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How Soil Types Affect the Choice of Foundation Design
Before you start building a house, you should carefully examine the quality of the soil on site. Classification of soils in construction includes several soil types, but not each of them is optimal for the construction of certain types of buildings. Naturally, with the development of modern technology, there are ways of giving any soil a «proper consistency»; but in order to save time and money, we recommend that you initially choose a proper soil type for future construction.
No construction specialist will start their work until the soil below the house to be constructed is studied. This affects what type of foundation you will use and how much the entire construction project will cost.
In this article, we will consider the types of soils and their properties in construction, show you how to improve the performance characteristics of soils, and talk about whether or not to use certain types of foundations depending on the type of soil on site.
Soil Types Based on the Particle Size
Studies of soils for construction have allowed experts to classify them depending on their structure and properties in the following way:
Stable rock or stone that can hardly be referred to as soil
It is remarkable for its high resistance to humid environments and freeze-thaw resistance. This type of soil is an almost ready-to-use foundation whose physical properties do not change under the influence of climatic factors.
Gravelly soils that are a mixture of fine gravel, earth, clays, and sands
Such soils are considered sufficiently reliable, and low-depth foundations built in such soil can hold even very large houses. This property of this type of soil is due to its great content of small stones which prevents the breaking down of its structure under the influence of water.
These soils freeze down to a relatively small depth of 50 cm to 100 cm even in severely cold climates. A peculiar feature of such soils is their ability to absorb moisture and get compacted. This, in turn, prevents foundations built in such soils from water penetration.
These soils get wet quickly under the influence of excessive moisture, freeze to a depth of 150 centimeters and more, and are susceptible to frost heave.
These soils are essentially a mixture of sand and clay. Depending on the content of one or the other, they have properties of sands or clays.
Peat soils which are, in fact, drained swamps
These soils contain a great amount of water. Groundwater usually occurs close to the surface.
As you can see, soil types play an important role in construction and have a direct influence on the choice of foundation type for a house to be built. However, before considering the types of foundations and their dependence on the nature of soils, let’s talk about how you can improve the parameters of some types of soils. Discover what other factors affect the choice of foundation design.
How to Improve Physical Characteristics of Soils
If geotechnical studies show that the soil on site is clay, silt, or even peat, you should not give up. Today, there are many ways of improving the physical properties of soils.
For example, if the soil on your construction site is silty clay, the foundation should be made deeper than the soil frost line. This is because these types of soils can provide acceptable characteristics for the construction of houses only in dry and non-frozen conditions. Another option for the use of such soil types is to build heavy houses of bricks or concrete blocks. Due to the large weight, the soil will not push the structure out during frost heaving in winter.
As for peat soils, surprisingly, building houses is also possible in this case. It is necessary to remove the entire peat layer and fill that space with a sand bed, the thickness of which may be equal to half the height of the foundation to be built. In this case, it is also possible to carry out some work aimed at lowering the groundwater table. This can be done by land draining.
How to Choose the Foundation Type Based on the Soil Type
If there is rocky or gravelly soil on your site, a low-depth strip foundation will be quite sufficient. This is because these types of soil have a shallow frost line and a sufficiently dense structure.
Building a house on soft soils with great depths of frost lines implies the use of a deep strip foundation, including stay-in-place formwork, the lower part of which reaches below the soil frost line. This is needed to make sure that soil does not squeeze the foundation out thus breaking it during frost heaving.
The arrangement of a mat foundation is useful if the soil gets washed out or is represented by peat. This type of foundation is a monolithic reinforced slab and can be used for the erection of a log house or a house built of heavier materials.
Pile foundations are used in non-swelling soils with frost lines up to two meters deep.
You might also want to know about the choice of construction materials for home foundations.
As you can see, soil types have a direct impact on the choice of foundation design for your future home. However, do not give up even if your construction site is on «weak» soils. It is not a problem to build a house on these soils using modern technical means. But to make sure that all the work is done at a high level of quality, it is strongly recommended to use the services of professionals who will not only provide advice but will help bring your idea to life.
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