Soil Testing For Fabric Structures & Why It Matters

Before beginning any construction project, including installing a temporary or portable fabric structure, it is important to do a site evaluation and assess the soil. Soil testing for fabric structures determines that the site’s soil is suitable for the structure. This is a crucial step in making an informed site selection decision.

Portable building solution

The quality of the site’s soil is quite literally the very foundation of the temporary structure and therefore key to structure stability. Soil evaluation determines whether the site has the ability to support the proposed structure. This data is vital to the planning stages. 

Soil testing examines the chemical and geo-technical properties of site soil. In a single site, multiple consistencies of soil with varying properties can be present. An original choice for a project’s location may need to be adjusted to a more appropriate area with more supportive soil that is denser and more compact. Soil strength is key for structures like temporary warehouses or hangars that shelter cargo, heavy equipment, motor vehicles or aircraft.

Equally important to evaluating the strength of the soil is testing for contaminants that may be present, as well as the percentage (if any) of sand content and other organic materials. This information is vital to ensure the structure is constructed on an environmentally sound site that will not contribute to damaging health effects or contaminate stored cargo. 


This structure was installed on a concrete slab. Before pouring the slab, tests were done on the soil to ensure strength

Soil evaluation data reports are supportive documents when the stage is reached to apply for construction permission and licensing. Soil test reports should include laboratory results reporting soil strength, consolidation, foundation load, permeability and the soil’s moisture/density index. 

When deciding who should do the soil testing, choose a reputable agency. Remember, this is the first step in the project and is evaluating what will be the foundation of the fabric structure. Ultimate success begins with the quality of the site’s soil. This is valuable information that leads to sound construction decisions. Design engineers interpret this data for their design strategies, material selection and construction practices. 

The importance of this first step, site soil evaluation, is often neglected or underrated for importance. Some may be tempted to consider it an area where pennies can be shaved off the project’s budget. However, this is the base support for your construction investment. Do not ignore the importance of properly investigating soil properties. 

Another reason it is important to get a professional evaluation is that experts understand all the variables. Dirt may all look the same to the average person but an expert knows that the characteristics of soil can change significantly even within a small area. Soil properties also change with the weather. Climate can affect the soil’s ability to bear a load. If your soil fails, your structure will fail. The soil that bears up strong in the heat of the summer needs to be able to bear the load when the soil is saturated with the rains of spring. By selecting the wrong site, soil fluctuations can create long-term and costly problems with a structure. It can endanger the safety of the people within the structure, damage property housed there, and could even damage neighboring structures. 


Mahaffey's project managers guide clients through the construction process every step of the way, and that begins with evaluating site location. Site consultation ensures that every project gets off on the right foot. Our professionals are experienced in managing all of the critical details involved in getting the right permits for the right construction site.

Interested in learning more about soil testing for fabric structures, or want more information about how you can get a custom fabric building for your business?

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Topics: Clearspan Fabric Structure