Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District

Fairfax County, Virginia

CONTACT INFORMATION: Our office is open 9AM-5PM M-F

12055 Government Center Parkway
Suite 905, Fairfax, VA 22035

Laura Grape,
Executive Director

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.

Find Your Soil Type: Step by Step

  1. Go to the Fairfax County Digital Map Viewer.
  2. Under Find Maps, for Map Type, select "Soils Map - Official 2011"
  3. Select your map tile number. (Don't know it? Under Map View, enter your street address into the search bar.)
  4. Click on "Get selected map" to open the PDF.
  5. Find your home on the PDF map, and look at the red soil lines and numbers to find the soil type(s) on your property.
  6. Download the Fairfax County Soils Map Guide and go to pages 9-11. Use the number to learn the name and more about your soil.

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.

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.

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.

Looking for soil information from outside Fairfax County? Go to the 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 email us requesting soils information.

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 in Northern Virginia. Most greenstone asbestos fibers are locked up within the bedrock or are potentially found within the very deep subsoil. Living on such soils is not considered a hazard because asbestos fibers are sequestered far 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. Read more about construction safety in areas of greenstone bedrock.

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 can be picked up at the Master Gardener tables at the Farmers' Markets, Fairfax County Cooperative Extension, the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District offices, and often can be found at the public libraries. Learn more about the soil test.

Learn About Soil

The Five Most Interesting Soils of Fairfax County. Is one of them your soil type?

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

Understanding the 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.