Over time, homeowners will inevitably notice cracks in concrete structures on their property. Common culprits include driveways, walkways, and even the home’s foundation itself. But why does this pesky wintertime phenomenon occur?
When changing from a liquid to a solid, water expands and takes up to 10 percent more volume as solid ice than it does as a liquid. Its greater volume explains how and why ice can be so destructive to solid structures—especially porous ones like concrete.
Consider just a few ways that the concrete structures around your house might suffer due to winter weather:
-Cracking Driveways Due to Ice. Water and melting snow can seep into and below porous concrete driveways. During multiple cooling and thawing cycles, that water might freeze up and expand, then melt and contract several times. Each cycle places additional mechanical stress on a concrete driveway, which can crack and crumble.
-Foundation Problems. A concrete foundation can be equally porous and as subject to cracking when moisture seeps in. Another problem occurs when water in the foundation freezes and expands, placing extra pressure on the foundation walls. Over several freeze-thaw cycles, foundation walls crack.
-Basement Flooding. Ice and snow can create a dam, preventing water from properly draining away from the base of a home. As water accumulates around a foundation, it can find ways to seep in, causing basement damage.
Long-Term Winter Weather Damage to Concrete
And then there are the long-term consequences:
– Resale Value. Cracks in a concrete foundation reduces the resale value of a home by 10 to 15 percent. A 10 percent value reduction can adversely affect plans to move to a bigger home or for your retirement savings.
-Insurance Issues. Foundation problems, including cracks and shifts in foundation wall structures, may or may not be covered by homeowners insurance. When you compare homeowners insurance quotes, verify that the insurance packages your comparing offer coverage for foundation repairs. A policy quote with a lower premium might not cover foundation and driveway damage from winter snow and ice. This can leave homeowners with substantial repair bills.
-Liability for Personal Injuries. Is a homeowner liable for injuries caused when a person trips over a cracked sidewalk? This depends on the jurisdiction and location of the home. If a homeowner is aware of a sidewalk crack but does nothing to repair it, that awareness can contribute to his or her liability. Again, good insurance protection will depend on the risks covered by a homeowners insurance policy.
-Preventing Concrete Damage from Winter Weather. Freeze-thaw cycles in cold weather climates cannot be avoided. Most experts recommend taking steps to channel moisture away from driveways and foundation walls. This is accomplished with good grading and effective sump pumps. Snow and ice should not be allowed to pile up against the outside of a house, either. Lastly, some form of basement waterproofing can form a barrier between water and porous basement walls.
Remember, homeowners can consult with their property insurance agents for more advice on fending off winter weather damage.