Water is a powerful force on the earth when it has time to work. If you drive through the plains of Texas and Kansas you can see the gullies washed into the pastures by water from heavy rains. This is simply nature at work but erosion too close to your building site or steel structure can cause a world of trouble.
Erosion near the foundation can cause that foundation to crack as the ground becomes uneven and saturated with moisture. Here in Texas more trouble occurs when there are repeated wet and dry cycles because the expansive soil of the area recedes from the edge of the foundation as it dries only to slam back into it as the rains come down. It’s amazing how much force soil and water can exert.
However, there are ways to mitigate erosion and reroute waterways to protect your steel building.
Gutters and Trim
Gutters are a terrific investment in erosion control. These accessories gather water flowing down the roof pitch and redirect it to downspouts where the water is guided away from the building’s foundation or, better yet, into a rain barrel for collection.
Gutters also protect the building’s external walls from dripping and sheeting water that can seem to find every little nook and cranny where it sneaks in to cause more damage to the insulation and interior. Over time moisture can break metal down with rust or infect it with mold which creates an unhealthy environment and a weakened building.
Without gutters you will see ruts being formed along the drip-line of the roof and creating rivulets and soil instability. This will also occur if the gutters are not maintained; gutters filled with leaves and dirt can’t do their job. Leaf removal and inspection should be performed at least once a year so leaks can be sealed and the gutters cleaned out.
Many municipal building codes require erosion control during construction. You can use erosion control matting made of nylon or other material which tends to get left behind or buried by another layer of soil. The matting is also susceptible to being blown away by the wind or wadded up in place as work proceeds. Watch for this issue so you don’t get fined for lack of erosion control.
The best way to prevent and control erosion is through living plants. Grass is inexpensive and grows fairly quickly, sinking roots into the ground to hold it in place. Trees and brush are also natural erosion control but grow slowly. Take advantage of existing plants when you dig out your construction site; leave as many of the native plants as possible.
Mulch can also act as erosion control, keeping the ground moist longer after rains and keeping water from carrying soil away. As it decomposes, mulch prepares and improves the soil for planting as well.
What if your building will be situated on or near an area of natural run-off? Additional materials may be needed to redirect water across your property without disturbing your building’s foundation.
- Dikes and swales made of straw bales or more permanent materials to divert the run-off to a different area and to trap sediments.
- Rock lining, also known as riprap, for channel banks keep water flow from carrying away the soil and deepening the gully.
- Drain outlet protection keeps too much water from flowing out of a drainpipe too quickly and creating a secondary area of ground erosion.
- Grade stabilization using plants or structural materials to carry water down a slope away from the building.
As soon as possible, put in your landscaping upon completion of the building’s exterior and protect the plants from construction activity. This will give you a head start on more permanent erosion mitigation.
Erosion happens. You must deal with it. No matter how flat the land, there will always be areas where water runs along natural channels deepening them over time. Don’t introduce new ones with your construction project or your building. Use gutters and protective ground material to provide a better pathway for the water to follow than along the edge of your foundation.