Tamper Plate on Clay Soil

Dishing the Dirt on Clay Soil


While most construction workers are adept at building in sand and silt, crews throughout the southeast know the thick clay soil on their jobsites requires some added expertise.

Due to its unique structure and consistency, clay soil has potential for both expansion as well as contraction after a foundation has been laid. The plasticity of the soil means it can be easily shaped or molded, but this also sets the stage for unwanted post-construction shifting contractors want to avoid.

Watch out for water

Southern clay soil easily attracts and absorbs water, which is great for growing lush greenery but less than ideal for building a strong structural foundation. The doughy consistency of clay differs from fine-grained soils found elsewhere. Those either liquify or crumble with the addition or extraction of moisture. In clay soil, the clay molecules bond together and react with water molecules by attaching the water molecule to its own structure, resulting in soggy, oversaturated conditions during the rainy seasons of spring and late fall.

The best plan is to optimize build schedules around rainfall. A workflow calendar that schedules subs and specialty trades according to season helps keep projects moving year-round. Try as we might to schedule dirt work for when conditions are dry, Mother Nature quickly reminds us to have backup plans for when they aren’t.

Drainage is key

In clay soil conditions, it’s imperative to protect your site by first creating a drainage system to divert water away from where teams and equipment will be working. During and after rainfall, a 3-inch trash pump can quickly remove excess water from large areas. For smaller areas or basement weep holes less than a foot deep, submersible pumps are great for pulling off surface water.

Conversely, during the dry summer months, clay soil may require the addition of water before work can be done. Water Trucks have capacities of up to 4,000 gallons and are essential for prepping a dry dig site with an even, controlled distribution of water.

prepare the soil

The ground in some regions of the southeast – we’re looking at you Nashville and Atlanta – contain excessive amounts of granite that needs to be removed during the first phase of site prep. Luckily, crushed granite is perfect for adding stability to the surrounding clay.

Renting excavators and track-mounted hammers for the first phase of a project is a cost-effective way to repurpose the hard substrate in these areas into an ideal fill for a quality foundation on your next build.

Sunstate -John Deere Excavator
Pro Tip: Rubber 4WD tires tend to get stuck in clay soil. Instead, opt instead to rent construction equipment with M/T or special track tires.

choose the right equipment

Knowing how to select the right rental can make the difference between a successful project or a bogged down disaster. We’ve put together this clay soil equipment cheat sheet for selecting machinery to maneuver through your muddy projects with ease.

Compaction Equipment  Rollers, tampers, and jumping jacks are needed when adding gravel fill to increase soil stability.

Track Skid Steers   Available in a variety of sizes to best fit your grading, digging, and material-moving tasks, track skids are ideal for heavy duty work in muddy terrain.

Track-Drive Buggy  One of the most valuable pieces of equipment on a clay soil jobsite for easily moving loose materials, concrete, or debris across a sloughy surface.

Mini Excavators  The mighty mini-ex packs in power for safe and controlled digs in difficult soil. many of your construction tasks safer and more efficient. 

Sunstate’s heavy equipment rental experts can steer you in the right direction to give your site a solid foundation. With locations throughout the southeast, we are ready to help you select the right equipment for every phase of your clay soil project. Give us a call at 888-456-4560 to get personalized assistance with securing your rental fleet today.

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email