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soil for rough grading?


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By amy on 6/9/2010


Any landscape/soil experts here? Is sandy-clay-loam soil with 11% organic content (we sent in in for soil testing) unsuitable for rough grading?

Because of poor subsoil stability, we had to excavate much deeper than planned (6 ft+, and this is concrete slab, no basement!) Result: two HUGE soil stockpiles, one of sandy soil for infill and the other "good" soil. (A third, the "bad" soil with lots of clay was already hauled). Our contractor is telling us that the "good" soil has too much organic content to be used for rough site grading and that we need to cut it with coarse sand. This translates into big cost because we are not only paying to haul in sand and mix it with our soil stockpile, we will have soil left over that has to be hauled away. But he also says that cut with sand it will still have good organic content, and we could get away with just two inches of topsoil instead of four inches, which will save $$$.

Any opinions/advice? Thanks!
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By Michael in Cave Creek, AZ on 6/14/2010


<link rel="File-List" href="file:///C:%5CDOCUME%7E1%5CMICHAE%7E1%5CLOCALS%7E1%5CTemp%5Cmsohtml1%5C01%5Cclip_filelist.xml"><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:PunctuationKerning/> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas/> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables/> <w:SnapToGridInCell/> <w:WrapTextWithPunct/> <w:UseAsianBreakRules/> <w:DontGrowAutofit/> </w:Compatibility> <w:BrowserLevel>MicrosoftInternetExplorer4</w:BrowserLevel> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" LatentStyleCount="156"> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><style> <!-- /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-parent:""; margin:0in; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";} @page Section1 {size:8.5in 11.0in; margin:1.0in 1.25in 1.0in 1.25in; mso-header-margin:.5in; mso-footer-margin:.5in; mso-paper-source:0;} div.Section1 {page:Section1;} --> </style><!--[if gte mso 10]> <style> /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} </style> <![endif]--> <p class="MsoNormal">I have some ideas for what to do with your organic sandy loam.</p> <p class="MsoNormal"><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> <p class="MsoNormal">First, I would not use it in as-is condition for structural fill. I would define structural fill as any fill that will be placed below your home, garage, patios, outbuildings, driveway and structural embankments. Fill in all of these locations needs to be compacted to 95% of the theoretical maximum compaction possible.<span style=""> </span>Your excavator will water the material and place it in layers (called lifts) of only a few inches to achieve compaction. A soils lab may be asked to test the fill using a nuclear-density gauge. The 11% organic content makes the material uncompactable.</p> <p class="MsoNormal"><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> <p class="MsoNormal">If you need all of this material as structural fill, mixing in non-organic sandy material will help reduce the organic content and make the material more suitable for compaction, as suggested by your excavator. </p> <p class="MsoNormal"><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> <p class="MsoNormal">Perhaps you could place the organic sandy loam <span style="">&nbsp;</span>material in your yard in a 6” or 1-foot-thick layer of topsoil. </p> <p class="MsoNormal"><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> <p class="MsoNormal">You could also put an ad on Craig’s List<span style="">&nbsp; </span>“FREE Topsoil – U Pick-Up ____ Yards Available".</p> <p class="MsoNormal"><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> <p class="MsoNormal">You could also use the material in your landscape to build berms and contoured landscape features that can add interest to your yard.<span style=""> </span>A good landscape architect will have ideas. </p> <p class="MsoNormal"><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> <p class="MsoNormal">The suggestions in this post are intended to be general in nature. Please rely on the professionals involved in your project to guide you. It appears that you have an engineering lab involved. The reports generated by these labs are normally prepared by a licensed civil or geotechnical engineer.<span style="">&nbsp; </span>These folks are pretty conservative, but being conservative is a very good thing when it comes to the foundation of your house or structure.<span style=""> </span>A failed foundation is difficult to remediate. It is often easier and less costly to tear the structure down and start from scratch. Don't skimp on the grading and footings. <br></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> <span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: &quot;Times New Roman&quot;;">Good luck with your project.</span>
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By amy on 6/15/2010


Thanks for the reply. This soil stockpile would be used only for site grading around the site where elevations need to be changed for proper drainage around the house, not for structural fill. That's why I am questioning why it has to be mixed with coarse sand. Also, the loamy stockpile is not topsoil--this lot was an old gravel parking lot near a wetland. The organic stuff was 4 feet under. So my two revised questions would be: 1) Does the soil used for rough grading around the site--NOT structural fill--have to be cut with sand, and 2) Do you think anybody would want sandy-to-silty loam that is not topsoil, enough to come haul it? It is native stuff, rocky and 5.6 acidity.  But high organic content.
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