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Expansive Soils

Soil Health and Your Foundation

Expansive soils react to changes in moisture. When water is introduced the soils expand, while the soils contract when the moisture is removed. This will result in differential movement and structural problems.

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Expansive Soils, Compaction, Liquefaction

Soil health is a critical component when it comes to a building’s foundation. If the wrong footing is built for the soil or waterproofing solutions aren’t provided for certain problem soils, then the foundation can be subject to structural problems.

It’s important to conduct a soil survey prior to construction so that the appropriate foundation is designed.

Soil Health

Soil Health: Expansive Soils

Expansive or reactive clay soils can have a negative effect on a structure’s foundation. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that at least half of the homes in the United States are built on expanding smectite clays.

Expansive soils react to changes in moisture. When water is introduced the soils expand, while the soils contract when the moisture is removed. This will result in differential movement and structural problems.

Expansive soils are responsible for more home damage every year than floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes.

If moisture content varies dependent upon the location surrounding the structure, then localized or non-uniform settlement can occur. Evidence of this includes cracks in the foundation, uneven doorways and slab cracks.

Additionally, expansive soil can also result in damage to foundation walls. This is commonly evidenced in basements. The expansion of the soil will increase lateral pressure against the foundation wall. If the wall isn’t strong enough to resist the pressure, then cracks and leaks can form. Wall failure can also occur in these instances.

Soil Health: Hydrocompaction

Soil Health

Soils that have large amounts of silt can experience hydrocompaction. This typically occurs during a period of extended drought and the sudden introduction of moisture.

When the moisture quickly evaporates from the top layers, the silt and clay act as a bonding agent. However, space is left between the layers. When the soil is exposed to water, the bond is dissolved and the soil particles sink and move closer together.

Factors for hydrocompaction include deep watering of plants, pipe leaks, and puddles. The weight of a house or other structure increases the risk of hydrocompaction. Unlike settling, hydrocompaction can mimic earth fissures with one exception; they are restricted to a small area and typically circular.

Soil Health: Karst Landscapes

Soil Health

In Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland, karst landscape is isolated to the Blueridge mountains. Karst landscaping is prevalent in areas where carbonate, limestone, and other soluble rock have dissolved.

Karst is not unique to limestone, but it’s the most common identifier due to the higher rate of dissolution and sinkholes. Limestone is made up of more than 50% carbonate minerals, which are more likely to dissolve. However, it’s important to note that the quantity of water and porosity of the limestone play a critical role in the dissolution process.

The development of sinkholes is the largest structural danger associated with karst landscapes. Sinkholes are classified into three categories: solution, collapse, and subsidence.

Solution sinkholes are caused by the dissolution of bedrock. Collapse sinkholes are the result of subsurface dissolution. Subsidence sinkholes are caused by a change in the environment, such as loading or changes in groundwater.

Soil Health: Liquefaction

Soil Health

Fine textured, uncompacted, loose, and saturated soils in low-lying areas can be subject to liquefaction. This can occur during an earthquake and is dependent upon the magnitude and susceptible soil’s location.

The shaking results in a pressure change in the water within the soil. It dramatically increases the water pressure, which results in the decreased strength of the soil. This can result in settlement or landslides.

At JES Foundation Repair our team of in-house foundation experts has warranted solutions for structural issues. So if your soil health isn’t up to par, we have a solution for your home’s needs. If you would like a free quote, we’re ready to help you! Call or e-mail us today to schedule an on-site consultation and written quote!

We’re proud to serve all of Hampton Roads, from Virginia Beach throughout Williamsburg and surrounding areas; Northern Virginia, DC, and Southern Maryland. View a complete list of our service areas.

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JES Foundation Repair service area map of the Mid-Atlantic region.

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