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Question for home builders/tradesmen

Old 08-29-2017, 06:26 AM
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Default Question for home builders/tradesmen

My wife and I are considering building a home in a small development near us. After the market crashed, an old-time independent builder bought some of the remaining lots in this neighborhood and has since began building on them again. His homes are of good quality and as far as I can see, they are built well and done done right. My concern is this:

The lot we are considering backs up to a wooded area that is designated wetland. The water table in this area is high and the soil is mostly clay and poor draining.

My question for the builders/tradesmen here is what extra steps do you take during the building process to ensure the integrity of the foundation in this type of scenario? The house will be a full-brick ranch with a full basement. The basement walls will be poured concrete. How about the footings for the attached garage? I plan on having a detailed discussion with the builder but want to get a feel for what is acceptable.

For what it's worth, we have inspected one of the homes he's built and one that is under construction in the neighborhood and they appear to be very well done. The neighbors all have positive things to say about him as does the city. The feedback we are getting is all good, but I like to do as much due diligence as possible.

Thanks and sorry for the long post.
Old 08-29-2017, 06:37 AM
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When your dealing with soil that has clay in it, it has the potential for what we call shrink swell. This is dealt with by having a soil engineer visit the site and take hand augers exactly where the house is going. He will prepare a report based on the findings of the augers. Around here, if test indicate shrink swell, the engineer will dictate the footings be excavated to a deeper depth than the bad soil, and backfilled with stone or flowable fill which is basically a concrete mixture without the rocks. Then you can pour your normal footing on top of that. However, I just always pour the concrete extra thick. I had one last year that had 4' thick footings lol, 140 yds concrete. Of course this will add to the price, the soil test here cost me about 400, then depending on the size of the footing or house, the extra excavation and concrete typically run between 6-12k.
Old 08-29-2017, 07:18 AM
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You should be fine with regular footings. I'd put 2 #5 rebar in them. Stub some dowels up so you can add some wall reinforcing. I built on hard clay in central Ohio. I was in commercial construction/concrete though and I added #4 rebars in wall at 16"o.c. Probably overkill but i'd add some. After walls were waterproofed and drainage tile installed (inside and out) I backfilled with 100% #57's limestone.

If you're worried, have a soils testing company come out after basement is dug. they can use an instrument to tell you bearing capacity.
Old 08-29-2017, 07:23 AM
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Keep in mind building close to an inherently wet area will cost you money and possible headache's in the future. Unless your lot sit way higher your sump pump will or could run continuously. Costs a lot of money to run one. And then there is the not if, but when the pump fails, even with two pumps they seem to always fail at the worst time. Then you are looking at a flooded basement, higher insurance.

I helped my son pick his home out, and I kick my self in the ass for not considering the terrain around his home. His pump runs all the time and his basement has flooded a few times since the house was built. We found out after he bought that the previous owners had a large insurance claim, and my sons insurance co demanded we put in more redundant systems, and we did. I now just replace the pumps every other year and rotate them as the higher pump really never runs unless the lower fails.
Old 08-29-2017, 07:45 AM
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Built a lot of homes on expansive soils. Always had an engineered foundation designed based on a thorough soils test. Different possibilities for different soils, from intermittent footers (difficult if you have a basement) to conditioned soils, use of geotech fabrics, gravel. Some people use piers - I always avoided those. I would question the idea of a basement in a known wet area, but it certainly can be done. Full french drains (can you daylight anywhere?), proper drainage slopes away from the house and a good gutter design are all necessary as well.
Old 08-29-2017, 07:51 AM
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Originally Posted by Boataholic View Post
You should be fine with regular footings. I'd put 2 #5 rebar in them. Stub some dowels up so you can add some wall reinforcing. I built on hard clay in central Ohio. I was in commercial construction/concrete though and I added #4 rebars in wall at 16"o.c. Probably overkill but i'd add some. After walls were waterproofed and drainage tile installed (inside and out) I backfilled with 100% #57's limestone.

If you're worried, have a soils testing company come out after basement is dug. they can use an instrument to tell you bearing capacity.


Do not wait until after you start. Get the proper test done and have the house and site plan designed to deal with the conditions that are present. Around here, it is required for a permit
Old 08-29-2017, 08:06 AM
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Owned a home once sitting on soil and sub-soil for the first 15 to 18 feet, with clay below that. The property was between a hill and a lake.

We had groundwater intrusion into the unfinished basement during the wet season as the water on the hill worked its way underground to the lake. We obviously didn't realize how bad it would be when we purchased the house, we thought it would be minor. Trust me, you do not want this in a home. Eventually sold the place to someone desperate to own a home in that resort area (as we were when first purchased).
Old 08-29-2017, 08:21 AM
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Originally Posted by twobyfour View Post
When your dealing with soil that has clay in it, it has the potential for what we call shrink swell. This is dealt with by having a soil engineer visit the site and take hand augers exactly where the house is going. He will prepare a report based on the findings of the augers. Around here, if test indicate shrink swell, the engineer will dictate the footings be excavated to a deeper depth than the bad soil, and backfilled with stone or flowable fill which is basically a concrete mixture without the rocks. Then you can pour your normal footing on top of that. However, I just always pour the concrete extra thick. I had one last year that had 4' thick footings lol, 140 yds concrete. Of course this will add to the price, the soil test here cost me about 400, then depending on the size of the footing or house, the extra excavation and concrete typically run between 6-12k.
+1

Call a reputable geotech company and have them give you a recommendation and proposal for soil borings and foundation design. They should be licensed and insured should it fail.
Old 08-29-2017, 08:30 AM
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All the comments re: soil and water proofing seem appropriate. I'd also want to know if i were in a flood zone since you are near wetlands. Do you need flood insurance? Areas adjacent to wetlands often have restrictions on what you can build, tree removal, etc. Check the restrictions before you commit.
Old 08-29-2017, 02:05 PM
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Lots of good information here and I appreciate everyone's feedback.
Our current house just around the block with clay soil but not as close to the wetlands. The sump pump runs frequently and is a constant concern, though I have learned to live with it and take extra precautions. No major structural or water issues surrounding the foundation.

To be clear, the new lot is already cleared and prepped with utilities. Since the utilities are there I think there may be existing soil reports on file with the city so I am going to try that lead and see what I find. I think based on the area, my biggest concern is ponding and depth to saturation, so I will be having a detailed discussion with the builder about both exterior and interior drain plans. Excellent points on back fill as well and I will be sure to bring that up with him when we meet. We are duplicating a spec home so the plans are already developed, but can be modified to an extent. Certainly we can adapt to soil conditions and enhance drainage wherever possible. I feel much more confident now in what types of questions I should be asking the builder.

Will update when I have some more time to respond.
Old 08-29-2017, 02:19 PM
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Not sure about where you live but around here I need a geotechnical report submitted with plans for any new construction permit.

I would plan for a worse case scenario but the Geo report will tell you how deep the clay is and if it's capable of supporting the structure. You may even need to put helicals in to beef up the foundation.

As for water proofing/ high water table my fathers house has issues every time it rains. I would put two sump pumps in opposite corners and have a whole house generator if you plan to finish your basement.
Old 08-29-2017, 06:32 PM
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Definitely like your being told start with a soils engineer. Unless your getting an incredible deal find another lot. I built a house a few years ago on similar soil with a basement. Wound up with over 50 helical piers. Most went down over 45ft. At $18-$22 / ft it can get pricey.

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