Expansive Soils

Colorado’s picturesque landscapes and diverse geography offer an ideal setting for residential living. However, the beauty of our environment comes with unique challenges, particularly when it comes to the soil beneath our homes.

Expansive soils are a common and significant issue in Colorado, posing risks to the structural integrity of residential buildings. If you’re a homeowner facing issues related to expansive soils, understanding your rights and the legal framework can be crucial in protecting your property and securing compensation for damages.

Our law firm specializes in construction defect litigation, focusing on issues related to expansive soils. We are dedicated to helping homeowners navigate the complexities of soil-related construction defects and ensuring they receive the justice and compensation they deserve. This page provides an in-depth look at expansive soils, their impacts, warning signs, soil disclosure requirements under Colorado law, and the rights homeowners have under the Construction Defect Action Reform Act.

What are Expansive Soils?

Expansive soils, also known as shrink-swell soils, are types of clay-rich soils that undergo significant volume changes with moisture variations. These soils swell when they absorb water and shrink when they lose water, leading to substantial ground movement. The primary minerals responsible for this behavior are montmorillonite, smectite, and bentonite. Expansive soils can be marked by the following characteristics:

  • High Plasticity: The ability to undergo large deformations without cracking.

  • High Shrink-Swell Potential: Significant changes in volume with moisture variations.

  • Clay Content: Presence of clay minerals that expand and contract.

  • Moisture Sensitivity: Rapid response to changes in moisture levels.

Colorado’s semi-arid climate, coupled with its seasonal precipitation patterns, creates ideal conditions for the formation and activity of expansive soils. Areas along the Front Range, including Denver, Boulder, and Colorado Springs, are particularly susceptible to expansive soil issues.

The Impact of Expansive Soils

Expansive soils can have a devastating impact on residential buildings and infrastructure. The continuous swelling and shrinking exert tremendous pressure on foundations and structural components, leading to a range of damages. Common damages from expansive soils include:

  • Foundation Cracks: Horizontal, vertical, or diagonal cracks in foundation walls.

  • Uneven Floors: Warping, buckling, or tilting of floors.

  • Wall and Ceiling Cracks: Cracks in interior and exterior walls, as well as ceilings.

  • Sticking Doors and Windows: Difficulty in opening and closing doors and windows due to frame distortions.

  • Water Intrusion: Gaps created by soil movement can allow water to seep into basements and crawl spaces.

  • Utility Line Damage: Soil movement can disrupt underground utility lines, including water, sewer, and gas lines.

The economic impact of expansive soil damage is significant. Homeowners may face costly repairs, diminished property values, and potential health hazards due to mold and mildew growth from water intrusion. In severe cases, homes may become uninhabitable, necessitating complete reconstruction.

Warning Signs for Expansive Soils

Recognizing the warning signs of expansive soil activity early can help mitigate damage and prevent more severe structural issues. Homeowners should be vigilant and regularly inspect their properties for the following indicators:

Interior Warning Signs:

  • Cracks in Drywall: Look for new or widening cracks in walls and ceilings, particularly around doors and windows.

  • Uneven Floors: Noticeable slopes or warping in floors.

  • Sticking Doors and Windows: Difficulty in opening or closing doors and windows, or misaligned frames.

  • Gaps Between Walls and Floors: Separation between walls and floors or ceilings.

Exterior Warning Signs:

  • Foundation Cracks: Visible cracks in the foundation walls, especially those that widen over time.

  • Separation of Attached Structures: Detached garages, decks, or patios pulling away from the main structure.

  • Cracked Driveways and Walkways: Cracks and uneven surfaces in driveways, sidewalks, and other paved areas.

  • Bowed Walls: Exterior walls bowing or leaning.

Landscaping and Yard Warning Signs:

  • Soil Cracks: Large cracks in the soil around the property.

  • Heaving or Sinking Ground: Areas of the yard that appear to be rising or sinking.

  • Pooling Water: Persistent water pooling in certain areas after rain, indicating poor drainage and potential expansive soil activity.

If you observe any of these signs, it’s essential to consult with a professional engineer or soil specialist to assess the extent of the issue and recommend appropriate mitigation measures.

Soil Disclosure Requirements Under CRS 6-6.5-101

Colorado Revised Statutes (CRS) 6-6.5-101 outlines the disclosure requirements for soil conditions during real estate transactions. This statute is designed to ensure that prospective buyers are informed about the potential risks associated with expansive soils before purchasing a property, requiring the following:

  • Mandatory Disclosure: Sellers are required to disclose any known adverse material facts about the property’s soil conditions, including the presence of expansive soils.

  • Disclosure Form: The disclosure must be made using a standard form provided by the Colorado Real Estate Commission.

  • Timing: The disclosure must be provided to the buyer at least fourteen days before the completion of the sale.

  • Acknowledgment: The buyer must acknowledge receipt of the disclosure form.

Failure to comply with these disclosure requirements can result in legal consequences for the seller, including the possibility of the buyer rescinding the sale or seeking damages for non-disclosure.

As a buyer, it’s crucial to carefully review the soil disclosure form and consider conducting an independent soil analysis to fully understand the potential risks and necessary mitigation measures.

Rights Homeowners Have Under the Construction Defect Action Reform Act (CDARA)

The Construction Defect Action Reform Act (CDARA) provides Colorado homeowners with legal recourse for construction defects, including those related to expansive soils. CDARA aims to balance the rights of homeowners with the interests of builders and developers, promoting fair and efficient resolution of construction defect disputes.

Key Provisions of CDARA:

  • Notice of Claim Process: Homeowners must provide a written notice of claim to the builder, developer, or contractor before filing a lawsuit. This notice must detail the alleged defects and allow the responsible party an opportunity to inspect and repair the issues.

  • Statute of Limitations: CDARA establishes specific timeframes within which homeowners must file a lawsuit for construction defects:

    • Two Years: From the time the homeowner discovers or reasonably should have discovered the defect.

    • Six Years: From the substantial completion of the construction project, with a possible extension to eight years if the defect is discovered in the fifth or sixth year.

  • Damages: Homeowners may seek compensation for various damages, including the cost of repairs, diminution in property value, and relocation expenses. Additionally, attorney fees may be recoverable in certain circumstances.

Steps to Take Under CDARA:

  1. Document the Defects: Keep detailed records of the defects, including photographs, videos, and written descriptions.

  2. Hire Experts: Engage qualified engineers or soil specialists to assess the extent of the defects and provide professional reports.

  3. Consult an Attorney: Seek legal advice from a construction defect attorney to understand your rights and the best course of action.

  4. Send Notice of Claim: Prepare and send a written notice of claim to the responsible party, outlining the defects and the required repairs.

  5. Consider Settlement Offers: Evaluate any repair offers or settlement proposals made by the builder or contractor.

  6. File a Lawsuit: If the defects are not adequately addressed, proceed with filing a lawsuit within the applicable statute of limitations.

How Our Law Firm Can Help

At our law firm, we are dedicated to representing homeowners in construction defect cases related to expansive soils. Our team of experienced attorneys understands the complexities of these cases and is committed to securing the best possible outcome for our clients. Our legal services include:

  • Free Consultation: We offer a free initial consultation to evaluate your case and discuss your options.

  • Expert Analysis: We work with leading soil specialists, engineers, and construction experts to build a strong case.

  • Negotiation and Mediation: We strive to resolve disputes through negotiation and mediation to save time and costs.

  • Litigation: If necessary, we are prepared to take your case to court and fight for your rights.

  • Comprehensive Support: From initial consultation to final resolution, we provide continuous support and guidance.


Expansive soils pose significant risks to residential buildings in Colorado, but homeowners have legal protections and recourse under state laws. Understanding the nature of expansive soils, recognizing the warning signs, and knowing your rights under CRS 6-6.5-101 and CDARA can empower you to take the necessary steps to safeguard your property.

Our law firm is here to assist you every step of the way, ensuring that you receive the justice and compensation you deserve. Don’t let construction defects undermine the safety and value of your home. Contact us today to discuss your case and explore your legal options.