Blue Clay Blues

My house will fall apart but I’ll have the nicest pond and natural swimming pool in Ohio.  You know that picture I showed you yesterday?  The one with the cool top soil and the cool greyish blue streak of soil at the bottom of the hole?  Well I got a call from my excavator and apparently we’ve got “blue clay” where we’re digging the foundation.  Blue clay is awesome for horseshoe pits and lining ponds (water won’t penetrate it), but horrible for building a house on (it can barely support my weight after an all night chicken wing bender I suspect).  It actually is worth something in those regards, so the wife wasn’t too far off when she jokingly asked if we hit oil or gold when I told her the excavator hit something while digging. 

Alas, suffice to say I’m not rushing out to paint “Blue Clay for sale” on a cardboard sign.  I’m a little bit preoccupied with building a home for my family.

This is what "blue clay" (the clump in the middle) looks like compared to regular clay (the brown stuff all around). It really is blue.

 Regular clay that we have here in Ohio can support on the order of 3,000 pounds per square foot (psf).  And of course my wimpy blue clay can hold about 800 lbs psf.  So my gravel footers that I was going to use for my fabricated foundation walls will most likely be but a distant memory by time we get done.  For now we have to do a soil test / report and then we’ll work with the foundation company and possibly a structural engineer to determine a proper footer.  I suspect, and remember I’m a total lay person in this regard, but I suspect we’ll end up with concrete footings on the order of 5′ wide.  Which of course is an unplanned purchase.  But what can I do?  Not much but manage the situation and try to stay positive.  I can’t fret over that which I have no control.

In the 90 degree heat the wife wanted to join me and bring the boys out to the land when I met the excavator.  We got to see the hole and clay situation first hand.  We saw how you could push a metal rod only about 2 inches into the regular clay and about 8 inches into the blue clay. 

Picture of the hole today.  You can see the blue clay at the bottom corner.  The orange lines are where the footers will go.  The ledged walls will soon be excavated out at an angle for safety and stability.

We also learned that for safety sake the excavator has to dig out our foundation hole at a 45 degree angle to avoid cave ins and to keep things stable.  Another unplanned expense.

My quick drawing of our foundation hole cross section. Normally you can just dig straight up with a shelf ledge halfway up. In our case we'll dig at a 45 to prevent cave in.

 We’ll find out more tomorrow to see what the effect is on schedule.  At this point I have to assume the foundation will be delayed.  They were supposed to start building it tomorrow, but we’ll see how long that delay will be.  I actually, knock on wood, don’t think it’ll be that long of a delay.

As always leave it to a toddler to keep life in perspective.  In the midst of a bummer of a day my wife relayed a story that made me chuckle.  She asked him what he wanted to be for Halloween.

“Do you want to be a fireman?”

“No.”

“Do you want to be a dragon?”

“No.”

“Do you want to be a tomato plant?”

“Sure.”

I think I laughed hard enough I cried.

So as long as little kids around the world want to be tomato plants, or god knows what else, for Halloween, I’m pretty sure us adults can survive life’s little setbacks and roadblocks. 

In the grand scheme of things it’s only blue clay.  We’ll figure it out.  If not, I’ll be the guy just around the bend on the roadside with the “Blue Clay For Sale” cardboard sign…..right next to the kid dressed up as a tomato plant.

Blue Clay For Sale

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7 thoughts on “Blue Clay Blues

    • It’s appears you are correct sir (or madam). Alas I don’t think we found any gold…or at least none that my excavator told me about. I know I did pay him a small fortune on this project. Appears only gold these guys found was coming from my check book.

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  1. Was wondering if you could contact me I have exactly same situation how did your house turn out they are telling me I need a 4foot by 4foot undercut fill with one’s and two’s

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  2. Jim, as far as I can tell everything is fine with our house. We’ve been here 18 months and the earth around the house has all settled. I haven’t inspected the foundation but I haven’t seen or heard anything adverse. I believe ours is backfilled with gravel as well which jacked up the cost of the foundation, but like I said we’ve had no ill effect as far as I can tell. Knock on wood.

    Only thing I would change is the final grade of our front yard. The front bed settled but the harder yard beyond the 45 degree excavation didn’t settle so I get pooling of water in front of the plant bed. I can’t go any higher with the soil by the house, so the only alternative is to scrape off the front yard and lower it…or life with some pooling for now until I can reroute the water.

    I’ll look through my blog postings to see if I mentioned any more on what they did…but most of the photos should show what we did.

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