While Colorado is not unique with its geologic risks, it does lie in the path of a broad swath of Pierre Shale running from South Dakota to Mexico and harbors clay mineralogy. Both have potentially expansive qualities. In the words of a Colorado statute, CRS §24-65.1-103(6), “Expansive soil and rock means soil and rock which contains clay and which expands to a significant degree upon wetting and shrinks upon drying.”
Improper drainage, irrigation, and, irrigation leaks are common sources of soil wetting which can result in significant soil volume changes producing upward and destructive forces which may not be evident for several years after construction.
Clay-based soil allows absorption of a large amount of water. This is often not evident at the time of building unless expansive soils testing and soil reports are performed. Expansive soils are not discovered by many property owners until an undetected irrigation line leak or other water source causes the soil to start expanding, much like a sponge. By then, it may be too late to fix the soil problem without expensive foundation revision and, in the worst case, complete razing of the building and starting all over again. At the law firm of Harmon S. Graves, P.C. we represent sellers and purchasers of real estate in legal issues that result from the impact of expansive soil on residential and commercial construction.
Cracked foundations, heaved basement slabs, cracked walls, compromised door frames, and joint separations are common results of expansive soils. The remedies for these problems can be very costly and insurance coverage is typically excluded. Court decisions on such coverage issues are conflicting. Colorado’s Soils Disclosure Statute, CRS §6-6.5-101, provides some protection to purchasers of new residences by requiring a developer/builder to conduct due diligence testing and provide a summary soil report to the purchaser. Recommendations in that report must be reconciled with the foundation design and basement floor design of the residence. We can help with that upon review of your proposed purchase documents.
We urge our clients who engage their own builders to obtain a soil report from a geotechnical engineer and a structural engineer to design a foundation and basement floor system consistent with the recommendations of the geotechnical engineer. The difference in cost of a drilled pier foundation and spread footings may be well worth absorbing at the outset in the presence of low to moderately expansive soil.
In the event of structural failure, we can assist you in evaluating the propriety of proceeding through the construction claim process and arbitration or litigation to seek recovery.
Put experience to work for you
If you need legal counsel as a result on an expansive soil problem, you want an attorney with experience dealing with Colorado’s unique issues relating to expansive soils and construction defects. At the offices of Harmon S. Graves, P.C., we have over 50 years of experience representing clients throughout the Denver metro area. If you have an expansive soils problem and need legal advice, contact our office to arrange for your complimentary 30-minute consultation.