What is Shrink Swell Soil?

And What Does it Have to Do With Brandermill?

Shrink-swell soil, also known as expansive soil, is precisely what it sounds like. It is soil with high wet expansion volume and high shrinkage when dry. This type of soil can cause significant pressure on homes, foundations, roads, and other infrastructure during heavy rain periods. In addition, this shrinkage can remove support from a home’s foundation, roads, and other infrastructure during dry periods. Shrink swell soil causes billions of dollars of damage every year. If you geek out at awesome engineering videos, Grady Hillhouse does a fantastic job illustrating this using Orbeez!

How is Shrink Swell Soil Tested?

Soil gets tested for its expansive properties in a laboratory. First, a core sample is taken on-site and sent to a laboratory. Then, some pretty scientific tests get done over a few days. Check it out!

Is there Shrink Swell in Chesterfield?

Virginia, in general, has a lot of clay soil, and it is specific clay minerals that give soil its expansive property. Below is a map that shows which areas in Chesterfield are more likely to have expansive soils. As you can see, most of West Chesterfield has a high probability of having shrink-swell soils.

which areas in chesterfield have shrink swell soil

Do Home Inspectors Check For Shrink Swell Soil?

Home inspectors will look for signs of foundation issues such as cracks. They will inspect the grading to make sure it slopes away from the house, which can help mitigate issues with shrink-swell soil. Here at A House on a Rock, we are familiar with the soil problems associated with Chesterfield. However, home inspectors do not test the soil conditions. It is far out of the scope of practice and an inspector’s qualifications to test the soil conditions.

What Does This Have to Do With Brandermill?

Construction in Brandermill started in 1975. It was only the second planned community in Virginia, and Better Homes and Garden magazine named it the “Best Planned Community in America.” It seems they planned for everything, except the shrink swell soil.

Foundation issues and expensive repairs have plagued the 80s Brandermill. Many community meetings in the 80s and 90s consisted of conversations about how to address the issue. Citizens begged for a county-level solution. They asked their leaders for grand juries, criminal investigations, and even federal fraud investigations. Although the county attempted some legal action, the statute limitations restricted the legal recourse. County leaders proposed taxes and fees on developers and REALTORs to fund a solution. Naturally, citizens opposed the taxes, and developers and Realtors opposed fees.

Some citizens pursued individual civil action against their builders. However, the builders were not responsible for legal fees. So, even those homeowners who won damages could not afford the needed repairs after paying their legal expenses. As a result of lawsuits, some builders declared bankruptcy and went out of business.

We service Chesterfield, and we do a lot of inspections in Brandermill. The critical thing to remember is that it is still a fantastic community to live in, and contractors can repair foundations. If you live in Brandermill, regularly look for signs of foundation issues. The longer a problem is allowed to progress, the worse and more expensive it gets. If you are buying in Brandermill, get a quality inspector to inspect for signs of foundation issues. As always, plan and budget for unexpected repairs.

Tip For Inspecting Cracks:

If you have cracks in your foundation, you can monitor them to see if they are dynamic or static.

Static cracks are generally considered cosmetic and require little or no repair.

Alternatively, dynamic cracks are continually growing. These cracks are under recurring environmental forces. Accordingly, these cracks will need structural reinforcement as well as surface sealing.

You can use crack monitoring devices to determine if you have a dynamic or static crack.

use a crack monitoring device to assess cracks from shrink swell soil

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