heavy machinery compacting dirt

What are House Pads (And Why are They Important?)

Here at BC Land Dev, we have talked at length about a few of our services and their importance. This month we wanted to dive deep into just one of those services to talk about what they are, why they are important, how to build one, and how much it can cost.  No, we didn’t forget to mention it. We’re just letting the anticipation build up (plus you already read the title, you know). We’re talking house pads! So without further preamble, let’s get right into this double-sized blog, answering questions and talking all about their construction. Let’s call this month House Pad 101!

First Things First, What’s a House Pad?

House pads are cleared areas of land where structures are built atop. They act as the stable base for all new constructions. This will make sure that any buildings will be protected from tilting, caving, or otherwise shifting as time goes on.

How To Make a House Pad

Step One – Examine the Soil

The first thing that needs to be done in any house pad construction job is an examination of the soil. Contractors will take a look at the current conditions of the soil, and from which they can determine how large the pad needs to be, how much it can safely hold, and in this prep stage begin to identify how to prevent future erosion from such things as water erosion. 

It may look like dirt, but you never truly know what lies under the surface. Think back to the Leaning Tower of Pisa – the soil beneath it is one of the biggest reasons why that building is, well, leaning. While your home likely won’t have such a dramatic shift, it could sink into the ground, settle, crack your foundation, or worse – split your home in two. 

This is because different soils behave in different ways when supporting heavy loads. Everything from soil composition to how loose it is and how much water it can absorb affects soil stability and in turn, the stability of the structure.

Building pad construction starts with an analysis of the soil to prevent all of that from happening. Your land development company will analyze the soil and determine how to best proceed so you can safely build. Once this first, preliminary examination stage is done, we move onto land clearing.

Step Two – Land Clearing

Most constructions will require some type of land clearing for the house pad. Whatever is currently growing or in the way needs to be cleared out first and foremost – stumps, roots, rocks, and brush all have to be removed. Importantly this debris cannot be buried under the house pad or any other surface where further construction will take place. This is absolutely critical for the integrity of the house pad. IF there were to be debris buried under the house pad, over time, as that debris deteriorates the house pad would be subject to shifts and change in the ground, which can lead to serious trouble. We’ll talk more about that later.

Step Three – Topsoil Removal

More often than not, top soil stability is poor. To make for the most stable house pad possible, the land developers may remove the layer of topsoil to bring in better dirt for compacting and making a stable foundation. More on that later

Step Four – Pad Prep

A house pad needs to do a few things. It needs to set up the builder for success with adequate space, compaction, and leveling around the house. These need to be designed and made to stand up to erosion from weather and heavy equipment use, especially since it’s likely that between construction beginning and completion there will be a lot of heavy equipment at work. Once the land has been cleared, the area that the pad will go will be marked off, usually with stakes and flags. Then comes the dirt.

Step Four – Bring in the Fill Dirt

To create the right consistency for the house pad, fill dirt may be brought in. Fill dirt, sometimes called sand, is dirt that has the same density throughout so that when it is rolled and compacted it will settle evenly and compactly. If you use the existing dirt and soil of a site it is often filled with other organic materials making it inconsistent to work with and build on top of.

Step Five – Compact

With the fill dirt brought to the site and dumped into the area, a roller (think of those big steamrollers from cartoons and you’re basically right) will come in and compact down this fill dirt until it has the right density and area for the construction. A house pad should be at least 10 feet wider and longer than the planned home dimensions, and built up at least a foot above the surrounding grade, all within three inches grade from end to end. 

Step Five – Ensure Proper Drainage and Erosion Control

As mentioned above, a house pad needs to be built to stand up to the weather. All graded areas have to provide the right drainage regardless of weather without any erosion. Pads shouldn’t hold water. To accomplish this it may require the installation of drainage ditches, or establishing ground cover around the perimeter of the house pad. Some of this can come later, such as installing grass around the home after it is completed to prevent ground erosion.

Why Are House Pads Important

Every great building starts with an excellent building pad.  If your project doesn’t have a strong surface to start on, then it will have a shaky future. Any mistakes during the building pad process could lead to sinking foundations and drainage issues that can put your entire project at risk.  If a builder arrives at the site and finds that the house pad has been prepared poorly, or is inadequate to build on that can do one of two things – set construction back and cost thousands of dollars to redo the work – or in the absolute worst case the construction might begin and the shifting house pad can cause damages setting projects back even further and costing even more money. If the site is managed properly and the house pad is not built correctly, those problems can crop up later with erosion, weather, the house settling, all can cause a shift to the house pad if it isn’t done correctly, and all can cause serious problems – not to mention the cost.

The True Key To Successful House Pads

Cutting corners is never a good idea on any project, especially not in the preparation stages. A cut corner here means an unstable foundation for the rest of the project – that’s just going to end in heartbreak.

That’s why one of the most, if not the most important step in getting a great house pad is hiring talented, experienced contractors. People who know the environment, the job site, what they are doing, and their way around a grader. This sets up not just the house pad but the entire construction for success! 

Preparing Land for Custom Homes with BC Land Dev

We take your empty lot and turn it into the spot you want to build a custom home, business, or anything else! Our professional team clears all of the debris, vegetation, and unwanted soils to over-excavate and add moisture for proper compaction during building pad construction. 

Building Pads Built to Last a Lifetime

Building pads are one of the most important pieces in the construction puzzle, regardless of the structure being built. At BC Land Development, we go above and beyond. We raise the elevation of the building pad with onsite or imported soil to avoid any future risk of flooding. We also plan for: 

  • Accessibility
  • The condition of the subsurface
  • The magnitude of the load being transferred
  • The proximity of other structures

Give BC Land Development a Call Today!

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