Can Flexible Ditch Lining Work in Cold Climates?

It’s a common misconception that only concrete can handle the expansion of water in ditches built in colder climates. In fact, concrete is particularly prone to damage from freeze thaw cycles because moisture gets into the material itself; cracking it open from the inside. Flexible liner materials, like multi-layered RPE, are much more freeze resistant. This is especially the case in a ditch where the material can expand with the freezing water. Find out what makes these liners such a good choice for drainage ditches in cold climates.

Freeze and Thaw Damage

Flexible liners aren’t as prone to freeze and thaw damage due to the impermeability of the material. Since water can’t penetrate the surface of the liner, it only freezes on its surface. This has relatively little effect on the liner unless there’s someone flexing it when it’s frozen. In most ditch installations, there’s nothing to flex the liner while it’s frozen, since most ditches aren’t used in the winter. If the soil below the liner freezes and expands in the process known as frost heave, the flexible liner simply bends to accommodate it. While the right flexible liner can withstand this effect, it can crack even the toughest concrete liners and tends to break seams on rigid plastic liners.

Protection from Cracks and Collapses

Sometimes damage from frost and ice doesn’t occur until temperatures warm back up. If a lot of water accumulated under the ditch liner and froze in place, it creates a void that opens up into empty space when warm temperatures melt everything. A flexible liner can handle this loss of support without instant collapse or leaking. While you’ll need to identify the issue and repair it to prevent the flexible material from stretching and tearing, you’ll have time to do so. Concrete tends to become damaged rapidly from any loss of support, but flexible RPE material can handle being stretched a little until you can restore the soil supporting it.

Maximum Temperature Exposure

Most flexible liner products, especially multi-layered RPE materials, have maximum temperature ratings that are far beyond anything you’ll experience in real life applications. Many RPE products are rated to withstand temperatures of -85 degrees F or lower before cracking spontaneously. Unless you plan to install these liners in ditches dug in the coldest parts of Alaska, you shouldn’t have to worry about temperature exposure causing any unexpected damage.

Reinforced Membranes vs Single Layer Materials

Reinforced materials definitely have an advantage in cold weather over single layers. Any multi-layered product will naturally offer greater flexibility and crack resistance when cold, and the combination of both LDPE and HDPE in the RPE product definitely increases this factor. The addition of reinforced layers increases flexibility and crack resistance, resulting in the best cold weather product you can choose.

Don’t worry about cold temperatures or freezing water damaging your ditch liners. When you choose an industry leading RPE product from BTL Liners, you’re choosing a liner that can take whatever cold and hot conditions may occur.

Liners by BTL

AquaArmor Pond Liner

The most versatile liner on the market today, AquaArmor maximizes protection from harmful UV rays, tear resistance and punctures that cause leaks. Simply the best liner on the market.

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