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Soil which expand when they

gain water and shrink when

they loose water (desiccation)
Soils are composed of a variety of
materials, most of which do not
expand in the presence of moisture.
However, a number of clay minerals
are expansive. These include:
 Smectite,
 Bentonite,
 Chlorite.
 Beidellite

 Attapulgite,
 Nontronite,
 illite
 Montmorillonite,
There are also some sulfate salts
that will expand with changes in
CLAY: Particles exhibit a net
negative charge
As the water is adsorbed, it pushes the
clay particles apart, causing an
expansion or swelling of the clay.
The most obvious way in
which expansive soils can
damage foundations is by
uplift as they swell with
moisture increases.
 Swelling pressure from expensive soil can
exceed 30,000psf(F.H CHEN 2000)
 More typical value of swell pressure are 2000
to 4000psf
 A single pound of montmorillonite can have a
surface area of 800 acres
 Soil pressure is important if the structure is to
be designed to resist the uplift due to heave
Polygonal pattern of
surface cracks in the
dry season. These
cracks are
approximately one
inch wide at the top.
Note sewer manhole
in background.
This crack is at least
32 inches deep. The
yardstick was easily
inserted to this
depth; narrower, less
straight cracks may
extend much deeper.
At the
beginning of
the rainy
season, the
piers are still
supported by
friction with
the soil.
When it
begins to
rain, water
enters deep
into the soil
through the
After 5 to 10
large storms,
the soil swells,
lifting the
house and
In the dry season, the
groundwater table falls
and the soil dries and
contracts. As tension
cracks grow around the
pier, the skin friction is
reduced and the
effective stress of the
soil increases (due to
drying). When the
building load exceeds
the remaining skin
friction, or the effective
stress of the soil
increases to an all-time
high, adhesion is
Plastic index (PI)can be used as a
reasonable surrogate to indicate
expansive soil

 PI>20 considered expansive

 PI>40 considered highly expansive
 Expansion index considered effect of clay
 Widely used properties for soil
 Plastic limit(PI) is the moisture
content(MC) at which the soil behavior
change from semi solid to plastic
 Liquid limit is the moisture content at
which the soil change from plastic to
 Transition from solid to semi solid
 Defined as the water content at which
saturated specimen ceases to shrink
when dried
 Generally below the plastic limit
 Commonly calculated as a function of
liquid limit and plastic limit index using
casagrande chart
 The plasticity index is the mathematical
difference between the PL and LL.
 Most soil expansion occur as the moisture
content move from the PL to LL
 The higher the PL, more the water that
can be absorbed during expansion, and
hence the greater the potential
movement of soil.
 Clay mineral type
 Amount of clay
 heave
 Soil structure and fabric
 Depth of active zone
 Potential for change in moisture content
 For a given structure, there are five ways
to control shrinkage swell
 Control heave
 Replace the expansive soil with non-
expansive soil(select fill)
 Control change in moisture content
 Isolate the structure from the soil
 Chemical soil treatment
Three general types of foundations can be
considered in expansive soils. They are
1. Structures that can be kept isolated from
the swelling effects of the soils
2. Designing of foundations that will remain
undamaged in spite of swelling
3. Elimination of swelling potential of soil.
 Provide granular fill around the

 Provide air gap

 RCC plinth beam




 Increase the moisture content of soil by ponding.
 4 to 5% hydrated lime may be added to the top layer
of the soil to make it less plastic and more workable .
 Achieve most of the heave before construction.
 This technique is time consuming because the
seepage of water through highly plastic soil is slow
 Heave of expansive soils known to
decrease substantially when the soil is
compacted to a lower unit weight on high
side of optimum moisture content
(possibly 3 to 4% above the optimum
moisture content)