Site Development and Grading Services for Commercial Construction

During site development, grading is what gives the land its slope and shape. Both are critical for ensuring the final construction matches the architectural drawings. Grading can also be one of the most labor-intensive parts of the process as tons (literally) of topsoil needs to be removed, relocated and replaced. That’s why the process is best left to experienced, professional site developers to handle.

Why is Grading Important for Site Development?

Grading is a fundamental part of site development. When done properly, it offers the following benefits:

  • A stable pad for building on – Undeveloped soils are not ready to receive a concrete foundation. They’re prone to shift with weather, water, and load, and this will cause rapid foundation failure. During the grading process, the engineer will identify which soils require compacting so they can withstand expected loads. Compaction improves the soil’s shear strength by pressing particles together and increasing friction between them.

Once identified, the grading team will compact the loose soils using rollers or rammers. Following compaction, the soils are then tested to verify adequate compaction.

This process ensures your foundation remains stable and intact years after placement.

  • More efficient, reliable drainage – During grading, the site is shaped to promote better drainage away from construction. Better drainage will prevent soils from running off and shifting, preventing foundation damage and water pooling on the property.
  • Preparation for aesthetic elements – Grading gives the property its final shape, and this may be relevant to the property’s aesthetic design. Grading establishes areas for landscaping and building, including areas for pavement and retaining walls. In this way, grading has a major impact on your property’s appearance.

If land clearing is designed to create a blank slate, grading shapes that slate to the owner’s preference. Once grading is complete, the building’s foundation can be laid down.

How Do the Houston Professionals Grade Sites?

If a project will require significant development and grading, an engineer must be brought in to help plan it. This engineering insight helps with:

  • Identifying and planning drainage requirements
  • Environmental and regulatory compliance
  • Ensuring that all structural requirements are met

Once a plan is established, the site development team can mobilize their resources and begin dirt work. Demolition, site clearing, and grubbing come first. Once the land is cleared and ready for shaping, grading is next, which may include the following processes:

  • Architectural grading – Architectural grading is done specifically to accommodate new construction. The goal of architectural grading is to establish desirable elevations for buildings, create stable spots for foundations, and shape the site so it promotes better drainage.
  • Landscape grading – Landscape grading is focused on creating areas for planting or for larger municipal projects like irrigation or water storage. Landscape grading also involves contouring the property and establishing better drainage. However, it also involves preparing the soil itself for planting, which may involve removing the existing dirt and replacing it with richer topsoil.
  • Rough grading – Grading is typically done in several phases. The first phase is rough grading, which establishes the desired slope and shape for the project. During rough grading, larger amounts of dirt are handled, and the site begins to take its general appearance. Rough grading is measured out using laser technology in most cases, so elevations are set precisely.
  • Final grading – Final grading comes after rough grading and after the site has taken its general shape. During final grading, only the top couple inches of soil are handled, and only fine adjustments are made to the site. There is still shaping to be done during final grading, but no more major changes are expected. To ensure final grading is accomplished within tolerances, GPS technology is typically used for measuring.

During the final grading process, planting soils are also placed and compacted so they can take the foundation.

In every instance, grading is executed using heavy equipment like extractors and dozers. These machines do the lifting, moving, and piling that goes into grading. Important to note – grading and extraction aren’t the same, even if they seem similar. During extraction, heavy machinery is used to remove large amounts of soil to accommodate utilities, pavement, and water features. Extraction is usually one of the earlier steps in site development, while grading comes later.

Houston Professional Site Grading Ensures your Project is Developed to Specification

Commercial construction can’t move forward until the pad is cleared, shaped, and stabilized for a foundation. In this way, a graded pad is like the foundation for your building’s foundation. It’s critical, then, that you have an expertly graded pad to work with. That takes an expert crew to handle, so if you’re embarking on commercial development, partner with a reputable team that’s experienced with the process.

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