Builders are Leaving New Home Owners with Yards Full of Clay and Compacted Soils

In today’s new neighborhoods it is not uncommon to have an entire lawn full of clay.  There will be a few inches of topsoil placed on the top by the builder in order to get new grass seed or sod established. There are a number of reasons why new home owners are getting such terrible subsoils.


1. When the neighborhoods are developed, many are graded ahead of time and the topsoil is scraped off to sell or create a nearby golf course.  Topsoil is a precious commodity and often a subdivision can be paid for by selling the topsoil.  There are 1613 cubic yards in an acre if you dig 1 foot deep.  At $10 or more a yard that means you could make 16,000 by selling the topsoil.

2. The clay from the basements and nearby lakes are spread out over the yard.  The cost of hauling away the clay from these holes cost money. The developers don’t want to spend any more than they have to for the project so they simply spread it out over the project.   Many yards actually have nice topsoil but its 4 feet below the soil from the basement you wanted.

3. The equipment and trucks used to build the homes have run over the yard dozens of times, compacting the soil to a point that roots are no longer able to penetrate.


1.  Pay to have the basement clay hauled away and good topsoil brought in.  The savings from dead plants and yard improvement may actually pay you back.

2. Till in compost.  Lots of it.  You are going to need to work in a lot of organic matter to offset the effects of solid clay.  Gypsum will also provide aeration.  We are big fans of worm compost in addition to other forms or organic matter that can be added to your soils. This may take more than your common garden tiller.  It would be worth hiring a professional with larger equipment that can get till much deeper than you could with a simple tiller.

3.  Make your builder aware of your concerns BEFORE the house is built.  Force them to use plywood when they run equipment or to avoid the compaction all together.  Get costs to have all excavation soil hauled away from site.

4.  Take special care in the planting for every plant you install.  Every time you plant a plant you will have to dig the hold 2 to 3 times larger than the pot or rootball and backfill with better soil.  Make sure the soil beneath the plant does not settle and cause the plant to be too deep.

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