulation. 

Concrete Lifting and Stabilization 

For cracking and uneven concrete slabs, our state-of-the-art polyurethane injection system can lift and stabilize these problematic areas. If the slabs are in a severe state of disrepair, however, you may need to have them completely replaced and repoured. 

Other Freeze-Thaw Fixes 

Other ways you can repair or proactively treat your home to withstand the effects of the freeze-thaw cycle include having an insulation professional install proper attic insulation; investing in a roof rake to remove snow; keeping up with gutter cleaning, inspection, and maintenance; having your roof professionally inspected and repaired; and having a landscaping professional grade or re-grade the soil around your home so it has a positive slope away from your foundation. 

Reach Out for Expert Help in Repairing and Protecting Your Home 

If your home has sustained damage because of the freeze-thaw cycle, it is important to act fast and address the problem with the best solution. Our experienced team at Ohio Basement Authority can help by thoroughly inspecting your home and recommending and installing trusted repair solutions tailored to fit your home’s specific repair needs. It all starts with a free inspection and estimate. Contact us today to start the process of repairing and protecting your home for good. 

We are proud to serve homeowners in Central and Southern Ohio communities including Columbus, Springfield, Dayton, Cincinnati, and Lima. 

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Ohio Basement Authority Service Map

Serving Greater Columbus, Cincinnati, Dayton, and Northern Kentucky

Cincinnati Office

1270 Hillsmith Dr.
Cincinnati, OH 45215

Columbus Office

2421 McGaw Rd.
Obetz, OH 43207

Dayton Office

70 Birch Alley, Suite 240
Beavercreek, OH, 45440