Wintertime brings a unique set of circumstances that can affect basement walls and foundations. The abundance of moisture can create waterproofing issues, including cracks in the foundation and walls as well as bowed walls. Winter is a great time to think about waterproofing your basement as the outdoor humidity is lower and concrete tends to be drier, which is helpful during repairs.
Radon, which is a carcinogenic gas, gets trapped beneath the ice, snow, and saturated soil. With nowhere to go, it flows through whatever gaps in the soil it can find, which often is the looser soil around the foundations. If your foundation or walls have cracks or there are small openings such as around windowsills, the gas will flow indoors. Since it’s colder out, most people keep windows and doors tightly closed — sometimes even sealed — and that makes airflow worse. If you don’t have a radon detector in your basement, you should purchase one soon.
Not seeing visible cracks doesn’t mean your basement is waterproof. There may be cracks you can’t see, air moisture you can’t feel, or hidden mold. If your basement is not waterproof, it’s a breeding ground for mold, which can be hazardous to those with lung issues such as asthma or allergies.
Handling mold without proper training and certification is dangerous. Mold spores are easily disturbed and can attach to almost anything. Before addressing waterproofing issues, you should hire a mold remediator to clean the area. After the area is clear, repair anything that is letting in moisture.
Once ice dams form in your gutters, any snow or rain that comes after will just slide right off the ice and directly down onto the soil next to your foundation, where it will saturate the soil and increase pressure. The best gutters and steepest slopes won’t help you if the gutters don’t work or there is a buildup of ice or snow at the bottom of the downspouts, preventing melted ice and snow from draining away from your house. It’s hard to keep these areas clear, so your best bet is to make sure the basement and foundation are waterproof so the mounting pressure against the foundation doesn’t result in cracks or leaks.
Cracks and Bowing
As water builds up in the soil around the foundation, it creates pressure on the concrete. This pressure eventually manifests as pooling water or cracks in the foundation and/or basement walls. Over time, the cracks may widen and the walls may start bowing. All of that is indicative of structural damage. Prevention is key, but if you already have cracks and bowing, proper repair is just as important.
Frost heave can happen in the late fall, as moisture in the soil alternately freezes and thaws. There’s no way to completely prevent this, but you can repair any cracks caused by frost heaving, and make sure your landscape has proper drainage. Drainage helps water warm faster so it doesn’t freeze and result in heaving. The expansion of freezing water causes soil to push outward, which in turn pushes against your foundation and basement walls. It also may affect driveways and sidewalks.
“Adfreezing” is when the foundation’s surface has soil frozen to it. When pressure from the frost- heaving depth is applied to the frozen soil on the foundation, it can result in vertical shifting.
Acculevel Gets It Done
The specialist staff at Acculevel wants to help you maintain a waterproof basement and foundation during the winter season. If you live in the Midwest and already have issues that need to be addressed, or you want us to take a look at your basement to see what can be done at a preventive level before the snow really starts coming down, give us a call at (866) 669-3349 or email us at [email protected].