Clay soil is something you will find supporting the foundations of homes and commercial buildings in different areas. In Texas this is especially true as most of the soil found is clay. Clay soil is unique and here you will learn its challenges, how to handle these challenges, and which foundations are going to work best.
Soil is a compressible material, which means it shifts when weight is applied to it. This is taken into consideration with most buildings, foundations, and soils. It’s assumed that the foundation will settle at least a bit. Clay soil is unique as it is more sensitive to moisture fluctuations. This means the soil will expand and contract, which will impact the foundation causing it to shift.
This expanding and contracting of soil can also cause gaps to form in the soil leaving parts of the foundation unsupported and vulnerable. Fissures can also develop in clay soil when it dries out. This creates deep spaces for water to penetrate. Clay foundations can lead to cracked and damaged foundations and floors that become uneven.
Clay soil is common in Texas. The good news is there are solutions that can help reduce any possible damage it does to the foundation and your home. Because clay soil is sensitive to moisture, taking steps to prevent moisture from invading the soil is helpful. How can this be done? Creating a design that will decrease moisture access and insulate the soil is a good idea. If you’re constructing a new home or building, you can take steps to maintain constant moisture after construction. A foundation specialist can help you with these solutions.
The higher the clay content is in the soil, the stronger the foundation needs to be. Drilled pier foundations offer the strength needed when dealing with clay soil. Because drilled piers are driven deeper into the soil strata where moisture has less access, it provides better stability. With this type of foundation, the piers help to prevent foundation and slab settlement if the soil near the surface does contract.
Slab-on-grade foundations are another good choice for clay soil. A well-designed slab can withstand the pressure of the soil contracting and expanding allowing the structure it’s supporting to remain stable. A waffle-like grid (known as grade beams) is placed under the slab to help enhance the slab’s strength and performance. A third type of foundation that’s suitable for clay soil is reinforcement using reinforcing steel that is placed in the concrete slab and grade beams. The steel helps to add strength. Reinforcement is typically conventional steel or post-tension cables.
When the foundation of your home or building is on clay soil, you want to be aware of the issues you may encounter and how to prevent them as much as you can. Having a foundation that can withstand the shifting of clay soil is the most important factor in keeping your building safe.