Before we become familiar with the impact erosion, specifically soil and land erosion, has on homes and buildings, we must understand what erosion entails and how we come across the phenomenon in everyday life.
What is Erosion?
Erosion is the gradual loss of a structure or entity over time due to constant exposure to natural and artificial environments. Any structure that is exposed to the elements, specifically to environmental stressors such as wind, humidity, rain, or temperature usually slowly loses parts of itself and is eventually reshaped. We see the impact of erosion everywhere around us. Our homes, when exposed to the elements over the years, slowly start to develop cracks in their structure or lose their original colour of paint over time. The soles of our shoes eventually lose their grip, the paint on our cars, their tires, the gradual loss of shoreline due to the incessant back and forth of waves from our seas. We can continue to provide multiple examples of erosion, but in this article, we will be focusing on how one specific type of erosion – soil erosion can affect your home and what you can do to prevent it.
What is Soil Erosion?
Soil erosion is the gradual loss of top soil or the upper layers of soil due to environmental stressors such as rainfall, wind, snow or water erosion etc. Natural stressors aren’t the only kind to be aware of however, anthropogenic or human activities cause even more alarming effects on erosion. These could include the razing of forests for agricultural land, laying of roads or railway lines, as well as the growth of urban and semi-urban sprawl. All of these effects have far reaching effects on soil that is quite a distance away from the point of direct impact. Deforestation in one state, could lead to loose soil, which could give way to higher water runoff, less ground water filtration and ultimately more pollution and negative ecological impact downstream. All of this does not include the impact soil erosion has on homes and residential properties. In the following sections we will cover the ways in which soil erosion impacts homes and residential properties and what homeowners and/or developers can do about it. One of the most common outcomes of soil erosion is landslides.
How does Soil Erosion affect homes?
Soil erosion predominantly affects homes and residential areas in the form of landslides. Landslides occur when the soil and gravel lose hold and move downwards in the direction of gravity. Typically, therefore, landslides occur on sloped areas, cliffs or embankments. Homes or other structures built on top of loose soil can, at the very least, have their foundations damaged or at the very worst, be swept away completely. Often, homes will start to slide when built upon loose soil.
-Gregory R, past client with a foundation engineering project.
Naturally, soil erosion is a key concern for both homeowners as well as property developers. In the next section, we will look at ways in which to protect homes from landslides and loose soil.
What can I do to protect my home from sliding because of erosion?
There are multiple ways in which homeowners and developers can control and even avoid soil erosion that could lead to landslides. Below are a few of the most common methods used:
Plant shrubs, trees, grass and other types of plants/greenery that have roots in the area: Plant roots hold soil and moisture while at the same time increasing the quality of the soil. A quick, simple and relatively inexpensive way to safeguard your property against soil erosion, landslides as well as reduce overall pollution levels in the area.
Add mulch or rocks: If the soil around your property is barren, planting seeds for plants to grow in, may not be enough. You may need to add rocks and mulch to help protect and foster the seeds until plant life is mature enough to grow and hold the soil itself.
Build Terraces: If the land around the property has a high enough gradient, developers can look to build terraces into the slope. Terraces will help slow down the movement of loose soil downwards and hold water and soil for plants to grow. Terraces also slow and divert water flowing downhill, which in turn lessens scouring.
Turbidity Barriers: Turbidity barriers are usually installed at the edge of the embankment in a water body. These barriers prevent soil and soil leachates from entering the water body and keep them in the soil. This reduces the rate at which topsoil can move towards a water body and the amount of pollutants entering the lake. By installing these barriers and thereby ensuring that the topsoil remains on land, the impact of loose topsoil on the foundation of home built on the embankment is greatly mitigated.
Soil Nails: Soil nails are essentially steel bars that have been pushed deep into the soil and can be a part of the structure’s foundation. Theses series of steel bars can hold the soil from moving quickly in any direction and provide added stability to the home.
RipRap: Riprap is used to slow or deflect the flow of water in sloped areas through the use of large interlocked stones.
Other Products: There are multiple products and services aside from the products and activities mentioned above that can act as either temporary or permanent solutions for erosion control and/or soil stabilization.
All of these methods are ones through which erosion can be slowed or managed, however, the best way to remove the risk of landslides is build homes in an area that is naturally flat or that has been made flat artificially. That being said, not all homes can exist on a flat plane, and many will be constructed on sloped areas. With this in mind it is important to build for resilience and safety.
Preventing landslides or the sliding of homes can be the difference between life and death. It is always best to take the advice of an engineering expert before commencing a project in a sloped area or in an area that can be exposed to the dangers of landslides. If you live in California and you want to know how and where to protect your home, contact Design Everest. You’ll have access to the best structural engineers, architects and a dedicated project manager! Our team will help you navigate the process of safeguarding your property and help you build your dream home.
Call us at 877-704-5687 to get a free consultation and learn more about soil erosion & landslides how to prevent them and we can have the experts on our team help you!
*Note: The content published above was made in collaboration with members of Design Everest.