Skip to Main Content

Clay Soil

Clay is a soil type with extremely small particles that has a massive expansion and contraction properties.

What Clay Soil Means For Your Home

Shrinking cracked soil

Many homeowners rarely think about the soil in their lawns or yards. As long as the soil can nourish their garden plants (and drain well), they’re good. However, not everyone is lucky enough to have yards with such soil.   

Homes built on top of clay-based soils are prone to foundation problems. These soils drain slowly and take a long time to warm up in summer. Also, they dry out and crack in hot weather. All these attributes test even the most resolute gardeners.  

Let’s delve into what clay soil is, look at its characteristics, and learn how it affects your home’s foundation.  

What Is Clay Soil?  

Clay soil is a fine-grained natural soil that forms when humic shale, a type of sedimentary rock, disintegrates. Unlike loam, clay is rich in minerals such as zinc, calcium carbonate, and mica, among others. Their size and mineralogy of clay distinguish it from other fine-grained soils. 

How Common Is Clay Soil?  

Unfortunately, homes that sit on expansive soils such as clay soil need to take extra measures to make their homes safe and stable. Due to heavy spring rains, the soil particles can easily swell up and then shrink during the summer, which can leave the foundation severely damaged.  

Clay Soil and Home Construction  

Clay soils are a real nightmare for builders. Constructing foundations, driveways, pools, slabs, or decks can be extremely difficult if clay soil is involved. Luckily, with proper preparation, it is possible to create a concrete slab without much hassle. For example, excavating clay soil and mixing it with gravel turns it into a stable base for the foundation.  

Clay Soil Movement  

As we’ve mentioned, clay soil is able to hold large volumes of water, and soil particles easily swell and expand, causing cracks in the foundation. On the other hand, during droughts soil can dry out and the particles will shrink once again, leaving gaps in the soil. Since the foundation will no longer be properly supported, it will settle into the hollow area where settlement has occurred.  

The volume of these shrink-expand movements depends on several factors, such as evaporation, compaction, and the presence of below-slab depressions. To minimize the volume of these movements, make sure that the soil in your yard is always moist.  

Clay Soil and the Foundation  

Due to the shifting of the soil, several problems can occur, such as cracks on foundation walls. When these cracks open, they leave the basement vulnerable to moisture. Over time, the foundation walls can bow as well. Since clay soil drains slowly, water can fill the gaps that are created between the soil and the foundation and accumulate behind retaining walls. This can lead to many problems, from rot to mold growth. While rot can compromise the stability of the structure, mold spores can contaminate the air in your home and cause all kinds of respiratory problems.  

Repairing the Damage  

Waterproofing or repairing homes that have been built on clay soils is not a job for everyone, especially because it requires special waterproofing and foundation repair solutions, skills, and experience. Therefore, instead of turning these repairs into a DIY project, it’s best to leave everything to the pros. This way you will be able to relax knowing that the job will be successfully completed.   

If you have noticed that something is wrong with your foundation and your home sits on poor supporting soil, contact contractors in your area and have them take a look. Here are some of the repair methods that can restore your home to its previous state.  

Foundation Push Piers:

These galvanized steel piers extend far below the foundation and reach stable soils that can offer proper support. Depending on the level of damage your foundation has experienced, the contractors will determine the number of piers they will need to potentially lift your home back into its original position.  

Foundation Helical Piers:

If you have a lighter structure, helical piers will get the job done. These are screwed into the ground and when in place, they will transfer the weight of the house to more stable soil.  

Drainage System:

If your home is located on clay soil, it is important to prevent water from accumulating behind foundation walls. With an interior drainage system and a sump pump, your foundation will stay dry and moisture-free. Its purpose is to collect the water before it can cause any damage.  

Grading the soil:

If every time the rain falls water runs toward your home and pools around it, your yard is not properly graded. This can lead to serious foundation problems, so regrade your yard as soon as possible.  

If you want to waterproof your basement or fix a damaged foundation, contact the local experts at Groundworks and schedule a free inspection and quote today. 

Publish Date:

Last Modified Date: