Understanding and Preventing Frost Heave

Frost heave is a natural cycle that causes great damage to buildings, roads, and plants every year. There are three conditions that have to be present for frost heave to occur.

Climate is the first variable. The climate has to be able to support temperatures that are consistently cold enough to reach below the structure to the sub-base. There also has to be a supply of water in the area that will help cause the soil to expand. Water expands by 9% of its total volume when it turns from a liquid to a solid. Finally, the soil has to be susceptible to frost.

Frost heave is very hard to prevent, but it can be done. The two most effective ways to prevent frost heave are to either replace the soil that’s susceptible to frost or to prevent it from being frozen via heating or insulation.

These steps explain why frost heave is so common in roads. With so many roads it’s impossible to fully prevent frost heave. With houses, the foundations are usually built below the freeze line to help prevent any sort of frost heave.