Pre-Wetting A New House Block


Reason For Pre-Wetting

If you are Building On Clay that is dry there is a risk of Soil Heave.

This is due to expansion of the clay if the moisture level increases with particular risk factors being:

  • Building after a long period of very dry weather when large cracks in the surface are visible.
  • Knock down and rebuild projects where there is a risk that part of the new foundations are on drier land than other parts.
  • Where there are trees, or trees have recently been removed.

To minimise the risk there is often an Engineers requirement to pre-wet the site to stabilise the moisture content.

Pre-Wetting Requirement

A typical requirement is to run sprinklers for 2 hours a day for 8-10 days which should increase the soil moisture to a depth of approx 1m.

Then the fill/construction pad below the slab should be laid within 2-3 days,

You are aiming for the equivalent of 20-25 mm of rainfall a day (20-25L/m2) The intention is on each day to thoroughly wet the top layer of soil and fill all the cracks with water without actually waterlogging the site.

For maximum effect the best time to do the pre-wetting is the late evening to minimise evaporation.

I have hear of builders saying the pre-wetting isn’t needed. Don’t accept this without soil moisture tests that have been accepted by the engineer who made the original requirement.

Effectiveness of Pre-Wetting

Although pre-wetting will minimise the risk of Soil Heave

  • It doesn’t mean that good foundation design can be neglected.
  • Letting the site moisture content stabilise through a winter, after removal of buildings/trees, is likely to be more effective.


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