Construction starts from the ground up, or, more precisely, from beneath the ground and up. Getting the foundation of your building right is one of the most important things you should do when building. Good foundation will improve:

  • The life span of the building.
  • The building’s resistance to storms and floods.
  • The amount of money put into repairs and maintenance.
  • Insulation quality; for example staying warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

You can read more about the importance of a quality foundation here.

If you want your foundation to be solid, you need to start by knowing what you are building on. Many construction contractors have heard about the famous high rise project in China where numerous buildings collapsed. The foundation was far from perfect, but contractors built on it anyway, without an understanding of the Earth it was built on. The result was a deadly (for one unlucky construction worker), accident. Needless to say, construction on the right foundation is important, and you need to know how to build the right foundation. Firstly, you will need to know what you are building on to ensure that everything goes well from there on up.

Soil types of Texas by location

Obviously, the soil will be a bit different everywhere in Texas. So here we will talk about the main components, and what you can expect to find around major population centers.

San Antonio area

Gravel, dark alkaline clay.

Fort Worth Area

Silt, loam, and clay.

Dallas County Area

Dark gray and black alkaline clay.

Houston Area

Sand and loam.

Austin Area

Clay and alkaline loam.

Soil components and their properties

Looking at the list above, and with just about any knowledge of Texas, you can see that the main soil components are clay, loam, and sand.

Most of it is basic (alkaline), or having a higher pH value and being opposed to acidity. The alkalinity doesn’t matter as much when building, as acidity/alkalinity is more important for growing plants. Be aware that concrete in the soil will make it more alkaline. This can effect the plants you may want to grow around it. Fortunately, you can choose plants and compounds to mix with the soil that will neutralize the balance.

What’s most important about the soil though, is the composition, as in what it’s made of.

Loam

Loam is a combination of sand, clay, and silt. Fortunately, those three together make for a highly stable soil. Loam is fantastic for building on, and doesn’t experience extreme expansion and contraction when temperatures change. Look out for high amounts of clay in your loam, or clay layers on top of the loam. These can cause sturdiness issues, and problems with shrinkage and growth during some seasons.

It should be noted that loam is famously fertile. This makes it great for growing crops, gardens, and much plant life.

Sand

Unless you are building on a beach, your foundation won’t be sand alone. It will be some combination of loam, sand, and clay. However, soils that are particularly high in sand are also good to build on. Sand is known for its quality drainage. Additionally, when mixed with other soils, it can be tightly packed to make a sturdy foundation. Areas that experience extremely heavy rainfall, or occasional flooding should be careful using sand though. Even well-packed sand can wash away when met with unusually high levels of water flow.

Clay

Clay is the biggest problem when building foundations in Texas. Clay is famous for its water retention capabilities. This is why it is great for sculpting, as it can be mixed with water until malleable, and then it hardens when the water is cooked out.

Because clay contains large amounts of water, it expands and contracts to a much greater degree than sand, silt, and drier soil components. Clay’s size changing can put extra pressure on foundations, causing cracking and unevenness. When the clay below the foundation expands, it can cause the building to no longer be level. Additionally, clay that has absorbed water will not let other water through it as easily. This can push water drainage into the foundation, causing cracks and water leaks.

Also, when clay dries on its own, it becomes less sturdy, solid, and stable. When you see the ground around your building is cracked and dry, like the surface of a desert, it means that your foundation goes without support. This can cause foundational shifting.

Clay can be a big problem in both summer and winter. That’s when it absorbs water, and when it dries and becomes less sturdy. Also of note is that clay soil supports less plant life. This means that the addition and subtraction of water is less modulated. Plants keep the water level in soil on a pretty even keel. Without them, the fluctuations can be wild and much more dangerous to the foundation.

Keep your foundation in good shape

Drainage

Regardless of where you live, drainage is necessary. Having adequate drainage in and around your building can work wonders. Drains and trenches/gutters will help water flow away from the foundation, while ditches act as both reservoirs and channels to for further drainage.

Maintenance

Of course, part of any building is the upkeep. Regularly check your building’s basement for foundational cracks. Also, walk around the premises to look for degraded and unsafe soil. If you really want, you can take soil samples to find out what the composition and pH values are. You can then either put compounds on the soil to improve the mix, and/or plant various types of plants.

No matter what, observing and fixing problems with your foundation is important. If you are noticing cracks, or maybe your foundation is old, and you don’t know what to look for, then come to us. Reliable Commercial Construction. Is a commercial contractor who has been in the business for over 35 years. We’ve seen — and know how to repair — just about any foundational problem Texas can offer. Contact us today to get started.