- The importance of knowing your soil before you build
- The value of applying recommended slopes and grades to the land
- Proper drainage on the building structure itself
1. The Soils Report – learn what it is and why it matters to your land excavation project
Thomas Thurman, Yavapai County District 2 Supervisor
The soil report is performed by a soils engineer, or Geotechnical Engineer, to test the components in the soil and its ability to hold and maintain the foundation of a new building. In Arizona, soil reports tend to show a high amount of clay in its soil. Jamie explains that the clay content in soil is detrimental for developers to know because of the amount of moisture it holds.
The characteristics of clay causes havoc for a stable foundation—when moisture is present, such as during monsoon season or even watering the landscape, the clay expands, as it dries the soil shrinks. With these changes to the earthwork under a foundation, the building is at risk for substantial damage. In Jamie’s experience, he states that many older homes have been built on clay-containing soil.
What are your options if clay is in your soil?
For new site builds, Jamie shares three methods property owners can choose if the soil report states a presence of clay:
- The preferred method, and most cost effective, is to have the clay removed from the soil and to pour a conventional foundation
- Another option is to build a wood floor with deep footing that reaches more stable soil and remove clay under the garage slab
- The less preferred and costlier method is to do a post-tension slab, which can be built on clay soil
Other benefits of a soils report are that is presents to the grading contractor the site grading requirements and the recommended ground slope percentage, as well as the amount of excavating involved for the backfill, among other things.
2. Trust your grading contractor’s advice on the slope grade
Jamie states it is standard per “the UBC [Universal Building Code] to have a 5% slope away from the house with .5% flowlines, and swales for water to run in to, to be directed away from the house”
Jamie has seen homeowners smudge on the recommended grading to accommodate flatter landscape designs and more level walkways. It’s advised that the aesthetics come secondary to proper drainage, as this will prevent avoidable money-devouring damage, unnecessary stress, and ensure a more stable foundation for the home.
Issues that can occur with improper drainage:
- Damage to the foundation, including cracks which need immediate repair
- Erosion of building materials
- An environment suitable for mold growth
- Cozy living for destructive insects and other pests
- Any wood used in the structure is susceptible to rot and decay
The most important take away is to keep the slope away from the house, even if that means interfering with landscape design plans. Design your landscape around the advised slope grade to save money and headaches down the road and to ensure a reliable, permanent structure.
3. Proper installation and care of external structural drainage systems
Jamie states it is pertinent to “control the water on the roof of the house with drainpipes. It’s common to have a house that takes up the majority of the lot that it sits on, meaning there is less surface area for the water to flow to. There is a risk of having poor drainage with poor gutter placement.”
The grading and the slope of the land also plays a role in the proper drainage of the gutters and pipes that houses are equipped with. The external drainage system is designed to carry the water away from the foundation and to prevent puddling in the yard and driveway. If one area of the house does not have proper drainage and waterflow is toward the foundation of the home, the soil under this part of the house will get saturated with water, expand and cause the base to be uneven. Uneven soil under the foundation causes shifting and cracks in the slab to occur, which can also cause cracks in ceilings and walls.
The piping for the gutters leads the water away from the house to the swales that are built for the waterflow, or to an underground drainage solution if swales can’t be installed.
A bonus tip – always make sure that gutters and pipes are free of debris that could cause a back flow and an overflow of water. If the water does not have a way out, it will find a way into your home, getting into the attack and walls, creating mold and a place for insects to venture in.
Keep your home safe and sturdy with these tips as you prepare for your new site build and you’ll enjoy a durable home for years to come. If you think you may be experiencing drainage issues on your property, call Aspire Construction Group to help fix this problem right away, and before monsoon season!
Trusted Excavating Contractor in Arizona
Jamie Blouin is reliable, dedicated, and quality-focused with over 30 years of diverse industry experience and proven success completing projects safely, on time, and under budget.
He specializes in leading and coordinating projects with various-sized crews, mentoring, and motivating others to optimal production while maintaining high safety standards and regulatory requirements. Jamie has a powerful combination of both knowledge and practical application and is an intrinsic part of Aspire Construction Group’s longtime success in turning client visions into reality.
Jamie attributes extensive experience and diligent reputation for their success, loyal customers and its growing list of clienteles.