In Case You've Wondered

My blog is where my wandering thoughts are interspersed with stuff I made up. So, if while reading you find yourself confused about the context, don't feel alone. I get confused, too.

If you're here for the stories, I started another blog:

One other thing: sometimes I write words you refuse to use in front of children, or polite company, unless you have a flat tire, or hit your thumb with a hammer.

I don't use them to offend; I use them to embellish.

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Hard to Watch

 During my career, I was responsible for thousands of cubic yards of what is usually called "dirt". In construction, the material is called "embankment", and comes in many varieties. Quantities are usually determined by surveying the location, and using calculations to find the amount needed. With enough measuring, and a proposed elevation, quantities can be accurate.,

I was blessed to work with some of the finest engineers, operators, and old supervisors over the years. They taught me much, and the knowledge they passed on allowed me to be able to complete projects as anticipated. That's why I'm writing this post.

A neighbor is having embankment delivered to raise the low spots on his acreage. It's needed, since his property can pond water, which leads to tall grass. The tall grass keeps him from having a neat yard, and is hard on the mower. The problem is who he has doing the work. 

Since I've been watching the process, I know nobody ever cross-sectioned the property, so quantities are completely subjective. That leads to paying for loads as they are dumped, which can be good, but only if there's a competent operator spreading the fill ahead of the material. This avoids having to move material over long distances, since it's dumped close to the machine, and the operator can spot dump loads of material where needed. Failing to follow this process can lead to irregular dumping, too much material, and overspending by the property owner.  That is now what has happened. Loads were dumped in various spots, quantities needed are not near some areas, and too much is in others. This increases time for the operated dozer, and can lead to disputes over the time needed to place the material.

Before placing fill, the existing top three inches of soil, and vegetation need to be stripped, unless the area to fill is extremely deep, and the material can be compacted in lifts to prevent unwanted settlement. The stripped material, which is usually part of the quantities calculations as the last three inches of material to be placed, needs to be stockpiled on site, or hauled to a temporary area to prevent conflicts with moving material on the site. Failing to do this can lead to an area that is only a material that won't support vegetation. Where placing topsoil allows new growth within days, Inert fill can take years to establish any vegetation, since there's no nutrition to provide growth. Sod can help, but with large areas, cost prohibitive. Seeding is what's needed for this process, and necessary, but without topsoil, wasted money. This hasn't happened at the neighbor's so the results are yet to be seen. I have no idea if the new material will support vegetation, but knowing the local soil, many areas will remain bare, until years of unwanted vegetation finally supplies some topsoil for growth. Grass won't be established unless the areas is seeded, and that might only lead to patches of dead growth that will remain in that state for years. 

Embankment should never be placed in standing water. Two things happen when this is done. One is the embankment becomes so saturated, uneven areas with a clay subgrade can lead to ponding under the embankment, and only hot sun over a long period of time will dry this area for manipulation. That, and the super wet material can't be manipulated. If the machinery doesn't sink in this area, grading is impossible, since only ruts are the final result of trying to grade the area. This leads to more equipment time, and wasted money. This hasn't happened at the neighbor's, and the problems I described have developed. 

Regardless of final grade, all soil has to drain. This is accomplished with sloping to natural outfalls, or digging swales. This hasn't happened at the neighbor's. Areas are not draining, so the soil is too wet to work successfully due to recent rains. 

Embankment should never be placed on top of an existing road, or drive. Manipulating the embankment will damage the road. If the road is crushed stone, the layers will be mixed with the material, and the thickness of material reduced. Soft spots, and total failures, can develop, making vehicle traffic impossible. The neighbor's driveway has basically disappeared, and he barely made it up his drive after a small rain shower this afternoon. His trip out will probably lead to being stuck in his own drive. I have the feeling he's in contact with his contractor over this problem. 

The entire project has been a mess from the beginning. From conversations with people that know this neighbor, he was warned about the contractor, but decided to use them anyway. To me, that's foolish. Even if there is a contract (which I doubt there is) final satisfaction will only be arrived at in a courtroom. Even then, a judgement won't guarantee a solution, since a bankruptcy filing will make that disappear. 

To add insult to the debacle, the contractor is destroying the edge of the pavement as he hauls in and out. That created a different critter, since getting the county to take care of such things is damn near impossible. With the contractor's reputation, I'm just about sure he'll try to skate on repairing the road, and we'll be left with paving problems. Time will tell, but all the rest of the neighbors are like me, and not happy about this situation. I don't know how we'll handle this, but the contractor has some nice equipment that will fetch a fair price at auction. That should cover repair costs. 


  1. Replies
    1. In Texas, he just has to be notified he's trespassing, his equipment is impounded, and he'll have to go see a JP to get it straightened out. I have a feeling he's not in good standing with many folks, and his problems will only be increased. If it's proven he's negligent, or attempting fraud, he might find he doesn't own his equipment any longer.

  2. Watching poor quality work is . . . painful

    1. As it turns out, the neighbor instructed his contractor to do what has been done. He will deal with a mess until the heat of Summer, and after his contractor is gone, we'll deal with the road damage.