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Torrance & Expansive Soils

Torrance Expansive Soil Clays

Torrance Expansive Soil Clays- Pressure causing cracking along perimeter wall.

If you are considering a home purchase in the balanced city of Torrance, CA it would behoove your investment to quickly become antiquated with what is otherwise known as the “Torrance Soils Area”. Whether or not your potential purchase is located  within the “Expansive Soil Study Zone” is of material concern to your home buying decision.  That is, Special Foundation Requirements may be required by city building & planning offices should you ever decide to remodel or expand upon your home’s existing foundation. Other cities in the South Bay may also be areas of concern, however not formally addressing it in the building code as Torrance City has. That’s why having a reliable REALTOR by your side can make a significant difference in being an informed real estate investor.

So what are expansive soils? According to Torrance City expansive soils are, “fine grained clay which is found in most of North Torrance and in the Walteria Lake area of Southwest Torrance. It occurs naturally and is generally found in areas that historically were a flood plain or lake area.” These are areas which may have previously been wet lands prior to developers using sump and dredge technology to help grade the way for new builds.

City of LA Environmental Impact Report No. 2005-2158(EIR) sites, “As water is initially introduced into the soil (by rainfall or watering), an expansion takes place. If dried out, the soil will contract, often leaving small fissures or cracks. Excessive drying and wetting of the soil will progressively deteriorate structures over the years.”

Basically that fine clay strata is generally impervious to water. Therefore the water is wicked back up toward the surface rather than dispersed below into the ground water. Now if the slope and drainage of your lot is well thought out, then there is chance that gravity may help with channeling the water away from the home. Poor slop, grading and rain gutter placement, however, can cause runoff to pool in and around foundations, slabs and raised planters. Water can wick up the concrete through soil that is wet or damp through capillary action. Use of unsuitable materials for fill can hasten this process. This can cause crumbling, chipping, and/ or flaking , called “spalling”, along the foundation.  Additionally, efflorescence or “mineral salts” deposits can be left behind by water along the mortar joints. Efflorescence is a whitish crystalline or powdery deposit on damp masonry walls.

Crumbling, chipping, and/ or flaking is called “spalling”

Raised planters can wick and retain moisture, which often goes unnoticed. These raised beds are often a architectural side note on a commercial residential multi-family development. Moisture retention can be exacerbated if the bed has sprinklers and poor drainage provisions. Although ferns thrive in this environment, so does mold, the bad kind. The prolonged moisture and exposure of the house siding can ultimately result in mold permeating into the exterior and interior walls.  As you can imagine this is a high liability for property owners in a commercial setting.

Poor rain gutter down spout location.

Poor rain gutter design and down spout location can often create pooling at foundation corners. Gutters should be placed in such a way that accounts for the slope of the lot. With this in mind, the problem can easily be fixed by capping and relocating the downspout to alternate opposite location. As with everything in construction, a simple error in design orientation can result in costly repairs down the line. Always consult a licensed professional foundation specialist to determine whether the defect is a threat to the integrity of the structure or benign and cosmetic. A foundation repair expert from our network can help you make that determination.

NEW BUILDS Cities like that of Los Angeles and Santa Monica require geology and soils reports on many new construction builds of single family residence. Therefore, it is good practice to ask for a soils report when buying a NEW home from a developer. Some states, like Colorado, require that the builder disclose to the potential buyer of a new home, a soil report as part of the diligence conducted during the physical inspections period. Soils reports help obtain information on soil geotechnical parameters of the surrounding earth by soil boring. A common procedure for evaluating and rating soil expansion potential is the expansion index (EI) test. Please consult your local licensed professional geoengineering firm for more information.

For more information about the areas effected by expansionary clay in Torrance, CA and how that may affect your purchase and future rehab goals please click the following useful links:


Guidelines for Geotechnical Reports City of Santa Monica Building and Safety

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