Soil types for construction

Updated April 17, 2017

Careful consideration of the soil type specific to your building site will help to ensure the stability of your foundation and integrity of your house for years to come. Unstable soil will need to be stabilised, most likely through mechanical compaction, and at a potentially high price. Get a geotechnical survey to determine whether your chosen construction site is practical or cost prohibitive.

Cohesive soils

Comprised of silt and clay, this soil type may prove a real problem as a foundation due to its tendency to shrink and swell. Careful drainage methods must be considered, because clay's dense, tightly bound nature is impenetrable to water when compacted. In some cases, clay or silt would need to be removed before building. In others, soil amendments and subsoil analysis may ensure structural integrity. Consider the associated costs involved with cohesive soil foundations before proceeding.

Granular soils

Including soils with high sand and/or gravel content, granular soils are generally suitable for building, considering that they are still penetrable by water on compaction. You may need to install a containment wall to prevent shifting. Particle size is important when considering granular soils. Consult your local geological survey experts before building.

Organic soils

Including marshy soils and soils high in peat content and decaying vegetable matter, organic soils are generally not recommended for building a foundation on. Organic soils tend to absorb and hold excessive moisture and exhibit sponge-like consistency. For this reason, geological surveys will generally steer you clear of building on such a site.

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Hailing from Austin, Texas, Beth Berry has been writing since 1995 about sustainable farming, fiber arts and parenting. She brings expertise in organic gardening, landscape design and domestic arts to her writing. Berry holds a Bachelor of Science in environmental science from Abilene Christian University and is a master seamstress.