What is the Connection Between Soil and the Stability of Your Home’s Foundation in South Carolina?

May 28, 2017

Categories: Foundations

As the foundation experts in Charleston and Columbia, South Carolina, we speak with many people who assume that buying high-quality supplies during the early building stages of a home guarantees a solid foundation. While the type of equipment used helps keep the foundation strong, the biggest factor is the soil the home is built upon. In this article, we will discuss the different types of soil, foundation and home damaged caused by soil, the importance of a soil map and preventative measures that can be taken to help avoid foundation damage in South Carolina.

What Types of Soil Affect the Foundation of a Home in South Carolina?

In South Carolina, homes are built on different types of soil, all of which have different properties that make them unique. The differences in soil types can dramatically impact your home’s foundation.

There are several types of soil that can be found around foundations in South Carolina and include:

Peat. Peat is a mixture of decomposed plant material that has accumulated in a water-saturated environment and with little to no oxygen. The decomposition creates a fine mass and the warmer the climate, the quicker the plant material will decompose.

Silt. Silt is commonly found in floodplains and is the soil that makes mud. Soil with a lot of silt makes excellent farmland but easily erodes. Silt is very good at retaining water but may drain slowly depending on the clay-silt-sand ratio. Gardeners usually modify silt soil by mixing it with mulches, fertilizers, drainage assistance particles, such as sand, or other soil additives to solve drainage issues and provide the proper growth medium for most plants.

Sand. Sand is a loose granular material covering the beaches and riverbeds. The most common component of sand is silicon dioxide in the form of quartz and comes in an array of colors including white, black, green and pink.

Clay. Clay forms due to the weathering and erosion of rocks containing the mineral group feldspar, known as the mother of clay, over vast spans of time.

Loam. Loam is soil that contains balanced amounts of sand, silt, and clay. However, if the soil has slightly more of one of these elements than the others, then the classification is modified to sandy loam, clay loam, silt loam, sandy clay loam, or silty clay loam.

Rock. Rock-types such as bedrock, limestone, sandstone, and shale have high weight-bearing capacities. Rocks are strong and good for supporting foundations because of their stability and depth. If the rock is level the foundation will be well supported. The soil quality needs to be determined before building a home. Soil, by nature, is designed to retain water and when this happens, it causes the soil to expand or contract. If a contractor begins the building process without determining the type of soil around the foundation and its water retention, the foundation could possibly become unlevel.

What Types of Foundation and Home Damage Can Be Caused by Soil in South Carolina?

A failure to consider the soil around the foundation of your home before construction could cause extensive, expensive damage and could leave the structure uninhabitable. Fixing the problems caused by the soil can be costly and time-consuming.  Soil does more than damage your home’s foundation, it can also affect drywalls, windows, chimneys and doors.

Examples of the damage caused by soil around foundation include:

  • Hairline cracks in the drywall of rooms throughout the home
  • Basement floor cracking
  • Mold or mildew in the basement due dampness
  • Doors or windows that do not close properly
  • Water damage from burst pipes
  • Extreme shifting of the floors or walls that leave a home unstable

Using Soil Maps to Better Understand the Soil Around Your Foundation in South Carolina

Before construction, it is vital to determine the exact type of soil that is located around your home’s foundation. A soil map provides the information needed to help builders, contractors and homeowners determine the types of preventative measures that may be needed to avoid damage to the foundation or correct any damage that may have occurred.

Because soil types look so similar, a visual estimate of the soil will not provide an accurate analysis of what type of soil is present. To accurately determine the type of soil around your home’s foundation, it is best to use a soil map.

Soil maps were created by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and provide invaluable information that can help when building or repairing a home’s foundation

Soil map information includes:

  • Chemical and physical properties of the soil
  • Accurate slope of the surface of the land
  • Possibility of where water drainage or runoff may happen

What Solutions Are Available to Prevent or Fix Foundation Problems Caused by Soil in South Carolina?

Loam and rock are the ideal types of soil for your home’s foundation. These soil types are sturdy and have a balanced rate of water retention, which allows them to support the added weight of the home without many issues.

If other types of soil are present, actions can be taken to avoid problems with your home’s foundation. Installing proper drainage or placing support piers under the home can help to avoid problems. Proper drainage diverts water from the foundation. Preventing the water from coming into contact with the soil around the foundation reduces the likelihood that the soil will expand and contract due to the water retention or dryness. Fewer incidents of expanding and contracting of the soil cause less pressure on the foundation, which helps maintain the foundation’s structural integrity.

Before building a home or completing any repairs to an existing foundation, it is important to properly identify the soil that is located around the foundation. Accurate classification of the soil type will help prolong the lifespan of your home and reduce the potential structural damage by allowing homeowners, builders, and contractors to take necessary precautions to guarantee the stability of the foundation. Let the experts at CNT further explain soil types and your South Carolina home.