Houston is home to dozens of different soil types across its vast stretches. Of course, many of these soil types can be grouped together based on their qualities. Due to the variance in soil types, it is important for Houston homeowners to understand what type of soil their home is built on so that they can learn the proper way to protect their home's foundation against the natural shifting and settling that can occur. Here's a quick overview of what you need to know to identify the soil in your area.
Having a Soil Test Done
The easiest way to find out more about the soil around your home is to have a soil test done. Many counties offer free or cheap soil testing kits that you can bring in, and they will tell you the contents of your soil. Typically this service is provided for agricultural reasons, but it can also be used by residents who just want to know more about their environment.
Testing Your Own Soil
Even if you can't have a professional soil test done, there are still a few simple ways to test the soil on your own. By observing the color, makeup, and drainage properties of your soil, you can learn a lot about what your foundation is built on. To start, gather a handful of moist soil from near your foundation. Make sure it isn't too wet. Squeeze the soil tightly in your hand and then release your hand and see what happens. If the soil formed a tight ball and keeps its shape, you have a high clay content. If the soil forms a loose ball but crumbles when you touch it, you have loam. And finally, if the soil immediately loses its shape, you have sand.
Just conducting this simple squeeze test will tell you a lot about the character of your soil. For instance, loam is perfect for growing vegetation due to its high level of organic matter and ability to hold water. Unfortunately, loam is not great for foundations for exactly the same reasons. Loam soil holds moisture and promotes plant growth and will eventually cause your foundation to crack due to roots finding their way inside, or the added pressure that is applied whenever there is precipitation and the soil soaks it up.
If your soil is predominantly made of clay, that could be good news, but you still need to pay attention. Some types of clay pack neatly and resist water. This is ideal for building a foundation on because there is low risk of flexing and erosion, and the clay does not allow for roots to easily come near your structure. However, some forms of clay soil, such as Vertisol or Houston Black, are more expansive, which means that they grow significantly as they absorb water, and they drain very slowly. For the most part, you can still build a foundation on this type of soil, but you must be aware that the house will shift and settle seasonally. Ultisol, found in Eastern Texas, is an even better sign because it is highly compacted and does not respond to weather events much at all. This is the most stable type of clay soil to build on.
Sandy soil can also be a good sign. This is because sand can be compacted tightly and it drains well. The quick drainage means that water will move away from your home rapidly so you won't have to worry about absorption and settling. However, there is less sandy soil in the Houston area than loamy and clay soils.
In just a few short minutes, you can learn a lot about your home's foundation and the surrounding soil just by going outside and grabbing a handful for yourself. Once you know what kind of soil you have, you will see how moisture and plant growth could be affecting your home's foundation over the long term. By seeing these patterns, you can learn the benefits of foundation watering, soil amendments and other options to protect your home in the future. To learn more, contact Allied Foundation today.