Frost Heaving: What Can be Done?

Example of Frost Heaving

Frost Heaving: The Grim Reality of the Frozen Northlands

There’s no doubt if your a home owner, property manager or operations manager in the Midwest, you’ve dealt with your fair share of frost heaving.

What the Heck is Frost Heaving?

Frost Heaving Diagram
A Diagram of Frost Heaving from Wikimedia Commons

OK, Time for a Short Science Lesson

Frost heaving happens in colder climates like Minnesota where the winter cold penetrates below the soil line. It freezes the water in the top layer of soil. Any water that is further down in the soil can’t get out and diffuse and evaporate into the air because it’s being blocked by this layer of frozen soil. That’s the start of your problem. And that’s when the ice lens starts to build up.

An ice lens is a structure made of frozen water coming up from beneath the soil line that gets trapped and frozen into what looks like a disc made of ice. They are kind of neat to look at but boy do they cause a lot of trouble for folks like us.

It gets even worse because the water trapped even further down into the soil starts to diffuse upward towards the surface, and then hits the ice lens and… guess what? It freezes too. Making the sub-soil ice lens even bigger and pushing up the soil around it more.

Anything put on top of that soil, like your driveway, is going to get pushed out of the way by the growing ice chunk. If there aren’t any joints to relieve the pressure, the frost heaving is going to crack through the concrete. If there is a nearby joint, then that joint is going to separate.

Oh, That? I Hate Frost Heaving!

We don’t know many people who like frost heaving. Frost Heaving makes your pristine driveway or patio look funny, and over time can cause it to look even funnier as the soil expands and contracts and fills in the voids left by the melting ice lenses.  Your concrete (that’s sidewalks, parking lots, foundations… everything) moves and shifts centimeter by centimeter until you end up with cracks that cannot be ignored.

Thanks for Telling Me What it is, but What Can I Do About Frost Heaving?

As far as a DIY solution goes? Sorry to say that it’s not an easy fix.

The reason is that frost heaving is happening way below the concrete or asphalt, deep in the soil itself. So in order to get at that soil, you’d have to excavate the concrete or asphalt, which is pretty labor intensive work. Not everybody has the kind of equipment around the old garage to crack the ground. Another reason is if you’re noticing it, it’s probably wintertime, and that means the ground is already frozen and full of ice lenses. That’s going to make excavation even more complicated unless you have a way to warm the ground.

Hydronic Heating?

You could warm the ground up with a heating system and that might cause the ice building up under the soil to melt and the concrete to return to its original position. But then when temperatures drop below zero again? Yes. You’re right back to building up the ice lens, and thus right back to frost heaving. Sorry! That’s just the reality of living in the frozen north!

So you’ll have to wait until spring or summer before you can get cracking on it. You’ll have to remove the concrete, put down some insulation (or install a hydronic ground heating system) which we will talk about in a minute, and then replace the concrete you moved.

Sorry, wish I had some better news. But Frost Heaving is a problem that requires more than a bunch of handy tips and tricks.

Thus, Goodmanson Construction offers preventative measures to stop frost heaving from happening in the first place.

Well That’s Convenient.

It is! Goodmanson Construction has always operated on the principle that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, especially when it comes to large scale commercial projects. That’s where our insulation and heating technology comes in.

Goodmanson Construction believes SO much in this technology, that we install it standard on all of our concrete driveways and concrete sidewalks.

Insulated Concrete from Goodmanson Construction is the Ounce of Prevention that Saves you Long Term Costs on Frost Heaving

We’ve been working in Minnesota since 1971, so we know a thing or two about frost heaving. We know how it happens, and we know the effects of it. Since we also do snow removal, we also know that frost heaving can cause chipping and gouges in your concrete. That’s where potholes start to happen and just get worse and worse over time. We know. We’ve seen it!

Insulation and ground heating systems can significantly extend the life of your investment. We’ve found that putting in a layer of insulation underneath the concrete actually helps to prevent frost heaving from penetrating into the underlying soil and thus prevents the soil from freezing and expanding to the point where it pushes your concrete around.

Insulation and a Heating System under Concrete Sounds Expensive.

It can be. And if it’s just a cosmetic concern that something “looks bad” we would suggest not going for this option. But if you’re a business that’s looking at a massive project where safety due to trip hazards is a major concern, and you’re looking at costs for snow removal over a period of 5-10 years? You can’t afford not to consider this. Imagine just flipping a switch and watching the snow melt on your parking lot. Imagine never having to call for a plow truck again. Sounds nice, right?

Not only that, but even just installing some insulation could do the trick for frost heaving. A bit of insulation under the concrete layer slows the penetration of cold down into the earth. This can help you prevent frost heaving because the ground underneath (unless it gets really cold) won’t freeze!

OK OK You Convinced Me. How Much is it Going to Cost?

Our Project Designers are here for you! Give a click here to start on your free estimate. Or give us a call at 651-636-4996. We’ll  talk you through a quote.

And if you want to learn more about frost heaving, here’s a whole paper on it.

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