Irving, TX, a suburb of Dallas, is known for more than just being the home of the Dallas Cowboys. In an area called Las Colinas, a planned community of offices and up-scale homes, the terra firma has a notorious reputation for heaving.
Much of the soil is actually a mixture of clay and Bentonite, a substance referred to as “Black Gumbo” that expands when wet. When wet, Black Gumbo is very sticky, but when it dries it retains its expansion and acts like brick.
Most of the homes in the area have foundations with piers that typically reach 25 to 30 ft. These foundations stabilize the homes and office buildings, but do little for the heaving of the clay.
Problems arise when the plumbing beneath the structures is squeezed to the breaking point and the soil heaves to where it covers the brick line. This causes deterioration of the brick and mortar, promotes wood rot, but more importantly, it facilitates termite infestation.
Larry Jackson, a homebuilder and entrepreneur of L.R. Jackson Building Co. Inc., knows the benefits of small equipment and is working with homeowners to correct the problems caused by the heaving soil.
“When it comes to working with these problems around existing homes, size matters a great deal,” Jackson said. “When the soil has to be removed from under a house, there is basically only one way to accomplish the task … we use small men and hand tools.
“When it comes to the exterior of the homes, we use compact equipment that has to be very reliable since the home owners want us in and out as quickly as possible,” Jackson added.
Jackson stated that many of the homes are “Zero” lot line homes, which also restricts the size of the equipment that can be used.
“Just recently, a home owner approached me to lower the soil line around their house, lower an area with an exiting brick type patio that would not let water drain away from the house and to create a ’French Drain,’” said Jackson.
“In total, we had to remove approximately 12 yards of the ’Black Gumbo,’ which would have taken way too long to do by hand, and trench an area that amounted to approximately 90 feet at 3 feet deep, Jackson continued.
“On top of everything else, the only entry to the yard was a gateway that was only 42 inches wide and we had to work around columns that were only 7 feet apart,” Jackson said. “Luckily in doing our research of available equipment that could do the job in a very confined area, we consulted with Mike Pavelka of Bobcat of North Texas to see if they could help solve the problem.”
Pavelka did have a solution –– the Bobcat MT52. The machine is powered by a 19-hp Kubota diesel engine and features rubber tracks. The loader is only 36 in. wide and 93.4 in. long with a lifting capacity of 520 lbs. and a trencher attachment.
“We found the MT52 very easy to use and had all the power necessary to get the job done in two days,” Jackson said. “The controls on the MT52 were very responsive, especially when moving the 36-inch wide machine through the 42-=inch gateway,” Jackson said.
According to Jackson, the homeowner was happy with the speed of the job and that nothing was damaged around the house. If this service to the homeowners continues to flourish, the Bobcat MT52 will be first on the company’s shopping list, said Jackson.
Jackson initially devised the plan to tackle the heaving soil as a way to keep his crews busy on a constant basis. He established a secondary business –– one that may even become a division of the primary business –– to take up the slack times.
According to Jackson, with the ups and downs of the home building industry, it’s not always possible to keep good, reliable crews –– unless you get creative.
For more information, call 940/323-8400.