Frost Heave / Expansive Soil Damage to Concrete
How to Identify & Evaluate Frost Heave/Expansive Soil Cracks in Concrete
POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about how to identify & evaluate frost heave or expansive soil heave damage to foundations & floor slabs or sidewalks
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What are frost heaves or frost heaving damage to foundations & slabs?
This article describes How to Identify, Diagnose, & Evaluate Frost Heave/Expansive Soil Cracks in Poured Concrete Slabs & floors or in Building Foundations.
This article series describes how to recognize and diagnose various types of foundation failure or damage, such as
foundation cracks, masonry foundation crack patterns, and moving, leaning, bulging, or bowing building foundation walls.
We also provide a MASTER INDEX to this topic, or you can try the page top or bottom SEARCH BOX as a quick way to find information you need.
Guide to Diagnosing & Fixing Frost Heaves or Expansive Soil Cracks in Poured Concrete Slabs
Frost heaves or expansive soils damage to building floor slabs can range from minor to extensive
in buildings depending on soil and weather conditions, site preparation, and slab construction details, as we
The photograph above shows a rather straight crack across a garage slab near the garage entry door.
What is happening here and why is this particular crack straight if it's a frost or soil heave crack?
In freezing climates building foundations include a footing which extends below the frost line. This
is true for both the occupied space as well as garages.
When a concrete slab is poured either abutting
the top of such a foundation, or poured extending over the edges of such a foundation, there is
risk of cracking across the concrete at the interior edge of the buried footing.
The combination of water under a garage floor (watch out for driveways and sites that slope
towards the garage or home) and freezing can cause the portion of the slab which rests directly
on the soil to move up and down during freeze/thaw cycles.
Since a garage is often colder
near the garage entry door than in other areas, there is extra risk of these cracks occurring
there, but they can occur anywhere.
When there is freezing and heaving of a slab, particularly
one which omitted reinforcing steel, or did not extend the steel over the footing, these
garage floor slab cracks may appear during freeze/thaw cycles.
Similar floor slab damage might occur in areas of expansive clay soils if the proper
moisture level is not maintained.
Basement floor heave patterns - frozen floor drains:
Basement floors can be frost heaved in other patterns in buildings which are
unheated or which lose heat.
We have found basement floor slabs broken and heaved
above buried drain lines which ran below the basement floor of a home which
remained unheated during freezing weather. A clogged drain sitting full of liquid
combined with prolonged freezing weather was the culprit in most of these cases.
The heaved concrete was raised following exactly the path of the frozen (and burst)
buried, clogged drain line. This problem can be epidemic in older homes which
were constructed using a downspout drain line extending below the basement slab.
How To Evaluate the Risk of Frost Cracking to a Building Foundation or Floor Slab
We don't know of an actual "foundation freeze test" that you can perform to predict foundation damage if the heat is left off completely in a building. Such tests would creating freezing conditions and would risk building damage.
But there are some things you can check to predict the chances that a building foundation wall or floor slab will be damaged by horizontal frost pressure on the foundation walls or by vertical frost pressure under a slab.
Homes in Alaska and northern Canada, for example, may be built on permafrost where frost heaves and effects of temperature changes can be dramatic enough that builders take steps to insulate building heat from the surrounding soil to avoid un-wanted defrosting and seasonal soil heaving.
How is the home constructed?
In those same extreme climates builders use a floating slab design or other methods intended to avoid differential heaving or settlement of the structure.
How deep are your foundation footings and basement or crawl space slabs?
If the footings and slabs are well below the frost line (which should be the case) then frost heaving of the slab or footings should not be a significant risk.
Is there exterior foundation insulation installed?
Foam foundation insulation on the building exterior increases resistance to frost damage.
Are any neighboring homes suffering frost heaves or damage?
Ask your neighbors who live in similar construction and on similar soils what their experience has been.
Check with local building officials.
Your building department may have someone whose experience can shed light on the risk of frost damage to homes in your area.
Check with local foundation repair companies.
As with building officials, local foundation repair companies or masonry contractors will be experienced with frost damage to homes in your area.
Watch out: other factors can still cause slab or foundation damage due to frost.
Wet soils around the home convert to ice and cause higher amounts of soil movement during freezing.
Ice lensing - sticking of wet soils to the foundation walls [FOUNDATION DAMAGE by ICE LENSING ] - can cause frost heaves and foundation damage even if the bottom of the foundation and all slabs are well below the frost line.
Well drained soils and good roof drainage that keeps water well away from the building reduce these risks.
Continue reading at FREEZING & WATER DAMAGED SLABS or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.
Books & Articles on Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, & Repair
"Best Practices for Concrete Sidewalk Construction," Balvant rajani, Canadian National Research Council
Mark Cramer Inspection Services Mark Cramer, Tampa Florida, Mr. Cramer is a past president of ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors and is a Florida home inspector and home inspection educator. Mr. Cramer serves on the ASHI Home Inspection Standards. Contact Mark Cramer at: 727-595-4211 mark@BestTampaInspector.com
John Cranor is an ASHI member and a home inspector (The House Whisperer) is located in Glen Allen, VA 23060. He is also a contributor to InspectApedia.com in several technical areas such as plumbing and appliances (dryer vents). Contact Mr. Cranor at 804-747-7747 or by Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
"Design Considerations for Perlite Roof Slabs," a chapter in "Perlite Concrete Grade for Lightweight Concrete Construction", United Perlite Corporation
Design of Wood Structures - ASD, Donald E. Breyer, Kenneth Fridley, Kelly Cobeen, David Pollock, McGraw Hill, 2003, ISBN-10: 0071379320, ISBN-13: 978-0071379328
This book is an update of a long-established text dating from at least 1988 (DJF); Quoting: This book is gives a good grasp of seismic design for wood structures. Many of the examples especially near the end are good practice for the California PE Special Seismic Exam design questions. It gives a good grasp of how seismic forces move through a building and how to calculate those forces at various locations.THE CLASSIC TEXT ON WOOD DESIGN UPDATED TO INCLUDE THE LATEST CODES AND DATA. Reflects the most recent provisions of the 2003 International Building Code and 2001 National Design Specification for Wood Construction. Continuing the sterling standard set by earlier editions, this indispensable reference clearly explains the best wood design techniques for the safe handling of gravity and lateral loads. Carefully revised and updated to include the new 2003 International Building Code, ASCE 7-02 Minimum Design Loads for Buildings and Other Structures, the 2001 National Design Specification for Wood Construction, and the most recent Allowable Stress Design.
Diagnosing & Repairing House Structure Problems, Edgar O. Seaquist, McGraw Hill, 1980 ISBN 0-07-056013-7 (obsolete, incomplete, missing most diagnosis steps, but very good reading; out of print but used copies are available at Amazon.com, and reprints are available from some inspection tool suppliers). Ed Seaquist was among the first speakers invited to a series of educational conferences organized by D Friedman for ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors, where the topic of inspecting the in-service condition of building structures was first addressed.
Defects and Deterioration in Buildings: A Practical Guide to the Science and Technology of Material Failure, Barry Richardson, Spon Press; 2d Ed (2001), ISBN-10: 041925210X, ISBN-13: 978-0419252108. Quoting: A professional reference designed to assist surveyors, engineers, architects and contractors in diagnosing existing problems and avoiding them in new buildings. Fully revised and updated, this edition, in new clearer format, covers developments in building defects, and problems such as sick building syndrome. Well liked for its mixture of theory and practice the new edition will complement Hinks and Cook's student textbook on defects at the practitioner level.
Masonry structures: The Masonry House, Home Inspection of a Masonry Building & Systems, Stephen Showalter (director, actor), DVD, Quoting: Movie Guide Experienced home inspectors and new home inspectors alike are sure to learn invaluable tips in this release designed to take viewers step-by-step through the home inspection process. In addition to being the former president of the National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI), a longstanding member of the NAHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), and the Environmental Standard Organization (IESO), host Stephen Showalter has performed over 8000 building inspections - including environmental assessments. Now, the founder of a national home inspection school and inspection training curriculum shares his extensive experience in the inspection industry with everyday viewers looking to learn more about the process of evaluating homes. Topics covered in this release include: evaluation of masonry walls; detection of spalling from rebar failure; inspection of air conditioning systems; grounds and landscaping; electric systems and panel; plumbing supply and distribution; plumbing fixtures; electric furnaces; appliances; evaluation of electric water heaters; and safety techniques. Jason Buchanan --Jason Buchanan, All Movie Review
Straw Bale Home Design, U.S. Department of Energy provides information on strawbale home construction - original source at http://www.energysavers.gov/your_home/designing_remodeling/index.cfm/mytopic=10350
More Straw Bale Building: A Complete Guide to Designing and Building with Straw (Mother Earth News Wiser Living Series), Chris Magwood, Peter Mack, New Society Publishers (February 1, 2005), ISBN-10: 0865715181 ISBN-13: 978-0865715189 - Quoting: Straw bale houses are easy to build, affordable, super energy efficient, environmentally friendly, attractive, and can be designed to match the builder’s personal space needs, esthetics and budget. Despite mushrooming interest in the technique, however, most straw bale books focus on “selling” the dream of straw bale building, but don’t adequately address the most critical issues faced by bale house builders. Moreover, since many developments in this field are recent, few books are completely up to date with the latest techniques. More Straw Bale Building is designed to fill this gap. A completely rewritten edition of the 20,000-copy best--selling original, it leads the potential builder through the entire process of building a bale structure, tackling all the practical issues: finding and choosing bales; developing sound building plans; roofing; electrical, plumbing, and heating systems; building code compliance; and special concerns for builders in northern climates.
Sinkholes and Sudden Land Subsidence References, Products, Consultants
"A Hole in the Ground Erupts, to Estonia's Delight", New York Times, 9 December 2008 p. 10.
History of water usage in Estonia: (5.7 MB PDF) jaagupi.parnu.ee/freshwater/doc/the_history_of_water_usage_systems_in_estonia.pdf
"Quebec Family Dies as Home Vanishes Into Crater, in Reminder of Hidden Menace", Ian Austen, New York Times, 13 May 2010 p. A8. See http://www.nytimes.com/
"Quick Clay", Wikipedia search 5/13/2010 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quick_clay
Florida DEP - Department of Environmental Protection, & Florida Geological survey (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/geology/default.htm) on Florida sinkholes: Effects of Sinkholes on Water Conditions Hernando County, Florida, Brett Buff, GIS in Water Resources, 2008, Dr. David R. Maidment, Photos - Tom Scott, Florida Geographic Survey - Web Search 06/09/2010 - http://www.dep.state.fl.us/geology/geologictopics/jacksonsink.htm
and - http://www.dep.state.fl.us/geology/geologictopics/sinkhole.htm
Lane, Ed, 1986, Karst in Florida: Florida Geological Survey Special Publication 29, 100 p.
Foundation Engineering Problems and Hazards in Karst Terranes, James P. Reger, Maryland Geological Survey, web search 06/05/2010, original source: http://www.mgs.md.gov/esic/fs/fs11.html Maryland Geological Survey, 2300 St. Paul Street, Baltimore, MD 21218
"Frost Heaving Forces in Leda Clay", Penner, E., Division of Building Research, National Research Council of Canada, Canadian Geotechnical Journal, NRC Research Press, 1970-2, Vol 7, No 1, PP 8-16, National Research Council of Canada, Accession number 1970-023601, Quoting from original source
The frost heaving forces developed under a 1 ft. (30.5 cm) diameter steel plate were measured in the field throughout one winter. The steel plate was fixed at the ground surface with a rock-anchored reaction frame. heave gauges and thermocouples were installed at various depths to determine the position and temperature of the active heaving zone. The general trend was for the surface force to increase as the winter progressed. when the frost line approached the maximum depth the force was in excess of 30,000 lb (13,608 KG). Estimates of the heaving pressure at the frost line ranged from 7 to 12 psi (0.49 to 0.84 KG/cm) square during this period. The variation of surface heaving force was closely associated with weather conditions. Warming trends resulting in a temperature increase of the frozen layer caused the forces to decline.
Leda clay slopes in the Ottawa valley are vulnerable to catastrophic landslides. More than 250 landslides, historical and ancient, large and small, have been identified within 60 km of Ottawa. Some of these landslides caused deaths, injuries, and property damage, and their impact extended far beyond the site of the original failure. In spectacular flowslides, the sediment underlying large areas of flat land adjacent to unstable slopes liquefies. The debris may flow up to several kilometres, damming rivers and causing flooding, siltation, and water-quality problems or damaging infrastructure. Geologists and geotechnical engineers can identify potential landslide areas, and appropriate land-use zoning and protective engineering works can reduce the risk to property and people.
Deposits of Leda clay, a potentially unstable material, underlie extensive areas of the Ottawa-Gatineau region. Leda clay is composed of clay- and silt-sized particles of bedrock that were finely ground by glaciers and washed into the Champlain Sea. As the particles settled through the salty water, they were attracted to one another and formed loose clusters that fell to the seafloor. The resulting sediment had a loose but strong framework that was capable of retaining a large amount of water. Following the retreat of the sea, the salts that originally contributed to the bonding of the particles were slowly removed (leached) by fresh water filtering through the ground. If sufficiently disturbed, the leached Leda clay, a weak but water-rich sediment, may liquefy and become a 'quick clay'. Trigger disturbances include river erosion, increases in pore-water pressure (especially during periods of high rainfall or rapid snowmelt), earthquakes, and human activities such as excavation
After an initial failure removes the stiffer, weathered crust, the sensitive clay liquefies and collapses, flowing away from the scar. Failures continue in a domino-like fashion, rapidly eating back into the flat land lying behind the failed slope. The flowing mud may raft intact pieces of the stiffer surface material for great distances.
Kochanov, W. E., 1999, Sinkholes in Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Geological Survey, 4th ser., Educational Series 11,
33 p., 3rd printing April 2005, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources / Bureau of Topographic and Geologic Survey, DCNR Educational Series 11, Pennsylvania Geological Survey, Fourth Series, Harrisburg,
1999 - web search 06/05/2010, original source: http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/topogeo/hazards/es11.pdf - Quoting from the document introduction: The first 18 pages of this booklet contain an explanation of how sinkholes develop. In order to tell the sinkhole story, it is important to discuss a number of related geologic disciplines. The words used to describe sinkholes and these disciplines may be a bit unfamiliar. However, general explanations are given throughout the booklet to help clarify their meanings. Key words are printed in bold type for emphasis. The more important ones are defined in a Glossary that begins on page 29. The remaining sections, starting with “Sinkholes in the Urban Environment” (page 18), deal with sinkholes and their impact on our environment. This includes recognition of subsidence features and sinkhole repair.
 Sarah Cervone, [web page] data from the APIRS database, Graphics by Ann Murray, Sara Reinhart and Vic Ramey, Vic Ramey is
the editor. DEP review by Jeff Schardt and Judy Ludlow. The web page is a
collaboration of the Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants, University of Florida, and the Bureau of Invasive
Plant Management, Florida Department of Environmental Protection contact: email@example.com [A primary resource for this article
 Center for Cave and Karst Studies or the Kentucky Climate Center, both at Western Kentucky University
Vanity Fair - web search 06/04/2010 http://www.vanityfair.com/online/daily/2010/06/what-caused-the-guatemala-sinkhole-and-why-is-it-so-round.html
Sinkholes, Virginia Division of Mineral Resources,
Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, www.dmme.virginia.gov Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy Division of Mineral Resources
900 Natural Resources Drive, Suite 500 Charlottesville, VA 22903 Sales Office: (434) 951-6341 FAX : (434) 951-6365 Geologic Information: (434) 951-6342
http://www.dmme.virginia.gov/ divisionmineralresources.shtml - Web search 06/09/2010
Sink Hole & Related Engineering References
Newton, J. G., 1987, Development of sinkholes resulting from man's activities in the eastern United States: US Geological Survey Circular 968, 54 p.
Sinclair, W. C., 1982, Sinkhole development resulting from ground-water withdrawal in the Tampa Area, Florida: U.S. Geological Survey Water-Resources Investigations 81-50, 19 p.
White, W. B., 1988, Geomorphology and Hydrology of Karst Terrains: Oxford University Press, New York, 464 p.
Williams, J. H. and Vineyard, J. D., 1976, Geologic indicators of subsidence and collapse in karst terrain in Missouri: Presentation at the 55th Annual Meeting, Transportation Research Board, Washington, D.C.
Barry F. Beck, A. J. (1999). Hydrogeology and Engineering Geology of Sinkholes and Karst. Rotterdam, Netherlands: A. A. Balkema.
Beck, B. F. (2003). Sinkholes and the Engineering and Environmental Impacts of Karst. Huntsville, Alabama: The American Society of Civil Engineers.
Beck, B. F. (2005). Sinkholes and the Engineering and Envrionmental Impacts of Karst. San Antonio, Texas: The American Society of Civil Engineers.
Tony Waltham, F. B. (2005). Sinkholes and Subsidence, Karst and Cavernous Rocks in Engineering and Construction. Chichester, United Kingdom: Praxis Publishing.
Whitman D., G. T. (1999). Spatial Interrelationships Between Lake Elevations, Water Tables, and Sinkhole Occurence in Central Florida: A GIS Approach. Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing , 1169-1178.
Sinkholes in Guatemala, Guatemala City, Wikipedia - web search 06/04/2010 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guatemala_City
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