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Foundation Problems in Dallas, Ft Worth, and Arlington, Texas

September 1, 2011

Texas has an abundance of clay in its soil in many parts of the state, and the DFW metroplex is one of those areas. The problem with foundations built on clay is that clay really loves water; not only can it soaks water up from as far as 12 feet away, it changes shape and volume  as it does. The more water clay absorbs, the more it swells; then, as evaporation and compaction slowly remove the water, it contracts – which is why you can see huge cracks in dried out clay soil.

The dry, cracking clay is responsible for thousands upon thousands of cracked foundations, pot- holes, and collapsed retaining walls in Texas. The issue? most of NE Texas is part of both one huge clay corridor which runs north up through Oklahoma into Kansas, Nebraska and the Dakotas, and another that runs east clear to the Carolinas. According to Shane Kennedy, who with his family owns a company called Earth Science Products in Aurora, Ore., “Texas is truly ground zero.”

Fortunately, Earth Science has a solution for the clay problem, and its name is Condor SS. A sulphonated oil liquid made from the waste created in the refining of aviation fuel, Condor SS is injected into the clay-rich soil to stabilize it.

How does it work? Clay is formed as rare earth elements such as feldspar and granite degrade, and as a by-product of the process acquires a negative ionic charge. Water, which is electrically neutral but structured in such a way that the positive and negative charges are located at either end of each molecule, acquires a positive ionic charge as it flows through soil, creating a clay/water “affinity”.

Once Condor is introduced into the clay rich soil, it can replace water by sharing a proton with the clay molecule, forming a strong chemical bond through an ion exchange. As Kennedy puts it, “That soil becomes stable. It no longer will expand and contract with the introduction or withdrawal of moisture.”

Traditionally, contractors and developers have dealt with unstable clay in one of three ways: flood it, seal it, and cap it so it retains maximum moisture; drive foundation piers clear down to bedrock; or excavate the clay and replace it with more stable fill. The first option is cheap but not particularly effective over the long term. The second two options work well, but are prohibitively expensive.

Condor SS is injected into the soil using a specially outfitted dozer that can stabilize an verage building lot in a day. The cost, according to Kennedy, averages anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 per lot, depending on the amount and type of clay in the soil. Thomas LaLonde, P.E., president of stabilEarth, an Arlington, Texas, engineering firm, says he uses Condor SS for several large home builders in the area.

“The use of Condor in treating our soils allows us to build houses on a soil foundation that has much less expansive movement to it,” says LaLonde. “That results in happier homeowners. It saves builders money in the longer term on warranty issues.”LaLonde has been using Condor SS for two-and-a-half years, and says he sees a 100 percent success rate on new construction and a 95 percent rate on remediation work.

Some developers are using Condor SS on entire communities. At Frisco Square near Dallas,TX, the entire 147-acre site was injected with Condor SS. “We stabilized the entire town,” says Kennedy. “All of the building pad sites, driveways, walkways, and parking lots were stabilized with Condor SS while under construction.”

Condor SS can be used both in the build phase and as a remedial solution for foundation problems caused by clay-rich soil.

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