Colorado Soils Are No Joke
The joke along the Front Range of Colorado is that there are two kinds of concrete, broken concrete and concrete that is going to break. Well, it isn’t that bad, but if you are a home owner that has experienced cracking or movement of your driveways, sidewalks or foundation walls, this is no laughing matter.
Many of the soils in Colorado, especially along the Front Range, contain expansive material. These expansive soils/minerals expand greatly when wetted and shrink significantly when dried. They can exert a tremendous pressure–enough to lift concrete driveways and even foundations and piers.
From a practical sense, what does this mean to the average home owner?
Water is the enemy and steps should be taken to minimize the exposure of the soils immediately surrounding the home to excessive moisture. Some options include:
- Minimize foliage around the home. If you have foliage, you have to water it. It is generally recommend that you have 4-6 feet of space around the home with minimal vegetation.
- Establish positive drainage away from the home.
- Install fabric near the home to help shed moisture.
- Extend the downspouts and sump pump drain lines so water is kept away from the foundation.
- Caulk the little cracks–if you don’t, water will seep in from melting snow and react with the clay soils and turn small, cheap problems into big expensive problems.
- The only things in life that are certain are death and taxes, but there are things you can do to reduce the risk of structural problems–they include:
- Always hire a structural engineer to inspect your home before buying a home.
- Buy a home that has been around for awhile. If a home is going to have structural issues, the greatest potential for that to happen is earlier in a home’s life. There is no guarantee, however, and under the right circumstances soil movement can occur at any time.
- Structural engineers generally advise that if a home has had a structural repair, that it is best to have the repair tested with time to see if movement reoccurs.
- Be aware of the various construction practices used to prevent structural issues and ask lots of questions.
- Use an experienced Realtor that is familiar with the area that you are buying in. They frequently have valuable knowledge and can guide you to the best local resources. They can also help you ask the right questions.
When buying a home, even new construction, it is important to hire a competent inspector. They can frequently identify things that can create problems down the road.
You need to be as informed as possible. To learn more, you can purchase a copy of A Guide to Swelling Soil for Colorado Homebuyers and Homeowners online at http://geosurveystore.state.co.us/c-13-geological-hazards.aspx. The publication is available for $7.00. If you are purchasing a new home from a builder, you should receive one of these booklets for free.
So What is Radon?
Well it isn’t a synthetic fabric.
Here is the scary part. Radon is a natural radioactive gas that is a potent carcinogen. You can’t see it, taste it, or smell it. Its presence in your home can pose a danger to your family’s health. In fact, it should be taken very seriously because according to the EPA it is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers.
Here is some geek speak about radon. Radon is formed from the normal radioactive decay of uranium and has a half-life of 3.8 days. Uranium can be found in our soils in Colorado.
It typically moves up through the ground to the air above and into your home and becomes trapped inside. Any home may have a radon problem. This means new and old homes, well-sealed and drafty homes, and homes with or without basements.
The good news is that it easy and inexpensive to test for and it can be mitigated easily and fairly cheaply. You can get kits at the local hardware store to test for it yourself or you can hire a home inspector to test it for you. Many home inspectors even have computerized equipment that do hourly readings so that you can make sure no one is doing anything to artificially alter the readings.
The EPA has established 4 pCi/L (pronounced peako curies per liter) as the standard. If the average measured results are equal to or greater than 4 pCi/L, then mitigation is recommended at this time. Work should be completed by licensed contractor.
If you would like names of inspectors or mitigation experts please do not hesitate to call our office, we would be happy to send you a list of people we have grown to trust. We can be reached at (303) 664-0000.
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