If you've spent most of your life living in one place, then you may not realize that climate can impact construction choices when it comes to concrete. Temperatures and weather play a significant role in how contractors design and construct everything from concrete foundations to driveways and sidewalks. Poor choices can lead to cracking, sinking, or other severe problems.
Whether you're building a new home or concerned about maintaining the foundation in your existing house, it's essential to understand a bit about this critical structural element. By learning about how your foundation works and how your local climate affects it, you can anticipate and deal with trouble before it becomes too costly.
The Basics: Slabs, Footings, and Basements
You're probably familiar with the idea of slabs, basements, and crawl spaces. These three standard foundations exist in many parts of the country, but they're on the visible elements of your home's supports. Supporting a heavy structure such as a house requires footings that sit below the foundation, spreading the weight more evenly on the underlying soil.
The depth and style of your home's footings depend on local soil conditions and climate. Freezing weather can cause the soil to shift and heave, potentially upsetting the strength of the footings and compromising your home's structure. For this reason, homes in colder climates typically have footings buried much deeper into the ground.
Likewise, most cold regions use basements since the foundation must sit below the frost line. On the other hand, you're more likely to find graded slabs and crawl spaces in warmer climates. In these areas, the frost line may only be several inches below ground. If you want a slab foundation in a colder environment, you will need special accommodations such as insulation or deep footings.
Recognizing Climate-Related Foundation Trouble
Most foundation issues relate to the climate center on cold weather and frost heaves. For example, water can enter cracks in your foundation and later freeze, forcing a wider opening and more damage. Poorly designed foundations may also be vulnerable to frost heaves, especially if the original installer did not bury the footings deeply enough.
Concrete slab foundations in warmer climates can sometimes suffer from these issues, often following an unusually long cold snap. If the original builders did not account for this possibility, the foundation might shift and crack. These problems weaken the home's structural integrity and create the potential for future pest and moisture issues.
The more you know about your home's foundation, the easier it will be to spot trouble before the entire structure is in jeopardy. If you suspect a problem, always work with an concrete foundation service to evaluate the situation and develop a permanent solution.