The right soil for the right house

Johannes van Graan Johannes van Graan
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Constructing a house that is deemed correct and successful involves a bit more effort than deciding which way the windows must face. Numerous factors need to be taken into consideration: the layout, deciding which rooms are connected, picking the correct building materials, etc. However, another important element is the building site, and one way to choose a strong and durable building site is to check the type of soil of the relevant land.

A good house will require a secure foundation, which is exactly what strong and stable soils provide. While certain soils are ideal to support a skyscraper, others are not strong enough to carry even the weight of a human being. And what were to happen should a giant building be erected on unstable soil? The foundation could crack, sink, or even cause the building to fall down.  

In the event of avoiding such a disastrous scenario, let’s view some clever tips on how to choose the correct type of soil on which to build a house. Whether you are thinking about constructing a house or are just curious, enjoy our homify-approved information, below.

​Soil drainage and groundwater

Private residential house - Elstree: modern Houses by New Images Ltd
New Images Ltd

Private residential house—Elstree

New Images Ltd

Different types of ground drain and retain water differently; therefore, they present different capacities to support structural loads. Take this into consideration before planting a house just anywhere.

For optimum results, have the location checked by an expert to determine whether it’s suitable for building. Being the professional, your expert will surely know to check for groundwater as well. 

The texture of soil is a crucial physical property that needs to be evaluated when choosing a building site. Knowing the texture helps determine the suitability of the lot and allows you to make site comparisons. And the more we know about the type of soil and its quality, the fewer problems we will need to face in the long run.

​Conducting the survey

Keep in mind that one building site may present different types of soils. As this can have a big impact on the cost of construction, it is imperative that you find out about your building site’s ground quality. Go to your local building department or ask contract builders and excavators who know the relevant area about their experiences while constructing buildings and houses near your property. 

Certain types of foundation systems may be popular in your area and unheard of in another. Either way, it is good to know what foundation system is opted for in your surroundings.

​Soil types

​House in Notting Hill by Recent Spaces: classic Houses by Recent Spaces
Recent Spaces

​House in Notting Hill by Recent Spaces

Recent Spaces

The strength and stability of soil depends on its physical properties. Stable soil has good structure. Clay textures are often more stable and possess better structure than sand textures. However, a mixing of grain sizes is ideal for building. 

It is also important that soil is stable throughout wet and dry cycles in order for the expanding soil not to crack roads or foundations. Certain clay minerals, such as those from the smectite family, are more prone to shrinking and expanding during the different cycles than other minerals, like the kaolinite types. 

If your building site has good soil to capture precipitation, water run-off and erosion will not damage your building structures. Lastly, balanced chemistry is important for good soils and infrastructure so that no building material corrosion occurs.

Soil maps

Soil maps are terrific tools to help engineers determine the best location for their design. Soil maps are created by soil scientists and present a bunch of information, such as the slope of the land surface, the soil’s biological, chemical and physical properties and the potential for water run-off, drainage or storage.

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Sewage and soil types

Classical Country House with Replica Olympic Arch: country Houses by Des Ewing Residential Architects
Des Ewing Residential Architects

Classical Country House with Replica Olympic Arch

Des Ewing Residential Architects

The type and texture of a particular soil heavily influences its ability to accept and treat the sewage system and septic tank efficiently. The percolation rates are largely determined by soil texture. While sandy soils tend to have faster rates, more fine-textured soils are a bit slower. 

Architects, painters, concrete experts, home stagers… see homify’s divine list of professionals for every nook and cranny of your house, inside and out.

Identifying soil types

New Build Part Earth Sheltered Split Level House: modern Houses by Arco2 Architecture Ltd
Arco2 Architecture Ltd

New Build Part Earth Sheltered Split Level House

Arco2 Architecture Ltd

But how can you roughly identify or estimate the type of soil and its texture? Simply by feeling it.

First, moisten a small portion of the soil and knead it until it has the consistency of dough. Then squeeze the soil ball between your thumb and forefinger, pressing your thumb forward over the forefinger to push the soil into a ribbon. The texture of the soil is determined based upon whether or not a ribbon is formed. 

Clay tends to stick the thumb and forefinger together, while loam, if squeezed when moist, will form a cast which can be handled quite freely without breaking and forming a ribbon.

Sandy loam, if squeezed when dry, will form a cast which will fall apart and not form a ribbon; yet, if squeezed when moist, it will form a cast that will bear careful handling without falling apart.

Although this is an interesting way to detect the type and quality of soil, we advise that you place your trust (and foundation) in the hands of an experienced pro.

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Whitton Drive:  Terrace house by GK Architects Ltd

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