Soil engineers can advise on preventive solutions for problems that may arise from expansive soil, saving the homeowner future difficulties. Soil engineers can be contracted through the architect or builder, but often the homeowner contacts an engineer directly. When doing so, it’s important to make sure the soil engineer is registered, professionally licensed through the state.
Soils engineers possess a thorough knowledge of soil-structure interaction. They investigate areas proposed for development, analyze site and subsurface conditions and make recommendations for septic systems, grading, earth support, drainage, foundation design, concrete slab on grade construction, and site remediation.
Soils reports are required for building permits. During construction, the soils engineer may need to make further tests to make sure subsurface soil conditions are compatible with those observed in the initial investigation and modify the design recommendations as necessary. The engineer may also need to evaluate whether the construction is completed in compliance with the meaning and intent of the recommendations provided.
Soils engineers are often hired to analyze problems in existing structures and sites caused by the soil conditions, identify the specific cause, and recommend the best repair or mitigation methods. The most significant hazards are caused by earthquake activity, water, landslides, and compressible and expansive soils. Expansive soils cause millions of dollars in damage annually and many people have literally lost their homes due to extensive damage and the high costs of repair. Expansive soils will “swell” in volume when wetted and shrink when dried, often causing houses and other structures to heave, settle, and shift unevenly. Specific foundation systems have been devised to help counteract some of the problems inherent with expansive soils.
A soils report can be ordered by a home buyer or Realtor to learn of any potential hazards that could affect their home and investment over both the short- and long-term. For example, many home buyers are not prepared for all the complications of hillside living, including erosion, gullies, mudflows and/or landslides caused by intense winter rains. A soils report and resulting maintenance recommendations could help make potential or current homeowners aware of steps to help safeguard their homes.
Soils engineers also provide expert testimony for litigation. They can be contracted through the architect or builder, but often the homeowner contacts an engineer directly. When doing so, it’s important to make sure the soils engineer is registered and professionally licensed through the state.