10 Things to Avoid on Your Commercial Project – Item #2: Poor Soils

Don’t wait until you close on a property before you investigate the soils or subsurface conditions. Be sure to arrange for a geotechnical analysis by a licensed geotechnical engineer before you start your project. Soil borings and test pits (minimal disturbance and most economical for shallow testing) are drilled or dug to determine what is going on below grade. Your geotechnical engineer will be able to recommend what type of soil boring should be used at your site. “Special sampling tools are used to collect soil samples which are then placed in appropriate containers for testing at an analytical laboratory. Soil samples provide data about potential contamination in surface soil (0 to 3 feet) that may affect animals and people in residences, and in subsurface soil (3 to 15 feet) that may affect utility, construction or excavation workers.”1 Soil borings and logs will allow the engineer to determine the soil bearing capacity of the soil at footing depth. Poor bearing capacity can lead to larger mat style footings, over excavation and stabilization or expensive footing designs incorporating piles. Other scenarios include rock (may require blasting), buried debris or previously disturbed soils. Another important factor to consider is storm water management (the reduction of rainwater, melted snow and ice into streets, lawns and other sites, as well as, contamination of same) and the type that will be required for your site.  Educating yourself on where rainwater and snowmelt flow on your property when it doesn’t get absorbed into the ground is a great first step. Implementing best management practices to reduce runoff and to make sure that it is clean when it leaves your property is the next step. Involving the services of an expert in this field will be paramount to the success of your project. Performing a preliminary geotechnical investigation will educate you prior to purchase so you can make an informed decision and prepare a budget for your site work.