Effects of Expansive Soils

Effects of Expansive Soils

Although we like to think of the ground beneath us as relatively stable, it’s constantly moving even when it looks peaceful from the surface. Dirt changes its shape as it absorbs and releases fluid, and these expansive soils can pose major foundation problems for Carmel, IN homeowners. Here are some of the ways that soil expansion might be affecting your property right now.

Why Does Soil Expand?

Unless you live on a houseboat, your front yard probably seems pretty solid. In reality, however, all that soil is actually a random mix of several different materials. In addition to the roots, insects and organically composting materials that make up the topsoil, the dirt itself is comprised of a variety of mineral salts, rocks and clays. These substances absorb fluids at different rates in accordance with your local weather patterns, and this makes the dirt swell and recede in cycles.

In terms of how much soil actually expands when it takes on water, clay is the biggest culprit. Unlike the innocent kiln-fired ceramics you probably used for your last meal, free clay pockets in the ground absorb liquids and expand at amazing rates. Research by staff at the Missouri University of Science and Technology indicates that even if only 5% of the weight of soil consists of clay, it can control the way a patch of dirt behaves, regardless of what other soil components may be present.

Expansion isn’t the only problem. When clay dries out, it contracts, causing sections of the ground to pull away from each other. If you see cracks in the dry soil around your home, they’re usually a pretty good indicator that there’s a significant amount of clay present.

Expansive Soils and Homes

So what’s the big problem with expansive soils? While you’re not likely to discover that your car has mysteriously parked itself across the street overnight after a heavy rainstorm, soil expansion is definitely strong enough to push and pull at your home.

Expansion can cause major problems for building foundations. Clay isn’t evenly distributed throughout the ground, so the soil might only expand under one corner of your house. This can cause half of your building to shift while the rest attempts to remain stable. Eventually, such stresses lead to split foundations, distressed slabs and even visible cracks in walls and ceilings.

Of course, these processes take time, but it’s critical to correct them wherever they occur. To learn more about how foundation repair can help you combat the negative effects of expansive soils, visit us online.