21st Century Technology for Soil Stabilization
More than 30 years ago, Bob Horn injected chemicals into the clay soil underneath one side of a road being built at Alliance Airport to put a new scientific theory to the test. The goal was to change the soil’s electrochemical nature to inhibit its ability to associate with water, thereby minimizing the soils’ basic swell/shrink characteristics and increasing its compressive strength and support value.
Clay platelets, commonly found in Texas soils, have a negative charge that attracts and bonds with positively charged water molecules causing the soil to swell, leading to base and sub-base foundation failures caused by frost heave damage. Environmentally safe chemical soil stabilizers have a far stronger positive charge than water. Essentially, the stabilizer creates an irresistible ion-exchange that bonds to the soil particles before the water gets a chance to.
As the science of soil stabilization has become more widely recognized and used by both commercial and residential contractors, Texas ProChemical, founded in 1994, remains family-owned and is the only company that can provide this specialized service using its own proprietary methods and formulas. Brothers Scott and Todd Horn took over their uncle’s business in 2006.
Fully insured and licensed, Texas ProChemical has performed thousands of its ProChem applications across Texas as well as many surrounding states, including Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arizona. Its tractors utilize high pressure pumps and injection masts capable of injecting highly active clays to a maximum depth of 15 feet. Texas ProChemical can also hand-inject up to 10 feet deep. Geotechnical companies conduct a swell test to verify 48 to 72 hours after injection. Each injection site is held to a one percent average of PVR (potential vertical rise) after chemical injection. A one- time pre-construction application of ProChem has proven its ability to limit water bonding for decades.
Though Texas ProChemical is undeniably the leader in its experience and vast knowledge of geography, topography and soil behavior, the Horn brothers are proud that soil injection has become a recommended alternative by geotechnical engineers across Texas and beyond.
“We’re now doing about 800 soil injections every year,” Scott said, explaining that one of the reasons why the soil injection industry has expanded so significantly is because costs are a fraction of other methods such as piers or use of a structural subfloor. “On building pads where the geotechnical engineer has recommended excavation and replacement of on-site material with four to six feet of select fill, we can typically reduce that cost by about 45 percent,” he said. “Considering that time is also money, it’s notable that the application process can treat up to 2,000 square feet per tractor in a single day.”
Texas ProChemical aims to change the national statistic that shows that, each year, swelling or shrinking soils inflict over $2 billion in damages to houses, buildings, roads, pipelines and other structures; that’s more than twice the damage from floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes combined.