Why Does Winnipeg's Ground Shift so Much?

Winnipeg experiences significant ground shifting, impacting both landscaping and construction. This phenomenon primarily results from our region's unique soil composition and climatic conditions.

Summer Factors

Organic materials in the ground, like soil and clay absorb water and therefore expand. Given some time without rain, these same materials will dry out and shrink. This movement of the ground is a fact of life, especially with our Winnipeg clay.

Clay particles are extremely fine. This makes clay able to absorb a lot of water and therefore expand. In other types of soil, such as sandy soil, the water just flows through. That's not what we have in Winnipeg.

Winter Factors

Winter introduces another set of challenges. Winnipeg's cold climate leads to a process called frost heave. When the ground freezes, soil moisture turns into ice, expanding and pushing the soil upward. The depth of frost penetration can vary, influenced by factors such as snow cover, which insulates the ground.

Fall and Spring Factors

Thawing in spring reverses the frost heaving process, often leading to uneven ground settling.

In both fall and spring, you will have many days where the ground will thaw during the day and freeze at night.

Impact on Landscaping

As you can imagine, these ground movements have significant implications for landscaping. Structures like patios, fences, and even foundations can become misaligned or damaged. Understanding this natural process is crucial in choosing the right materials and construction techniques that can accommodate or mitigate these shifts.

Solutions for hardscapes

1. Minimize ground movement

If we excavate the clay soil immediately below the patio or walkway, we can allow water to flow through downwards, away from our bricks. We excavate the absorbant clay and then replace it with crushed rock which drains nicely.

But we will still have a lot of movement here in Winnipeg.

2. Build an extremely strong surface or make the surface flexible

To deal with inevitable movement, we can either build an extremely strong monolithic pad enforced with rebar or we need to install a flexible interlocking brick system which can deal with movement.

At Earthworks Landscaping, we do the later.

Get a quick estimate

No meeting needed for a ballpark price. Just email us.