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Types of Soil and the Effects on Foundations


Not all soil is the same, and how it reacts to moisture and affects foundations varies. Sometimes, a structure is set on limestone, sandstone, or bedrock — each of which is capable of handling heavy loads and don’t carry the risk of soil shifting and expansion.

Clay, Silt, and Peat

Because of the small size of its particles, clay is good at holding water. However, it’s also fantastic at expanding and shrinking with that water. When wet, clay expands and pushes pushing against the foundation’s concrete, it does not drain well. When clay dries out, it shrinks quite a bit. This contraction causes the clay to shift, which, in turn, can shift the foundation.
Silt doesn’t dry out as fast or as much; it likes to hold on to moisture and expand to press against the foundation. This means water finds its way through the porous concrete and erodes the concrete. Peat may be the worst soil on which to build a structure. It can absorb a lot of water, but it also easily dries out. Like clay, the wet-to-dry cycle creates havoc with any stability under and around a foundation.

Loam and Sand

Loam contains sand and silt with some clay in the mixture. The combination of the three provides the best soil on which to pour a foundation. Loam absorbs moisture and dries out at an even rate. Air circulates well through loam, and loam drains nicely.
Sand containing gravel has larger particles and easily drains. It must be compacted correctly before you pour the foundation. Sand does not hold water well and shifts when water runs through it.

Midwest Soil

So what type of soil do you have in your area? If you live in Indiana, your official soil is — oddly enough — called Miami soil. This soil is a type of loam. This loam may contain silt or clay. This makes your soil great for growing things as well as for building a foundation on. Near Lake Michigan and points southwest and central north, the soil is sandy. There also are areas in Indiana where the clay content is very high in the loam.
Kentucky consists of several types of soil, depending on the geographical location. This soil ranges from soil containing shale to loam and Eastern Kentucky’s soil that mainly comes from sandstone. Illinois residents’ state soil is called Drummer soil. This soil is a loam containing silt and clay.

Dangers of Poor Soil

Soil that does not drain well and was not compacted correctly before the foundation was poured eventually will damage your foundation. Expanding soil can lead to foundation shifting, cracks in the concrete, water stains, bowed walls, a leaning chimney, and mold. It all comes down to moisture since too much moisture negatively affects a structure.

What to Look For

Some soil shifting will occur when a home is first constructed and that’s nothing to worry about — unless you start seeing more than one or two short, hairline cracks in the concrete. Start getting concerned if there are several cracks and/or any cracks are wide. Look for crumbling concrete on the outside of the foundation. If basement walls are starting to bow, it means water has been pressing on the foundation for quite a while and the damage is getting worse.
In other areas of the home, look for cracked windowpanes, sagging floors, cracks in the ceiling, windows that don’t open or close flush, and doors that stick or have gaps along the doorjambs.

Acculevel Offers the Best Foundation Repair

For homeowners in the Midwest, Acculevel is the best choice for foundation repair and waterproofing solutions. Our family-owned business has specialized in basement and foundation repair since 1996, and our skilled staff is ready to help you keep your home dry and level. Acculevel can handle it all, from minor cracks to supporting your home’s entire foundation. If you live in the Midwest and need an expert opinion on your basement and foundation issues, contact us at (866) 669-3349 or email us at [email protected].

Kelly Kater

Over her twenty year career, Kelly has worked in a wide variety of fields: secondary education, nursing, biology, elder care, the postal service, multicultural development, and academia. She has developed a skill for translating industry-specific jargon into everyday language. Her goal is to share the knowledge and experience of the Acculevel team with homeowners, in a way that is both engaging and informative.

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