We moved into our new-build property in November 2018, and have been beset with garden (more specifically, lawn) issues since the start.

After badgering and persisting, our developer agreed to undertake a soil survey. They have just come back with the results, and they are currently “awaiting further internal comment” on how to proceed.

My take on that is that there has to be something to investigate, else the result would have been a clear-cut “it complies with NHBC and BS standards, you’re on your own”.

Can anyone interpret the report, pasted below - I have no real idea about what I’m looking at!

Soil Survey

  • The natural soilscape around Bristol is slightly acid, loamy clayey soils often with impeded drainage - your survey suggests that loam does not seem to be present; there seems to be a higher percentage of sand and gravel than would be expected for that area, which suggests its soil the builder has brought in from elsewhere, or they've mixed in left over sand and gravel from the building work. Have you planted any plants/trees yourselves, or did the builders plant a tree or shrub, and if so, are they growing well? What problems were you having with the lawn? Was it a lawn the builders laid?
    – Bamboo
    Commented Sep 30, 2020 at 23:13
  • @Bamboo We haven't planted any trees/shurbs - the lawn has been problematic (very thick/thatched roots), and has been patchy and pretty shocking. The lawn was a builder-laid lawn, and we're within warranty so it's their responsibility to fix - the survey was undertaken after we pressured the builder to fix the issues. Thankfully I think the survey has come back in our favour, which what I was aiming for with the post :) Commented Oct 1, 2020 at 15:03
  • There could be all sorts of buried builder's debris in the garden under the lawn too... that's a common one when builders lay turf for new builds. They might be reasonable builders, but they don't often make good gardeners, they usually know nothing ....
    – Bamboo
    Commented Oct 1, 2020 at 23:52

1 Answer 1


Was your contractor supposed to landscape the site with "good black dirt"? If so, he didn't. It looks like you've been given, at best, fill soil. It's predominantly clay (about 87% of the soil particles are "fine", which means they're very, very small. This indicates a clay soil), with the remainder being sand and gravel. The gravel could be left over from the building job if the contractor spread gravel for a temporary driveway or road and then skid-steered it into the soil when spreading the garbage soil that they dumped. Had the samples been taken near the property's borders, the gravel may not have been present.

It's also possible that your soil is actually sub-soil; it may simply be the "spoil" left over from digging the foundation, spread out after the job was finished.

Regardless of where the soil came from, it is not "good black dirt". If that's what your contract called for, the contractor didn't deliver on it. If you desire restitution (the proper soil delivered), I would recommend that you get your attorney to draw up the appropriate contract, and that the contract call for the contractor to remove at least six inches of this "soil" and replace it with at least six inches of sifted black dirt (this will typically remove weed roots but not weed seed). If you're supposed to have a lawn, that must be hydroseeded and covered with shredded straw (this is better than erosion mat unless you're on a hill).

  • I was working on an answer, but you got there first and yours is much better. Concise and to the point.
    – csk
    Commented Sep 30, 2020 at 22:28
  • To be fair, I'm not entirely sure what the contractor was supposed to do, however NHBC (the UK's national housebuilding warranty provider) has regulations that state that 100mm (10cm) of "topsoil" should be put down before any lawn is laid. Also, I'm not really sure what "good black dirt" refers to as we don't really use that term in the UK - although I guess it may be analogous to top-soil, so that confirms our initial thoughts that the contractor skimped. In the UK, we're still under warranty with our property developer, so they should be able to remedy the situation. Commented Oct 1, 2020 at 14:53
  • Hi - Yes, "good black dirt" is the generic term that "landscapers" use in the US to refer to topsoil. I can't imagine how the garbage soil the contractor put down can be considered "topsoil" in any circumstance.The gravel and sand content are really a giveaway that the soil is very poor and NOT topsoil, as topsoil may contain sand (usually in combination with loam or silt), but NEVER contains gravel.
    – Jurp
    Commented Oct 1, 2020 at 19:33
  • The word "landscapers" in the previous comment is in quotes because we have a ton of people in the US who have a pickup truck, a riding lawnmower, a bunch of gas-powered tools (strimmer, leaf blower, edger) and often a skidsteer who set themselves up as landscapers with zero horticultural knowledge. Reputable landscapers are few and far between, but use the term "topsoil".
    – Jurp
    Commented Oct 1, 2020 at 19:34

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