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Old 08-03-2011, 06:56 PM
 
7 posts, read 37,648 times
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I am moving to the Madison/Brandon area from south Florida and have been researching homes in Jackson area which has lead me to the problem Yazoo clay presents to building foundations. I understand getting a soil test is important as well as possibly pulling work permits done on a home in an effort to uncover whether or not the property as a history of problems - what I don't know, is if there are particular subdivisions and builders to avoid. Does anyone have any suggestions or comments on this and/or where I can find the most information on the subject. I have spent a decent amount of time looking online, but have found really limited data. I appreciate any input.
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Old 08-05-2011, 12:05 PM
 
Location: Chattanooga, TN
2,773 posts, read 3,676,401 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Flohio View Post
I am moving to the Madison/Brandon area from south Florida and have been researching homes in Jackson area which has lead me to the problem Yazoo clay presents to building foundations. I understand getting a soil test is important as well as possibly pulling work permits done on a home in an effort to uncover whether or not the property as a history of problems - what I don't know, is if there are particular subdivisions and builders to avoid. Does anyone have any suggestions or comments on this and/or where I can find the most information on the subject. I have spent a decent amount of time looking online, but have found really limited data. I appreciate any input.
My first job out of college was with an engineering firm in Madison. We did a lot of general structural engineering work, but the bread-and-butter work for one group was foundation inspections. At the time, any time you got a mortgage on a home the banks required a foundation inspection. Yes, Yazoo clay is a horrible, evil substance. Just look up "foundation repair contractor" in the Jackson yellow pages.

It's a thick, extremely dense clay that has an affinity for water. If it's exposed to water for long periods, it swells. If it dries out, it shrinks. It swells and shrinks A LOT, as much as several feet in a few extreme cases, and nothing can stop it. If the drainage around a house isn't done correctly, water will pool around the uphill side (causing that side to swell) and the downhill side will dry out and shrink. If the house has a well-constructed post-tensioned foundation the soil will tilt the entire house. If it's a typical poorly constructed post-tension foundation only the ends of the house go up and down which cracks interior walls, exterior brick, and sometimes causes roof leaks.

I haven't lived there for a LONG time, so I can't say anything about any specific house, subdivision, or builder. But things to look for:
- Don't buy a house less than 5 years old or so unless you were there during construction and/or can verify that the contractor did everything perfectly. A brand-new house hasn't had a chance to develop problems yet.
- Get a thorough structural inspection. This will cost several hundred dollars, and is more involved than the typical inspection. This is something that you might be able to get the seller to pay for, but you want the inspector to be working for YOU so they'll tell you everything they find.
- Pull work permits from the city to look for past foundation repairs, although this isn't fool-proof.
- Go around the neighborhood and look at other homes. Be nosy, and talk to your potential neighbors. Be honest and tell the police what you're up to if they stop you.
- Look for good drainage around the house, such that water uniformly flows AWAY from the foundation. Ideally, the house will be a few feet higher than the surrounding terrain.
- If it's a dry spell, look for large cracks in the lawn (sure sign of expansive clay). These cracks close up during extended wet weather.

Hope this helps, and don't let it scare you away from Jackson. Many many thousands of homes there are well-built and will last a lifetime without any problems. But a lemon could cost many thousands in repairs.
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Old 08-06-2011, 12:00 PM
 
7 posts, read 37,648 times
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Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I am nervous about buying a home because of what I have read thus far, but the more I learn, the more I feel prepared to make wiser decisions. We are definitely moving to the area because of employment moves, but now will have to debate the rent vs. buy dilemma. Should we purchase a property, I will take your suggestions and spend the extra money and time to investigate the site first. Thank you again!
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Old 08-07-2011, 03:55 PM
 
Location: Madison, MS
64 posts, read 202,403 times
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It's an unfortunate down side to an otherwise great place. I currently live in a home that has had foundation repair. And my prior home had repair. Fortunetly they are imrpoving somewhat with how they repair them and how they build them.
As for specific neighborhoods, there are some worse than others, Whipser Lake stands out as one that is bad. However, there is a chance in every one.
I do a ton of mortgages where there is settlement adn we have to ask for an engineers report so be ready.
And of course if you need help with financing, I'd love to help!
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Old 08-08-2011, 10:29 AM
 
Location: Chattanooga, TN
2,773 posts, read 3,676,401 times
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To follow up on what gr8r8z said, just because a house has been repaired in the past doesn't mean it should be eliminated from consideration. Just as with any other contractor, there are good and bad foundation repair contractors. If it's been repaired, find out if there is any kind of transferable guarantee.
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Old 08-08-2011, 11:08 AM
 
Location: Mississippi
190 posts, read 583,216 times
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If you are interested in looking at new construction, ask the builder for a copy of the compaction report. If you are looking at existing homes, I doubt many people will have this, unless it was a custom built home.

As far as getting soil samples, not sure if you mean getting samples from the yard, but if so, there are instances where you may find a pocket of clay then nothing a few feet from it. The soil samples pulled on my lot prior to purchasing it showed a good amount of clay, while the lot next to mine had revealed none (in the areas the samples were pulled from).
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Old 08-09-2011, 07:28 AM
 
Location: Madison, MS
64 posts, read 202,403 times
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Covedweller is correct. A sample from the yard would not suffice as Yazzo Clay runs in ribbons. And to add to that, all home pads are back filled meaning that when building a bore test is taken. This test tells the builder how much native soil he must remove. Then "good dirt" is back filled into the hole and compacted to an acceptabel level set forth by building codes.
It's not unusual for a house pad to have over 100 loads of good dirt put into it.
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Old 08-09-2011, 07:40 PM
 
7 posts, read 37,648 times
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I can't thank you all enough for the information and it certainly gives me some things to consider. I have contacted a realtor and sent her a few questions regarding specific waterfront properties that seem to have been on the market for awhile and look as though they have some cracks in the driveway (viewed view jacksonrealtor homesearch), but didn't get a response. I am wondering if anyone has any builders or foundation inspectors they feel might be trusted? I would feel more comfortable taking a homeowner's advice vs. real estate agent just to be more 'neutral' about it. I will be coming to Jackson this Sunday for a ten day stay in hopes of securing a place to stay (probably renting first while we look at homes to purchase) and will try to educate myself more as I go along. I work in the medical field and also will be looking for a hospital or rehab facility for employment - Any thoughts on that front would be appreciated as well!

I have secured financing through USAA, but thank you for the offer to assist me. I hope people there are half as nice as the people responding on this forum seem.
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Old 08-10-2011, 07:28 AM
 
Location: Mississippi
190 posts, read 583,216 times
Reputation: 191
I don't have any real input on builders or foundation inspectors I can give you, but cracks in driveways are common and aren't going to generally reflect the stability of the foundation of the house. Like gr8 r8z said, I hauled in more than 100 loads of dirt for my actual house pad, but it wasn't worth it to dig out and haul in more dirt for the driveway. I've got some cracks in the driveway which are no big concern to me.

As far as waterfront property goes, if you get around the reservoir area, the actual land is leased land, so you wouldn't own the lot, it would be a lease. There are other private developments in the area with fairly large lakes, but I'm only familiar with a couple in Madison County, Lake Caroline and Reunion.

Employment; the University of MS Medical Center, Methodist Rehab Center, Baptist Hospital, St. Dominic Hospital, River Oaks, and Madison River Oaks (new hospital in Canton) would be some options to look at.
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