How to select the right soil lot to build a house on?

Asha Bogenfuerst Asha Bogenfuerst
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Good house design always starts with the building site, and one way to choose a sturdy building site is to check the type of soil that makes up the land. Strong and stable soils are needed for building secure foundations. Some soils are able to support a skyscraper, while other soils are not able to support the weight of a human. If the soil under a building is not stable, the foundation of the building could crack, sink, or in the worst case scenario, the building could fall. 

This idea guide features some good tips on how to select the right soil lot to build a house on. For anyone who is building a house, this is very important information and should not be neglected. Let's browse through some of these tips shall we? 

Soil drainage and groundwater

Soils drain and retain water differently, and have vastly different capacities to bear structural loads. Hence, your foundation needs to be designed for the local soil conditions. For best results, get you soil checked by an expert to determine if its suitable for building. Don't forget to check for groundwater too.

Soil texture is a very important physical property and a major factor to consider when evaluating the suitability of a lot as a building site. Knowing the texture helps determine this and offers an opportunity to make site comparisons. Using texture to determine site suitability will result in fewer disappointments and problems for the owner.

Doing the survey

Keep in mind that even within the same building site, there may be different types of soil. The type of soil available on the building site can have a big impact on the cost of construction. To find out about the quality of soil on your building site, go to your local building department or ask contract builders and excavators with experience in the area what they've experienced and encountered while building houses near you. 

Certain types of foundation systems may be well-known in one area and unheard of in another, but either it's good to know what kind of foundation system is popular in your area, as it probably works best. 

Soils drain and retain water differently, and have vastly different capacities to bear structural loads. Hence, your foundation needs to be designed for the local soil conditions. For best results, get you soil checked by an expert to determine if its suitable for building. 

Types of soils

The strength and stability of soil depend on its physical properties. Stable soil has good structure. Clay textures are often more stable than sand textures because they have better structure. However, a mix of grain sizes is best for building. It is also important that soil is stable through wetting and drying cycles, so that expanding soil does not crack roads or foundations. Some clay minerals, such as those from the smectite family, are more likely to shrink and expand during wetting and drying cycles than minerals from other families, such as kaolinite.

Water runoff and erosion will not damage structures if your building site has good soil to capture precipitation. Finally, balanced chemistry is important for good soils and infrastructure so no building material corrosion occurs.

Soil maps

mediterranean Houses by RIBA MASSANELL S.L.
RIBA MASSANELL S.L.

Portal de piedra con puerta de madera

RIBA MASSANELL S.L.

A great tool to help engineers determine the best location for their design is soil maps. Soil maps are created by soil scientists and present information such as the slope of the land surface; the soil’s biological, chemical, and physical properties; and the potential for water runoff, drainage, or storage.

Browse through house designs here on homify for more new ideas and refreshing inspiration. 

Sewage and soil types

Soil type and texture has a significant influence on the ability of a soil to accept and treat the sewage system and septic tank efficiently. Percolation rates are largely determined by soil texture. Sandy soils tend to have faster rates, while more fine-textured soils have slower rates.

The unique and contemporary house pictured here is designed by Joao Diniz Arquitetura, based in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. 

Identifying soil types

You can roughly identify or estimate the type of soil and its texture by feeling it. First, moisten a small portion of the soil and knead it until it is the consistency of dough. Then, squeeze the ball of soil between thumb and forefinger, pressing the 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 forms. 

Clay tends to get the thumb and forefingers sticking together, while loam, if squeezed when moist, will form a cast which can be handled quite freely without breaking and it will not form a ribbon. Sandy loam if squeezed when dry, will form a cast which will fall apart and not form a ribbon, but if squeezed when moist, a cast can be formed which will bear careful handling without falling apart. 

We hope this idea guide has been helpful to you. For more home tips, good ideas, and inspiration, have a look at How to grow lotus and outdoor plants properly

Did you find this information helpful? Let us know in the comments section below. 
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