How Soil Destroys Buildings

Here are a few things to take into consideration regarding the potential for foundation settlement/movement in our area (central Mississippi).

  1. Know that all houses settle. The amount may be so small as to be undetectable or maybe so uniform as to leave no signs, but it unquestionably happens.
  2. Because of the natural and construction-related variations in soil properties, not every point on a foundation settles the same amount.

Preventing settlement problems begins with recognizing that the soil a foundation rests on is part of the foundation system; the soil is a building material, just like the 2 x 4 studs that frame the walls of most houses in our area. The fact that you can’t go to a lumberyard and select this building material – that in most cases you’re simply going to use whatever you happen to have – makes it especially important that you recognize the differences among soil types. It’s equally important to recognize the way soils respond to building loads and be able to identify potential problems caused by those loads.

“Understanding the stuff the house sits on may prevent cost overruns, callbacks for contractors and inspectors, and neighborhood gossip.” Robert M. Felton

Robert Felton is a consulting geotechnical engineer and free-lance writer in Wake Forest, North Carolina. He may be contacted via e-mail at See Robert’s excellent article: PDF

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