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Posted by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 4/29/2009

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that there had been some confusion regarding the results of our soils test, and I thought I'd pass along how this all fell out.  It might serve as a useful warning to other OBs down the road, if nothing else.

We were under the impression that we needed a second soils test, but it turned out to be more subtle than that.  The first soils test folks had noted in their report that they wanted to come test the soil again once the excavation was done but before we started building footers, so they could ensure that the bore samples that they took were in fact representative of the entire site.  You can easily get a situation (especially in an area such as Tanglewood which is essentially alluvial fill along the rim of a canyon) where the soil varies wildly from one test hole to the next, and so the compressibility of the soil and its ability to support a house can also vary.  As I said earlier to their credit the first soils test folks did note that they wanted to come test the soil again, but it wasn't remotely obvious--it was buried way deep on page 5 of a 20-odd page report--and it wasn't verbally called out at all by either their engineers when they delivered the report or (unfortunately) by our architect.  My guess is that he thought we did know this already, or that it had been mentioned before--but the upshot was that we didn't.  Colleen in particular (as noted in other posts) wasn't happy, and I was definitely displeased as well.

For a while we thought we'd dig a new hole that got down to the intended footer depth and have a second company test that, but there were concerns over the potential complications associated with a second company's test report (particularly if they came up different--they all have somewhat customized approaches to this type of thing). After all was said and done we had to make a decision, and I decided to go with the original plan (after we dug the hole of course--oh well).  It's more straightforward, I understand the concerns and protections better than I did, it doesn't complicate the matter by bringing in a second company, and at least it's moving forward on the project--things had somewhat hit a standstill as we wrestled with this (as we didn't want to do anything that might mess up the area for a second test if necessary). We will proceed with getting the area cleared and get the excavation done, and then the first company will be back up to conduct some follow up tests to ensure that their initial recommendations still apply.

Lesson Learned:  Avoid surprises by making sure you read and double-read everything you get from your contractors, and then ask them and/or your architect for clarification when you don't understand something.  It's very easy to overlook one little sentence buried in the bowels of a report or proposal--comb it thoroughly.

But remember this is all supposed to be fun--don't let a surprise ruin that!

Steven in Colorado Springs

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