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Frost heave has made this deck 4 inches higher on the right side.

Frost heave has made this deck 4 inches higher on the right. The deck had to be torn down and replaced. (Photo from the Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Watch for frost heave with changing temps

This weather has already gotten off to a crazy start. We had January in early November with snow and very cold temps. And now that it’s December, we have October again: dry and warm

These fluctuations in precipitation and temperatures that bounce back and forth out of the freezing zone can cause problems with frost heave.

“Frost heave is the result of pressure created from a combination of freezing temperatures and soil defrosting. The fluctuating freezing and thawing conditions heave, or lift, the soil,” according to

Soil can develop deep cracks, and your plants may be uprooted from the ground. These plants can dry out quickly and die if their roots are exposed.

This soil movement can also cause structural damage. Cracks can appear in foundations and basement floors, as well as drywall inside a home. Patios and decks can rise and break, or become so lopsided that they have to be replaced. So can windows and doors.

This heaving of the soil can also cause structural damage, in the form of cracks, on roadways, buildings and foundations. In extreme conditions, frost heave can burst sewer lines.

These heaves can be minimized with proper care of your yard and the soil surrounding your home.

“Heaves are also more likely to happen in moisture-retaining soils such as loam, silt and clay,” according to WiseGeek. “Well-draining soil, like that of coarse sand, rarely if ever suffers from frost heaving issues.”

If you have low-lying spots in your yard where water can pool, level this out by raking out the soil and adding more soil as needed. You also can add mulch around the foundation of your home. This will help insulate the soil, which will even out temperature fluctuations and reduce frost penetration.

Winter mulch should be applied at a depth of 3-4 inches, according to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension Service. “With fine organic mulches, such as compost or shredded leaves, maintain a 3-inch layer. For coarse materials, like wood chips, maintain a 4-inch layer,” the service recommends.

If you’ve had problems with frost heave in the past or have questions, please call AmeriSpec at 402-393-3696 in Omaha or 402-483-2010 in Lincoln.


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