Board of Supervisors Meeting Date:


Planning Commission


September 8, 2005

Staff Lead:



James Sawyer, County Soil Scientist

David Cooper, Building Official


Community Development



A Resolution Establishing an Expansive Soil Testing Policy


Topic Description:


The proposed resolution establishes an expansive soil testing policy for Fauquier County, in compliance with the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code.


Requested Action of the Planning Commission:


Conduct a public hearing and consider adoption of the attached resolution.

Financial Impact Analysis:



Summary Staff Report:


The Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code (USBS) requires “localities with 20% or greater moderate and high shrink/swell potential of jurisdictional land area” to implement an expansive soil testing policy. Fauquier County is included on the list of localities with 20% and greater moderate and high shrink/swell potential.


The intent of the expansive soil testing policy is to prevent damage to homes due to the presence of expansive clays. Expansive clays are certain clay minerals that markedly change volume with changes in moisture content. The increase in volume with increasing water content exerts extremely high pressures. These volume changes and pressures can damage or destroy homes.


Areas with expansive clays have already been identified by the Fauquier County Soil Survey. The soil maps will be used, prior to issuance of a building permit, to determine if the house is going to be constructed in an area of moderate or higher shrink – swell potential. If so, the owner will be required to have a certified professional take soil samples from the area where the foundation is to be constructed. The samples will be submitted to a soils laboratory for appropriate testing (see attached policy for the test the Unified Statewide Building Code identified as appropriate). The resulting data will be provided to a certified professional who will use it to design a foundation that will withstand the changes in volume and pressures of the expansive clays on that site. While the owner will have to bare the cost of the sampling and testing, approximately $300 to $600, the test potentially can save an owner thousands of dollars in repairs and reconstruction that would be required if an inadequate foundation is installed.


It is not clear that the law requires a public hearing or a Planning Commission recommendation to the Board of Supervisors.  However, because the adoption of the expansive soil testing policy will place new costs and burdens on the public, staff recommends the deliberate process of notice, hearing, and Planning Commission recommendation. This matter was initiated by the Planning Commission on June 30, 2005.  On July 28, 2005, the Planning Commission held a public hearing on the adoption of this policy and then recommended it favorably to the Board of Supervisors.

Identify any other Departments, Organizations or Individuals that would be affected by this request:

Department of Community Development

Builders and construction firms

Landowners desiring to build a home

Home owners present and future

GIS Office



Resolution Establishing Expansive Soil Testing Policy