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Stone Pavers & Ground Frost Damage

SInking pavers in driveway

Frost can have a devastating effect on your stone pavers and new landscape project if your landscape provider is not experienced. You should be cautious if your landscape company is not familiar with ground frost and are starting to build too early in the spring. There is a right time to start building your landscape with stone pavers and that is when the frost has completely come out of the ground. Frost can be out of the ground as early as mid April but can also take as long as May, it changes each year and is dependent on multiple factors.

Ground frost occurs when the water between the soil, rocks, and vegetation freezes. Ground frost is very common in Ontario, with more than half of the land in the northern hemisphere freezing and thawing each year.

The time it takes for the ground to thaw depends on the depth of the frost, deeper frost will take longer to thaw than shallower frost. The depth of ground frost in a specific area depends on how long the air temperature was below freezing, geographical differences and variations in the ground, such as:

  • Snow coverage
  • Soil type
  • Peat depth
  • Plant density
  • Slope
  • Lakes and Rivers

Landscape contractors should wait until all the frost has come out of the ground in the building area before they start excavating, setting grades and adding granular bases for hardscape projects. If your landscape contractor does not wait, you may experience frost heave. Frost heave occurs when water freezes below the ground and pushes the soil upwards, disrupting your stone pavers. To prevent frost heave and movement, MPS uses proper excavation depths as well as properly compacted granular bases.

Man digging a pit

From year to year, as the ground freezes and thaws, there will be natural movement of your stone pavers and natural stone, this is normal. As the frost is coming out of the ground, you may even notice that your steps or a section of your patio stones are now uneven. We remind our customers to wait until all the frost is out of the ground before worrying. If your landscape was installed by professionals, it should even out by itself as the ground settles. The sun exposure and drainage of your property will affect the ground frost under your landscape.

Another way to lessen frost damage on your stone pavers is to build with proper drainage and a positive slope away from the house, this moves groundwater away from the landscape foundation and mitigates the severity of the ground frost by keeping large amounts of water away from the landscape/foundation.

Man setting down new paving stones

Ground frost heave can sometimes be inevitable, due to certain pre-existing ground conditions, however, if proper base and installation are used any movement will self-correct.

The bottom line is that ground frost is unavoidable in the GTA but with an experienced landscape construction company, who have professional landscape designers, project managers with comprehensive frost knowledge and landscape foremen who use the proper excavation depths and granular bases, you shouldn’t have issues with your stone pavers and ground frost.

Want to update or add stonework around your home? Contact the experienced team at MPS Property Services today.

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