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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hi guys,

I'm working on designing a new bin yard at the moment. Will be putting up a cold storage shed within the next 5 years which will likely be divided into shop/cold storage eventually. With my current design, the best location for the shed to go would span over an existing ditch with an elevation 3 to 4 feet below what I would like the elevation of the shed floor to be. Will be fairly easy to re-direct the water flow, and also pretty easy to find material to build the area up. The part i'm uncertain about is if it would be necessary to scrape back the top soil to get to clay, or if I could start adding material right on the top soil. The dirt I am in is pretty notoriously shifty, but if I had to scrape back the total area of where the concrete would go i'd need substantially more clay.

Possible? or would it be better to come up with a design that includes a higher starting elevation for the shed?

Edit: I should ad that the building itself will probably go on screw piles, so the only thing the base would be holding up would be the concrete.
 

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That's a tricky one. Black dirt will pack just as hard as anything else in many cases so should be fine to put clay over it. Maybe your dirt isn't black though...ha ha. I think the main thing is that once built there is good surface drainage around the building and area, if it's dry there will be way less issues. Keep in mind a LOT of water comes off the roof of a larger pole shed.

I have one pole shed that had shallow post burial and during some recent wet years half the building is frost-jacking upward probably 6" or more. Another pole shed with good deep burial located on a high spot hasn't moved an inch. In the future I will seriously consider tiling the area if I am unsure of soil or moisture conditions before I build.

Welcome to the forum.:smile:
 

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If you look at an professional building or roads they always scrape the topsoil off. You can't compact black dirt like good clay, just scrape it off and build it good and high. I have tried a small area like what your describing and it turned to a frost boil and pushed the black dirt up.
 

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We built a new barn last year and dealt with a similar situation, had a 2-3ft deep drainage ditch cutting through the middle of where we wanted to build. We stripped all the top soil from the whole pad area and built it up with clay. In our experience there's very little top soil left in the ditch bottoms, you scrape most of the top soil away when you cut the ditch in the first place. In my opinion, if you know you have some shifty ground I wouldn't be trying to skimp on the dirt work. We hauled in our clay in thin layers thoroughly packing every layer, the base was so hard that the poor plumbers were swinging pick-axes and hitting chisels to put in our under-floor plumbing because their mini-excavator couldn't do anything to the packed clay. Every spring and after every rain you'll never regret spending the little extra on going wider/deeper/higher/better-packed/more gravel/etc.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
We built a new barn last year and dealt with a similar situation, had a 2-3ft deep drainage ditch cutting through the middle of where we wanted to build. We stripped all the top soil from the whole pad area and built it up with clay. In our experience there's very little top soil left in the ditch bottoms, you scrape most of the top soil away when you cut the ditch in the first place. In my opinion, if you know you have some shifty ground I wouldn't be trying to skimp on the dirt work. We hauled in our clay in thin layers thoroughly packing every layer, the base was so hard that the poor plumbers were swinging pick-axes and hitting chisels to put in our under-floor plumbing because their mini-excavator couldn't do anything to the packed clay. Every spring and after every rain you'll never regret spending the little extra on going wider/deeper/higher/better-packed/more gravel/etc.
How many yards of clay did you end up hauling in? I'm thinking i'll end up needing around 2500 yards for the whole project. The clay itself is pretty cheap and abundant but getting it hauled won't be cheap.
 

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How many yards of clay did you end up hauling in? I'm thinking i'll end up needing around 2500 yards for the whole project. The clay itself is pretty cheap and abundant but getting it hauled won't be cheap.
We have a very unique set-up compared to most guys in that we have 3 gravel pits on the same 1/2 section as our yard and we own the pit right behind our yard plus we have a really good relationship with the gravel company running it. So we got the clay fill for free and hired them by the hour to haul/spread/pack it which still was quite cheap being the pile was maybe 600ft from the pad. Don't know the exact amount of yards we put it down but the pad was 180x300ft and we built it up probably an average of 2ft, which would come out to around 4000yds of clay.
 

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My brother is a road, lease, (dirt) consultant in the oil patch. He oversees alot of roadwork and such every year. When i built my bin yard he told me to get all the top soil out. Under a building there is too much organic matter and it will eventually break down and give you a soft spot if you can ever get it packed. In the middle of a yard if you cover top soil with clay after a few years the top soil will work its way up and you yard will always be greasy when its wet and no amount of gravel will fix it. So if you don't move the topsoil out put some geotec fabric down to keep it under the ground. Rent a crows foot packed and pack and pack and pack some more, it will save you so so much gravel.
 

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Tile!

I have built a lot in my yard over the last 10 yrs. Last 2 yrs have been dry, and we are actually seeing issues now. I believe what happens it the water table pushes up through the ground as is drys and cracks. I am now planning to run some tile in front of some bins and around some buildings.
 

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Dont build on top soil. Scrap it off and make sure all the soil below the building is the same or consistant. Hopefully the soil has several months of rain and weather to rebound once you move it before you build on it.
 

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Yes, strip off the top soil. It doesn't need to be 100% clean, but until the clay starts showing through. When filling with clay, make sure it is packed very well, if you don't it won't be any better than building on the dirt. Have anywhere close by you could dig a borrow pit for clay? Everyone needs a place to bury things later on!
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Yes, strip off the top soil. It doesn't need to be 100% clean, but until the clay starts showing through. When filling with clay, make sure it is packed very well, if you don't it won't be any better than building on the dirt. Have anywhere close by you could dig a borrow pit for clay? Everyone needs a place to bury things later on!

Theres a few gravel pits nearby that have clay. Won't be that hard to get, its mostly the expense of having it hauled over here. I probed around a bit yesterday and didn'nt find clay even at 2 feet! Will have to do a crazy amount of dirt work.
 

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I’d dig a borrow pit close for fill material, and it will eventually fill with water and become a dugout. Handy to have water around and if finished nice can be an attractive landscaping feature that adds value.
 

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If you don't plan on reusing the topsoil, find a local sand, soil, and gravel company and work out a deal with them. They scrape off the topsoil for free, and they get to haul it back to their yard to resell. I worked for a soil company and did that a few times for building preparation as well as new home developments and ditch clearing. If they are a proper set up, they can have is scraped and hauled away in a day or two.
 

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Never build concrete on top soil. As stated before the om will break down.



Another reason why you do not place concete on black soil is because it expands and contracts with moisture and freezing significantly. Which will cause cracking and compromise structural integrity over time. I wouldn't hesitate to install a dirt floor cold storage on black dirt though.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Thanks for the input guys. Will have to dig to find out how far down clay is and then figure out if it would be worth it from there.
 

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Another thing that I have learned the hard way is to make sure you build your pad high enough. In my opinion the bottom tin on the shed should be at least 2' higher than the surrounding area. Just add a little fill against the building when done to provide lots of grade to move water away.

Buildings slowly sink over time and as you keep adding gravel to your yard, you will have drainage issues over time if you start out too low. Put the base of your overhead door 1' above the ground.
 

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Thanks for the input guys. Will have to dig to find out how far down clay is and then figure out if it would be worth it from there.
Yes dig the black topsoil out and fill and pack it with good clay that is the right moisture to pack hard. If it is too wet don't use it. or dry it out a layer at a time. If it is too dry, add a little water so it packs. I would follow lots of good suggestions here about keeping water away from your building. Build the pad 1-2' higher than the ground around. Dig in drain slopes so water can get away. Weeping tile is very good if it can drain water away. I built a 96 x 120 pole shed in 2012 and stripped all the topsoil and hauled in clay to build up the site about 1' on the front where the doors are above old ground level and 3' on the back end. The ground slopes away to the back of the shed so I have good drainage that direction. I made the pad level and then sloped the sides away from the post line of the building before the posts were installed. Before the metal went on the walls I installed 10 mil poly up the wall a foot and about 10' wide down the slope of the clay. Cover the poly with rolled aluminum flashing about a 12 - 18" wide down the wall on the outside and run a couple of treated 2x 8 purlins so so mice can't chew it from the inside. I put 3-4' wide x 6" deep of gravel away from the wall and black dirt to cover the rest of the poly down the slope. I put eaves troughs on and sloped them to the back end so the water drains away well. My shed stays really dry inside and that is what I wanted by trying to keep water away from the perimeter. A little extra when building helps keep the mice from getting in too. I sure is nice to have a nearly mouse free building.
 
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