Homebuilders: What To Do When Soil Shifts And Your Foundation Settles
Unstable ground is always a concern for homebuilders and for very good reason. When built on ground where the soil is unstable, homes can begin to settle into the earth as their weight causes them to sink.. This can lead to foundation damage as well as cracks forming in walls. It can even lead to situations where the home begins to pull itself apart under the strain.
How Soil Shifts
Ground can become unstable for multiple reasons, and the most common of these is the soil composition. If there is too much sand in the soil, for example, the soil will not hold together as well, and may shift around too much under pressure. Other times, an unusual pattern of drought and excessive rain will cause soil to contract and expand, making it unstable. Soil that contains a high level of organic matter, like topsoil and dead vegetation, also can become unstable as that matter decays and decomposes. Finally, soil that has not been properly compacted can start to shift when built upon.
Although every effort is made to ensure that soil is stable before construction begins, the unfortunate truth is that sometimes even the best efforts don’t find all signs of unstable soils. Before construction begins, builders can utilize soil stabilization methods such as draining excess moisture, excavation and replacement of soil, and chemical stabilization. Soil stabilization contractors also can inject foamed asphalt into the ground to make it more solid. However, if a homebuilder discovers that soil is shifting unexpectedly after the home’s foundation is built, that’s a different story.
Stabilizing the Soil
Homebuilders may find out too late that the ground they have built the foundation on contains unstable soil, however. In that case, they still have several options to ensure that the foundation doesn’t shift any more, and there is no further erosion of the soil. Anchoring the foundation in place in more solid ground is accomplished typically through the use of helical anchors, which are screwed into the ground past the unstable soil and give the foundation something more stable on which to rest. The installation of helical anchors is relatively nonintrusive and can be done with fairly small equipment.
Preventing future erosion of soil around the foundation also is important for protecting a new home’s foundation on unstable soil. Some of the most common methods for soil erosion prevention include the installation of retaining walls or creating stepped terraces on sloping properties. In extreme cases, soil stabilization contractors may need to install nets or meshes to act as a protective barrier and keep soil in place. However, in most cases, soil erosion can be prevented through strategic landscaping, because roots will help hold topsoil in place and prevent it from being washed away during rain. Plants also help regulate moisture in the soil, keeping it from becoming too wet or dry.
Coping with a shifting foundation caused by unexpectedly unstable soil is a situation no homebuilder wants to encounter. Yet although the situation is potentially serious, it can be mitigated even after the foundation is complete. Taking steps to rectify the situation and prevent further soil erosion will ensure that the house being built should remain on solid ground for a long time to come.
Foundation Repair Services, Inc. has experience with poor soils and can assess and point homebuilders in the right direction for correcting a sinking foundation. Please contact us for more information at 704-545-0206. We serve the the NC, SC, GA, TN, and VA areas.