Soils Information

The Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District provides soils information to the public and to Fairfax County agencies and helps maintain the Fairfax County soil survey.

Soils Information

The 2011 Official County Soils Map is based on the 2008 soil survey. All official permit applications must rely on maps and ratings from the 2011 map.

  • Find Your Soil Type on the 2011 Official County Soils Map (Digital Map Viewer).
    Soil types in Fairfax County are identified by alpha-numeric symbols on the soil survey map. For example, a common soil type in Fairfax County is 39B. The number represents the soil type - 39 identifies the soil type as Glenelg silt loam. The letter represents the landscape slope class - B indicates slopes of 2-7 percent.
  • 2011 Soils Map Guide: Learn about Your Soil Type.
    Fairfax County offers descriptions and ratings for soil types that can help you learn more about your soil and its suitability for septic drainfields, infiltration trenches, foundation support and more. See pp. 9-11 in the Soil Map Guide for the ratings table and pp. 22-45 for descriptions of each soil type.

Data from the 2008 soil survey is also incorporated in the national Web Soil Survey operated by the USDA-NRCS. If you need assistance obtaining soils information or interpreting the soil maps, descriptions or ratings, please call the conservation district at 703-324-1460, TTY 711 or submit an online soils information request.

Problem Soils

Marine clay is a type of soil found in Fairfax County that contains clays that swell upon wetting and shrink upon drying. Potential problems associated with these soils include land slippage and slope instability, shrinking and swelling of clays, poor foundation support, and poor drainage. In Fairfax County, marine clays occur in widespread areas east of Interstate 95. Read more about the problems associated with marine clay.

Naturally occurring asbestos fibers can be found within greenstone bedrock. Since certain soil types weather from this rock, the county soil maps are used to determine the extent of greenstone bedrock in Fairfax County. The asbestos fibers are locked up within the rock or are potentially found within the very deep subsoil. Living on such soils is not considered a hazard because any asbestos fibers are sequestered deep underground. However during major construction, excavations may be deep enough to disturb the deep subsoil or the bedrock itself. Construction is not prohibited in such areas, but proper precautions should be taken.

Soil Fertility

If you are interested in testing the fertility of the soil in your lawn or garden, you can send a soil sample to Virginia Tech where it will be analyzed for a small fee. Soil test sample boxes and instructions should be available at all branches of the Fairfax County Public Library as well as at Fairfax County Cooperative Extension and the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District offices. Learn more about the soil test.

Fairfax County Soil Survey

Using a soil auger to take a core sample. A soil survey is a collection of maps, tables and written text that can be used for land use planning. Its maps depict the distribution of soils across the landscape. The tables and written text contain soil descriptions and predictions of soil behavior for selected land uses. The survey also highlights limitations and hazards inherent in the soil, improvements needed to overcome the limitations and the impact of selected land uses on the environment.

The survey is useful in identifying drainage issues, erosion potential, foundation support and many other characteristics. It can be used to evaluate the potential of the soil and the management needed for maximum food and fiber production. Conservationists, teachers, students, homeowners, developers and specialists in recreation, wildlife management, waste disposal, and pollution control can use the survey to understand, protect and enhance the environment.

Fairfax County's original soil survey, published in 1963, was never completed. Approximately 40,000 acres, predominantly in the southeastern part of the county, remained unmapped. An updated soil survey for Fairfax County was completed in 2008. It contains new soil types, ratings and descriptions. The update is a cooperative effort of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS), Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, and Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District.

The previous soil survey, published in 1990, is also available on the digital map viewer for informational purposes. The 1990 Soil Map Guide is also available online.

Learn About Northern Virginia Soils

The Five Most Interesting Soils of Fairfax County, published by NVSWCD's Dan Schwartz, describes some of the most extraordinary soil types in the county. Learn more about the fascinating properties of these soils and how they affect Fairfax communities.

The Soil Biology Primer, published by the Soil and Water Conservation Society, is an introduction to the living components of soil and how they contribute to agricultural productivity, and air and water quality. The online primer includes units describing the soil food web and its relationship to soil health, and units about bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, arthropods, and earthworms.

The Urban Soil Primer, published by the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service, is an introduction to urban soils for homeowners and renters, local planning boards, property managers, students, and educators. It provides information important in planning and managing land resources in a manner that helps to prevent or mitigate problems associated with sedimentation, contamination, runoff, and structural failure.

Understanding Soils Risks and Hazards, also published by the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service, has several chapters relevant to the Northern Virginia area.

  • Acid sulfate soils
  • Compaction
  • Contamination by metals
  • Corrosion
  • Erosion
  • Expanding soils and shrink-swell potential
  • Landslides
  • Radon

S.K. Worm is the official annelid, or worm, of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service. S.K. Worm answers kids' basic questions about soil.

Contact Fairfax County: Phone, Email or Twitter | Main Address: 12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax, VA 22035
Technical Questions: Web Administrator

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