Is Clay Soil Damaging the Foundation of Your Dallas-Fort Worth Home?
When it comes to soil, there are three basic types: sandy soil, clay soil and loamy soil. Here are the characteristics of each:
- Sandy soils – light with large, loose particles that drain easily
- Clay – heavy with tightly packed particles that expand with and absorb water
- Loamy – particles of all sizes with good drainage and moisture retention
Types of Soils in Dallas-Fort Worth
In North Texas, the most common soil type is clay. There are multiple varieties of clay soil, and many are represented in North Texas land. In the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex there are generally three areas with different types of soil. Dallas, Collin and Ellis Counties, and the eastern parts of Denton, Tarrant and Johnson counties, fall in the Blackland Prairie, which features clay soils ranging from dark black to brown to orange to grey. Central areas of Denton, Tarrant and Johnson counties are located in an area called the Eastern Cross Timbers, comprised of mostly sandy loam soil. The Western areas of Denton, Tarrant and Johnson counties are in the Grand Prairie, with a mix of clays, limestones and silty loams contributing to the soil composition.
Unfortunately, the clay soils anchoring a lot of the Metroplex are infamous for causing foundation problems. The tightly packed particles are dense and tough to work with. They are highly absorbent and expand when wet. This is called smectite clay because it contains minerals called silicates, including aluminum, silicone and oxygen. The more water in the environment, the more the soil will grow and expand, causing pressure and movement against the foundation. Conversely, when conditions are dry, the clay soil particles contract, crack and become hard. The foundation rises and falls, sinks and settles. Plus, since the clay soil is not all the same exact composition throughout, expansion and shrinkage occurs at varying rates, so the movement is uneven. This adds to the foundation damage.
Call Atlas Foundation at 817-478-1181 to schedule a free estimate.
Even with the similarities attributed to clay soils, there are still differences from location to location. For example, central Dallas County has an underpinning of Austin chalk, which is more resistant to weathering. Eastern Dallas County sits on Ozan Marl, which shrinks and swells differently than other clay soils. It is helpful to be familiar with your home’s soil type and adapt your preventative maintenance to its unique characteristics.
Clay Soil Can Spoil Your Foundation
A trained soil engineer will be able to test the plasticity of a sample of soil, that is, how much the soil will expand. The higher the plasticity index, the more the soil will expand. Soil with a very high amount of clay and, therefore, a high plasticity index, can expand up to 75%! Which also means they can lose 75% of their volume in shrinkage after the water eventually drains. That can cause a lot of foundation damage! Foundation damage is one of the largest reasons for financial loss to property owners, due to the costs of repairs.
However, it is important to note that not all foundation cracks caused by clay soil are serious. The foundation experts at Atlas Foundation will be able to walk you through a foundation inspection. Our honest and friendly professionals will any damage make the best, most cost effective recommendations for your home. Sometimes all that is needed is modifying your drainage system to prevent further movement and damage.
Prevent Foundation Damage from Clay Soils
Your home is your largest investment, and if you live in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, you can take steps to help prevent foundation damage from the clay soils of the region.
- Make sure that water is draining away from your home
- When conditions are dry, ensure that your foundation is properly watered
- Keep your gutters clean
- Regularly inspect your foundation for signs of damage
If you think clay soil in the Fort Worth area is damaging your foundation, Atlas Foundation Company can help! For more than 50 years, the pros at Atlas Foundation Company have been satisfying customers with their knowledge, honesty and quality repair work. Contact us at 817-478-1181 to schedule a no-cost, no-obligation estimate.