Foundation Issues from Problematic Soils

By Abry Bros

Soil is a critical component when it comes to the health of a building’s foundation. If the wrong footing is built for the soil, or waterproofing solutions aren’t provided for certain problem soils, then the foundation can be subject to structural problems. Preventions are taken by implementing the right foundation repair solution for your home.

It’s important to conduct a soil survey prior to construction so that the appropriate foundation is designed and identify potentially problematic soils.



Expansive Soils

Expansive or reactive clay soils can have a negative effect on a structure’s foundation. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that at least half of the homes in the United States are built on expanding smectite clays, and of those at least half have or will sustain structural damage.

Expansive soils react to changes in moisture. When water is introduced the soils expand, while the soils contract when the moisture is removed. This will result in differential movement and structural problems.

Expansive soils are responsible for more home damage every year than floods, tornadoes and hurricanes.

If moisture content varies dependent upon the location surrounding the structure, then localized or non-uniform settlement can occur. Evidence of this includes cracks in the foundation, uneven doorways and slab cracks.

Additionally, expansive soil can also result in damage to foundation walls. This is commonly evidenced in basements. The expansion of the soil will increase lateral pressure against the foundation wall. If the wall isn’t strong enough to resist the pressure then cracks and leaks can form. Wall failure can occur in these instances.


Soils that have large amounts of silt can experience hydrocompaction. This typically occurs during period of extended drought and the sudden introduction of moisture.

When the moisture quickly evaporates from the top layers the silt and clay act as a bonding agent, holding these layers together. However space is left between the layers, and when the soil is exposed to water the bond is dissolved and the soil particles sink and move closer together.

Factors for hydrocompaction include deep watering of plants, pipe leaks, and puddles. The weight of a house or other structure increases the risk of hydrocompaction. And unlike settling, hydrocompaction can mimic earth fissures with the exception that they are restricted to a small area and typically circular.

Solution sinkholes are caused by the dissolution of bedrock. While collapse sinkholes are the result subsurface dissolution which resulted in the collapse. Subsidence sinkholes are caused by a change in the environment such as loading or changes in ground water.



Fine textured, uncompacted, loose and saturated soils in low-lying areas near bodies of water can be subject to liquefaction. This can occur during an earthquake and is dependent upon the magnitude and susceptible soil’s location to the center or even rapid loading.

The shaking results in a pressure change in the water within the soil. It dramatically increases the water pressure, which results in the decreased strength of the soil. This can result in settlement or landslides.

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abry-logoAbry Brothers Foundation Repair is the oldest and most experienced foundation repair and house leveling company in the country. We’ve been in business since 1840, that’s over 175 years of experience. Through six generations we have continued our dedication to excellence and have become the leader in our industry.  It would be our pleasure to continue that tradition by serving you and your family. Abry Bros. expert foundation specialists have a vast wealth of knowledge along with unmatched experience. Our ability to identify foundation problems in both residential and commercial properties has allowed us to save customers thousands of dollars in repairs, reduce home insurance premiums and give families peace of mind.  Contact Abry Bros Today To Schedule Your Appointment.

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