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Soil Shrinkage, Compaction, & Settling

Concrete depends on the sturdiness of the soil beneath it. When soil shrinks, compacts, and settles, your concrete gets damaged as the ground beneath it moves.

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Soil shrinkage and compaction both lead to settling, the process in which concrete structures sink into the soil due to a lack of support. Often, shrinkage and compaction are brought on by hot weather and heavy weight respectively. No matter how the soil below your concrete gets damaged, it will always have a major impact on your concrete. 

What Causes Soil Shrinkage? 

Soil shrinkage is most often due to high heat and/or drought. South Carolina and Georgia are no strangers to the intense heat of the Southeast, so soil shrinkage can be a problem for many homeowners during the summer months. As the sun beats down on the soil around your property, it can cause the moisture within the soil to evaporate.  

Soil relies on moisture to stay dense and strong, so when the moisture is sucked out, it shrinks drastically. Think about how a sponge becomes brittle once it’s dried out. The soil in your yard works in much the same way. Keep in mind, large tree roots might also suck moisture from the soil in your yard. Stay aware of any large trees on your property that could exacerbate this soil issue.  

What Causes Soil Compaction? 

A healthy amount of soil compaction is actually desired, as well compacted soil is dense and provides structurally sound support for your concrete. Compaction is often used during construction to prepare the ground for a new home. Without proper compaction, small pockets of air will exist between the soil particles and cause the soil to collapse over time. For that reason, it may seem beneficial to have heavy concrete pressing down on the soil and keeping it pressed together.  

Unfortunately, too much weight from concrete can have the inverse effect on soil – over-compaction can actually cause the soil to collapse in on itself. This becomes especially true if the soil becomes dry and shrunken. Heavy concrete will crush down and compact the soil to the point where settling occurs. Concrete will become cracked and uneven as it crushes through the soil and into the ground.  

The Risks of Soil Shrinkage and Compaction

cracked and settling driveway concrete

Cracked Concrete

Soil may shrink and compact unevenly, meaning that some sections of concrete will be affected more than others. When this is the case, certain areas of concrete will sink into the ground while other areas stay above the soil. Since concrete is a stiff material, any sort of stress can cause it to crack easily. Cracked concrete leads to jutting sections of concrete that have the potential to damage vehicles or become a tripping hazard for anyone in your home. Plus, cracked concrete can provide shelter for pests like wasps and snakes who will happily hide in the newly formed nooks and crannies.  

uneven concrete steps

Unlevel Concrete Steps

If any steps around the exterior of your home are supported by concrete, shrunken and compacted soil can also affect them like any other concrete structure. When soil damage occurs, the steps can settle into the soil causing any number of damages to take place. Cracks may form across the steps. They might settle unevenly causing one section of the steps to sink into the ground while the other one sticks up at an angle. No matter the damage, your concrete steps become uneven and may become a tripping hazard. Plus, it can lower the curb appeal of your home when concrete steps look broken and unlevel. 

uneven concrete

Uneven Driveway and Sidewalk

The side effects of soil shrinkage and compaction will inevitably affect your driveway and the sidewalk just outside your home. Much like other concrete structures, your driveway and sidewalk will be improperly supported by the weakened soil and sink into the ground. This causes cracked and uneven sections of concrete to arise on your driveway and sidewalk. This can lead to tripping or damage to vehicles such as popped tires or scraped bumpers. An uneven driveway and sidewalk might also lower the value of your home.  


Most homeowners can tell if their concrete is uneven based on certain section of concrete sinking into the ground more than others. However, rain can also show you whether your concrete slabs are uneven. Rain is common in South Carolina and Georgia, so all you have to do is what for a storm. If the water drains easily from your concrete, it is level. If the water pools on certain sections, the concrete is uneven. 

Uneven concrete can be corrected with our PolyRenewal™ solution. Using polyurethane foam, PolyRenewal™ is injected below the concrete to fill in any fractures, gaps, or other damages. Plus. the foam can also stabilize the soil to prevent shrinkage and compaction in the future. With this solution, your concrete is lifted back to its original position.  

Tree roots require moisture in order to keep growing. When these roots extend beneath concrete structures, they can suck moisture from the soil causing it to shrink and become brittle. This spells bad news for your concrete as it crushes down onto the weak soil and sinks below the ground. Tree roots can be as long if not longer than the entire canopy of a tree, so be aware of large trees located close to concrete structures.  

Call Us for a Free Inspection 

If you’re noticing concrete or soil issues around your home, don’t hesitate to contact our experienced team at Mount Valley Foundation Services. We’ve proudly served residents in Charleston, Columbia, Greenville, and Savannah for years. With our concrete lifting solutions and our expert knowledge, we’re happy to help you too. Contact us today to learn more about concrete lifting and schedule a free inspection. Someone from our team will be ready to inspect your home and figure out the best course of action for your individual needs! 

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