“My architect advised that before I draw the house plan, I should have a soil test done so that I get to know its type and how it will react to things, such as moisture and weight of the house after it is constructed,” Mwesigwa says.
When Paul Mwesigwa bought his 50x100ft plot of land in Mayuge, he was excited and immediately embarked on planning how, when and which kind of house to build on it.
However, when his architect got in touch with him, he asked him if he had tested the soil, something that seemed unusual to Mwesigwa.
"My architect advised that before I draw the house plan, I should have a soil test done so that I get to know its type and how it will react to things, such as moisture and weight of the house after it is constructed," Mwesigwa says.
After the test, the results showed that his soil retained a lot of water and, therefore, required more materials to help bind the soil together. Mwesigwa admits that after conducting a soil test, his plans changed.
He had to increase his project funding, which affected his earlier budget but was necessary to avoid the uncertainties that could come with using few materials.
Why test soil Robert Ndyasaba, an engineer, says soil testing is vital and is done using a machine called a stand penetrometer.
It is dug deep into the soil and when it comes out, it has different soil samples, which are tested before one embarks on the building. Herbert Dhamuzungu, another engineer, says ignoring soil testing has led to the collapse of many buildings, while others get cracks. These have cost implications for the owner of the project.
Benefits of soil testing
Martin Kiwanuka, a builder, says usually when the soil is tested, the results help the site owner to know which type of soil the site bears, after which the engineers get to advise on which building should be erected on it.
"You could have planned for a storeyed building on soil fit for a mud-and-wattle house," he adds. Soil testing guides the constructors on what kind of materials to use. Kiwanuka says different soil types require different types of materials for proper construction.
He cites an example of people who buy land in waterlogged, sandy and clay soil, who he says would require different materials to put up different types of buildings. Soil testing helps in drawing the right budget.
Ken Semwogerere, an architect, says for anyone to embark on a construction project, they must have a budget with a breakdown of things that they intend to purchase to keep the project running.
He notes that knowing the type of soil at the site and the materials needed ensures that one spends within one's means. "This also helps in planning and building at different stages.
Kiwanuka notes that hiring soil testers attracts professionals to your construction site. "By doing this, you avoid the inconveniences that come with builders doing substandard work at the site, which can lead to accidents," he says.