Frost Heaves Happen But We Have Solutions

By Matt Cataldo – April 1, 2015

Repair Tripping Hazards in Walkways and Driveways

As Spring finally comes around and we enter a period of repeated thaw-freeze cycles at night, you may notice frost heaves in your walkways, patio or driveway. What you are seeing is not unlike the frost heaves you experience driving your car. You know when you see signs along the road that say “Frost Heave” and you’re wondering, “Where?” And then, BOOM, you nearly hit your head on the roof of your car. THAT’S a frost heave.
Frost Heaves Ahead

Drainage is the Key

Your walkway may do the same thing as our roads depending on the base of the walkway or driveway, the drainage in the area, or the integrity of the surface, meaning if it seals out water or sheds it well.  Depending on the type of finished surface you have, it may be designed to allow water to flow right through it and away from the base or it may be crowned to shed water without creating puddles. When either of these design elements are compromised, water will get underneath, puddle below the surface, and push the bricks, stones, timbers or pavement up, creating an unsightly condition and a tripping hazard as well.



Brick Walkway Frost Heaves Carpenter & Costin

Solutions Vary

There are various solutions to frost heaves. The first is to leave it alone and see if it settles back into place once the nighttime freezing stops, sometime in April generally. You may notice that it goes back to almost where it belongs, but not quite. That is common and is an indication that the base or surrounding area may need some work to improve drainage.

The Advantage of Pavers Over Concrete, Asphalt and Stamped Concrete

In Vermont and other cold climates where frost and ground movement is a given, pavers offer a distinct advantage over solid, rigid surfaces. This is because pavers are segmented and made to move with the frost, whereas concrete and asphalt, heave and crack. If and when they don’t settle back into place, you now have a permanent hazard and a more costly repair. Add the fact that stamped concrete is typically dyed and you may find yourself rather unhappy with the obvious patch. In a paver application, where heaving has taken place, it’s a simple fix. Simply lift out the pavers that have raised or settled, add or subtract some sand (in mild cases), reinstall the pavers and sweep the polymeric sand back into place. Your clients, guests and family will never know there was a repair done and your walkway or driveway will look as good as new again.

As above, sometimes the solutions are quite simple but in more severe cases and especially in older surfaces where the base may have been deteriorating for many years, frost heaves may be telling you it is time to replace your walkway, patio or driveway. Nobody wants new tripping hazards in walkways caused by frost heaves, in addition to normal slipperiness posed by Vermont’s snowy & icy conditions, especially on commercial properties where the public is invited.