Compacting soil is the ideal way to increase soil density, which is very important for creating a secure base layer for whatever is constructed or placed upon it. Soil compaction increases both the stability and load-bearing capacity of the ground while also reducing water seepage and preventing soil settlement and damage from frost. If you have ever seen part of a highway buckling, you will be familiar with what can happen when base dirt is not properly compacted. No matter what is going to be constructed on the soil, it’s an essential first step.
Soil Compaction Tips
Here are six tips for ensuring you get the most out of your soil compaction efforts.
1. Make Sure The Level Of Moisture Is Right
In order to properly compact your soil, you need to know as much as possible about it. Chief among the characteristics you need to be familiar with is the soil’s moisture. This is because there are many different types of soil out there and each has its own density and moisture level.
Cohesive soils such as clay and granular soils such as sand are suitable for compaction, while organic soils used for planting are not because they crumble easily. A cohesive soil is made of particles that stick together, so it is far easier to compact in general. Nevertheless, each soil’s unique characteristics will determine how easy this process is.
You want to find a happy medium when it comes to soil moisture as a lack of moisture in the soil will cause poor compaction. On the other hand, however, if the soil has too much moisture in it, that will weaken stability. Having the right amount of moisture in the soil is vital for the foundation that is built upon it, and it also has the effect of reducing the amount of work needed to get the best compaction results.
If you have any doubt, you can perform a simple test to see if the soil has adequate moisture. Grab a handful of soil and squeeze it together, then open up your hand and allow the soil to fall to the ground.
If it has the ideal level of moisture, it will allow it to mold together when you squeeze it yet break into a couple of pieces once it is dropped on the ground. Soil that is too dry will be powdery and break into fragments when you drop it. If the soil leaves your hands noticeably moist and the mold of the soil stays intact when it is dropped, this is a sign that there is simply too much moisture for the soil to be properly compacted.
2. Use The Right Equipment
When soil is not compacted properly, it can settle, leading to maintenance issues down the line that may be expensive to fix. In the worst cases, it may cause structures placed on top of it to fail. Therefore, using the right equipment to get the job done is essential.
There are lots of compaction equipment options to choose from, including ride-on rollers, walk-behind rollers, trench rollers, forward reversible plates and rammers. When using a cohesive soil, it is best to opt for a trench roller or rammer, while granular soils call for walk-behind rollers, ride-on rollers, or forward/reversible plates.
When it comes to small compaction equipment, keep in mind that it typically weighs around one fifth of the compaction force that it puts out. To keep the equipment performing optimally, it is important to have a good maintenance program in place.
3. Check The Lift And Soil Layer Depth
When you are filling a trench, you need to ensure you are filling it with the correct amount of dirt and using adequate compaction force. As soil is compacted, keep in mind that the impact will travel less and return greater energy to the machine, which may cause it to come off of the ground higher. Incorrect lift can cause a loose layer of dirt to form and lead to undercompaction.
4. Take Steps To Avoid Rollovers
It is essential to inspect the work surface for any dangerous inclines or declines before beginning as operating a roller or compactor on an uneven surface can lead to a serious rollover hazard. Although some machines come with rollover protective structures and seat belts that can reduce the risk of injury should a rollover occur, it is still a good idea to inspect the area first.
You should also take a look at the tire pressure in a roller or compactor before operating it. Tires that are improperly inflated may destabilize the equipment. In addition, turning a compactor with articulated steering away from the slope may destabilize it. Likewise, compacting soft edges may make one side of the equipment sink, which also raises the risk of experiencing a rollover.
5. Avoid Overcompaction And Undercompaction
When you are compacting soil, you might be tempted to work faster to get the job done sooner, but this is one task where taking your time can really pay off. Even highly experienced building contractors are prone to making mistakes, particularly when rushing, and overcompaction is one of the most common issues that is seen.
When the operator of the equipment makes too many passes with it in the same direction, it can reduce the soil’s density. However, the opposite issue can also be problematic; when an operator fails to make enough passes with a compactor, the soil particles will be too soft and will not get the cohesion needed to reach proper density.
6. Hire An Experienced Contractor
Getting soil compaction right is a complicated endeavor that should not be attempted by those who lack confidence or experience with the equipment involved. Look for a contractor in your area that has a proven track record in working with soil and compacting it, and who has a fleet of appropriate equipment. Choosing the right contractor will give your peace of mind that the job is being carried out safely and correctly.
Get In Touch With Dirt Connections
If you are looking for an experienced soil compaction contractor in the Maryland-Virginia-Washington, D.C. area, Dirt Connections will be happy to discuss your project with you. Get in touch today!
Dirt Connections was started with one goal in mind: providing quality residential and commercial construction services to clients on time and on budget. Reach out for more information on how we can support your next project.
For your convenience our estimates are free and by appointment. Call 703-940-9949 for a free estimate today!