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Annual Transactions of IESL, pp.

78 - 84, 2006
The Institution of Engineers, Sri Lanka
ENGINEER 78

Interpretation of Pile Integrity Test (PIT) Results

H. S. Thilakasiri

Abstract: A defect present in a pile will severely reduce the structural load carrying capacity of
the pile. Therefore, post construction tests to verify the integrity of bored piles are extremely
important. A most commonly used post construction integrity test is the low strain Pile Integrity Test
commonly referred as PIT. In this type of integrity testing, a low strain dynamic impulse is given to
the pile top by a hand held hammer and the velocity of the pile top is monitored using an
accelerometer. The low strain impulse will generate a low strain wave that propagates through the
pile and reflected at places where there are changes in the properties of concrete, cross sectional area
of the pile or stiffness of the soil surrounding the pile. Such reflections are detected by the
accelerometer at the pile top and the time Vs velocity plot recorded by the accelerometer is used to
identify any defects in the pile shaft. There are two main methods of data analysis associated with the
PIT namely, the Sonic Pulse Echo method and the Transient Response Analysis (TRA) method.
In this research, analysis of PIT records related to the Sri Lankan soil conditions, construction and
design practices are investigated using the Sonic Pulse Echo method. In the analysis, variation of the
actual PIT records according to the commonly encountered soil conditions in Sri Lanka are presented.
Furthermore, wave propagation through the pile is modeled using the Wave Equation Method. An
MS Excel spreadsheet is developed to model the PIT using the wave equation method. The developed
computer program is capable of dividing the pile into a maximum of 200 elements and incorporating
varying soil stiffness along the pile shaft. An artificial velocity pulse is given to the top most element
to simulate the hammer blow given in the PIT while monitoring the velocity of the same element for
varying ground conditions and the defects commonly encountered in Sri Lanka. The location of the
defects and its appearance in the velocity plot is also investigated.


1.0 Introduction

Bored and cast in-situ concrete piles are very
widely used in Sri Lanka for pile foundations.
In this method of pile construction, a borehole
is created in the ground by drilling and
subsequently filling it with fresh concrete to
form the pile. During the drilling process
bentonite slurry is used to stabilize the sides of
the borehole. The concreting is carried out from
the ground surface using a tremie pipe and
systematically bentonite is replaced by concrete
during the concreting process. Common
problems encountered due to such pile
construction practice are (i) necking of the pile
due to inflow of soil into uncased boreholes, (ii)
mixing concrete and bentonite and (iii)
collapsing of sides into the borehole and mixing
of soil and concrete. If such a defect occurred in
a pile the structural load carrying capacity of
the pile will be severely reduced. Therefore,
post construction tests to verify the integrity of
bored piles are extremely important. If
defective piles are identified such piles could be
rectified or replaced with new piles to avoid
failure of the foundation. But it should be
emphasized here that even if a pile is proved to
be a solid integral pile from integrity testing, it

doesnt guarantee that the pile has the required
load carrying capacity due to shear failure of
the soil.
Commonly used post constructional pile
integrate testing methods are given below:
i. Coring through the pile to obtain
continuous concrete core samples
of the pile and testing the obtained
core samples to identify weak
sections;
ii. Load testing of piles using static or
dynamic methods
iii. Low strain dynamic testing of
piles using Pile Integrity Tester
(PIT);
iv. Cross-hole Sonic Logging (CSL);




Eng. (Dr.) H.S.Thilakasiri, C. Eng., MIE(SL), B.Sc. Eng.
(Hons) (Moratuwa), M.Sc (Lond),PhD (USA), Senior
Lecturer, Department of Civil Engineering, University of
Moratuwa..


ENGINEER 79
Out of the above methods, coring and load
testing are expensive and time consuming.
Those methods cannot be applied to large
number of piles in a site and sometimes are not
conclusive, for example, coring through one
side of the pile can miss defects on the other
side of the pile. But these two methods have
some advantages such as: (i) Ability to correct
any defect through the hole created in the pile
during coring; and (ii) Capacity is also assessed
during load testing in addition to integrity
testing.
Other two methods are base on dynamic wave
propagation through piles and are very widely
used for integrity testing of piles. However,
Cross-hole Sonic Logging (CSL) requires
installation of PVC or steel tubes in the pile
during casting stage and that method is used
only in large project where such additional cost
can be justified. Therefore, in this article most
commonly used integrity testing of bored piles
in Sri Lanka, the low strain dynamic testing
using Pile Integrity Tester (PIT) is discussed
and important factors related to interpretation
of the results are presented.
In the low strain Pile Integrity Test, commonly
referred as PIT, a low strain dynamic impulse is
given to the pile top by a hand held hammer
and the velocity of the pile top is monitored
using an accelerometer as shown in Figure 1.
The low strain impulse will generate a low
strain wave that propagates through the pile
and reflected at places where there are changes
in the properties of concrete, cross sectional
area of the pile or stiffness of the soil
surrounding the pile. Such reflections are
detected by the accelerometer at the pile top
and the time Vs velocity plot recorded by the
accelerometer is used to identify any defects in
the pile shaft. There are two main methods of
data analysis associated with the PIT, namely,
the sonic pulse echo method and the transient
response method. The main difference between
these two methods is that in the transient
response method of analysis both velocity and
force measurements during the hammer impact
are needed. Therefore, in the transient response
method, a hammer instrumented with a load
cell is used instead of a normal hammer. In Sri
Lanka, mostly Sonic Pulse Echo method is used
to analyze Pit records and, therefore, the
discussion in this paper is limited to that
method of analysis.



Figure. 1- PIT testing of bored and cast insitu
concrete piles

In the Sonic Pulse Echo method of analyzing
PIT records using the velocity variation of the
pile top with time, a normal hammer without a
load cell is used to generate the stress wave.
The low strain impulse generates a low strain
wave that propagates through the pile with a
velocity of, C, referred to as the wave velocity.
For a linear elastic pile having a length one
order of magnitude higher than its width, wave
velocity is given by:

E
C =
Where E and are Youngs modulus and mass
density of pile material respectively. As the
stress wave passes through any section of the
pile, it will impart an oscillation to the particles
of that section and the particles of that section
will move at a certain velocity referred to as
particle velocity. The force, F, due to the stress
wave at any section is related to the particle
velocity, v, at that section during the
propagation of the dynamic wave by:
Zv F =
Where Z is defined as the impedance of the pile
at that section and it is given by:
C EA Z / =
Where A is the cross sectional area of the pile.
As the downward traveling stress wave, of
magnitude FDown, propagates through the pile,
if it encounters change in the impedance of the
pile at a particular section, a reflected wave is
generated. For example if the impedance varies
from Z1 to Z2 a reflected wave of magnitude Fup
is generated. The magnitude of FDown and Fup
are related to impedance change by the
following expression:
Down Up
F
Z Z
Z Z
F
] [
] [
1 2
1 2
,
+

=
It is evident from the above equation that the
magnitude of the upward traveling wave
depends on the difference in the impedance
encountered and depending on the sign of (Z2
Hammer
Accelero
meter

ENGINEER 80
Z1) the generated upward traveling wave could
be tension or compression. Since downward
traveling wave is normally a compression
wave, the upward traveling wave will be a
tension wave if the wave travels from high
impedance to low impedance (Z1 > Z2) and
vise-versa. Therefore, it should be noted here
that the PIT identifies change in the impedance,
which is a combination of the pile cross
sectional area, Youngs modulus of the pile
material and the density of the pile material.
Apart from the reflections of the downward
traveling wave due to the changes in the
impedance of the pile section, soil resistance
variations along the pile shaft can also generate
upward traveling reflections. However, such
reflections due to soil resistance variations are
of low frequency and an experienced
interpreter could separate the upward traveling
waves generated due to impedance variations
of the pile shaft from that generated due to soil
resistance variations.




























Figure 2 - Schematic diagram showing
reflections from necking and toe

The intensity of the defect is quantified in terms
of the parameter defined as Z1/Z2. Following
classification of defects could be made based on
the value of (PDA Users manual).


=Z1/Z2

Damage assessment
1.0 Uniform
0.8 1.0 Slight damage
0.6 0.8 Damage
0.6 > Pile with a major
discontinuity


If the pile is defect-free, the wave will travel
down to the pile toe and will be reflected back
to arrive at the pile top after a time period of
2L/C, where L and C are length of the pile and
wave velocity through the pile respectively.
Any other reflection before this time, if any, is
due to changes in the pile impedance or the soil
resistance. The above mentioned downward
and upward traveling waves are illustrated in
Figure 2 for a pile of length L. The pile cross
section is reduced at a depth of X from the pile
top and the downward traveling compression
wave is reflected back and arrives the pile top
after 2X/C time period from the initial input
wave and the reflection from the pile toe arrives
at the pile top after a time period of 2L/C.
Even though the defect is easily identified from
the above idealized PIT record, the
interpretation of actual records can be very
difficult and complicated due to:
i. Attenuation of the stress wave as it
travels down the pile shaft and as a
result, inability to identify the
reflections;
ii. Presence of the reflections due to
soil resistance variations along the
pile shaft;
iii. Masking of the reflections due to
defects by the reflections due to
buldged sections of the pile shaft;
and
iv. Other distortions of the collected
data due to improper pile top
cleaning, loose attachment of the
accelerometer to the pile top etc.

In this research, wave propagation through the
pile is modeled using the Wave Equation
Method. In the wave equation method, the pile
is divided into small elements and the equation
of motion of each element is considered during
wave propagation using the finite difference
method. An MS Excel spreadsheet is developed
to model the PIT using the wave equation
method. The developed computer program is
capable of dividing the pile into a maximum of
200 elements and incorporating varying soil
stiffness along the pile shaft. An artificial
T
2X/c
2L/c
Time
Depth
Pile top
velocity

ENGINEER 81
velocity pulse is given to the top most element
to simulate the hammer blow given in the PIT
while monitoring the velocity of the same
element for varying ground conditions and the
defects commonly encountered in Sri Lanka.
The ground conditions considered in this
research consists of typical soil layering and
bedrock conditions found at construction sites.
The location of the defects and its appearance in
the velocity plot is also investigated. Finally,
some typical velocity plots obtained from actual
PIT are also presented to demonstrate the
practical applications of the analysis.

2.0 Wave equation method

In the wave equation method, the entire pile-
soil system is modeled as a series of masses
supported and connected by set of springs and
dashpots. The size of the individual mass
elements and the stiffness of the springs reflect
the mass and stiffness of various components of
the real pile and the driving system. The soil is
represented by a series of elasto-plastic springs
and linear viscous dashpots. A schematic
diagram of the entire system is shown in Figure
3.
In the wave equation analysis, first introduced
by Smith [1] to solve the 1-D wave propagation
in a pile, the pile is divided into a number of
elements and the mass of each of the elements
is lumped at the nodal points as shown in
Figure 3. The intermediate pile elements are
connected by pile springs, of which the stiffness
(k) estimated by AE/L, Where A, E and L
are the cross sectional area of the pile, Youngs
modulus of pile material and length of an
element respectively. The soil resistance, at the
interface between pile element and the
surrounding soil, during propagation of the
stress wave consists of two parts: (i) a static
resistance, proportional to the deformation and;
(ii) a damping resistance, proportional to the
velocity of the pile element. The static
resistance by the surrounding soil on the pile
elements is represented by an elastic perfectly
plastic soil spring, in which the force is given
by the axial compression () of the spring
multiplied by the stiffness (k
/
) of the spring.
According to the wave equation analysis
proposed by Smith (1960), the damping
resistance is represented by a viscous dashpot,
in which the force generated is estimated by
multiplying the damping coefficient Jskin of the
dashpot, velocity of the pile element (v) and the
axial force in the spring (k
/
). The stiffness (k
/
) of
the side soil spring is estimated as the ratio
between the ultimate skin friction on the
element and the limiting elastic displacement of
the soil spring (skin quake). The last pile
element is connected to the element above it by
a pile spring. The soil resistance at the end is
represented by a soil spring, with stiffness k(p),
and a dashpot, with damping coefficient (Jend).
K(p) is estimated as the ratio between the
ultimate end bearing capacity of the pile and
the elastic limit of the end spring (end quake).
The equilibrium of each of these pile elements
is considered during a hammer blow and the
resulting equations of motion in the time
domain are solved using finite difference
method. Interested users are referred to
Thilakasiri et al [2] for complete formulation of
wave equation method.


















Figure 3 - Pile-soil system as discretized by
the Smith (1960)

3.0 Simulation of PIT using the Wave
Equation Method

Elasto plastic Soil
springs
Soil dashpots
Pile
springs

ENGINEER 82
Wave equation method, explained above, was
programmed using MS Excel spread sheet. The
developed program has the capability of
discretizing a pile into 200 elements and carry
out the finite difference time simulation of a
25m long pile using very small time step size of
about 0.000005 seconds until the toe reflection is
reached at the pile top (after 2L/C from the
initial impulse of the hammer). The input pulse
of a PIT hammer is simulated using a triangular
velocity impulse given to the top most element
and the discretized pile-soil system is allowed
to vibrate freely under the given velocity
impulse. The response of the accelerometer
attached at the top of the pile is obtained by
recording the velocity of the top most pile
element. The soil along the pile shaft could be
divided into five layers and the skin friction
resistance of the five layers could be changed
independently. However, dynamic soil
properties of the soil along the pile shaft cannot
be changed for different soil layers along the
pile shaft. The developed program can simulate
the variation of the impedance of the pile shaft
by changing the stiffness of the spring
representing the stiffness of the pile elements.
In the simulation process, a 25m long, 1m
diameter pile is considered. The smith damping
factors for the skin and toe are set at 0.1 and 0.2
m/sec respectively. The Youngs modulus of
the pile material is assumed to be 35x10
6
kPa
and the unit weight of concrete is assumed to
be 24 kN/m
3
resulting in a wave speed of 3800
m/sec. The time taken for the toe reflection to
observe at the pile top is about 14 msecs.

3.1 Observation of the toe reflection

It is a very common observation that the toe
reflection of a pile is observed as a positive or
negative velocity pulse for similar piles from
the same site. Figure 4 show PIT records from
the same sites with toe reflection is observed as
positive and negative velocity pulses in Figures
4(a) and 4(b) respectively.

-0.15
0.00
0.15
0.30
9: #120121122 cm/s
Vel
MA: 10.00
MD: 5.80
LE: 9.12
WS: 3592
LO: 0.00
HI: 0.00
PV: 1
T1: 24
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9m
T1 Toe

(a)
-0.30
0.00
0.30
0.60
11: #82838485 cm/s
Vel
MA: 10.00
MD: 4.30
LE: 9.60
WS: 3531
LO: 0.00
HI: 0.00
PV: 1
T1: 33
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9m
T1 Toe

(b)

Figure 4 - Actual PIT records similar piles
from the same site (a) showing a positive
velocity reflection from the toe and (b)
showing negative velocity reflection from the
toe.

Vel oci t y Vs Ti me
-0. 005
-0. 004
-0. 003
-0. 002
-0. 001
0
0. 001
0. 002
0. 003
0. 004
0. 005
0. 006
0 0. 002 0. 004 0. 006 0. 008 0. 01 0. 012 0. 014 0. 016
T i me ( s e c o n d s )
K-toe=5000000
K-toe=500000
K-toe=250000
K-toe=50000
K-toe=50000

Figure 5 - Velocity records with different toe
stiffness
The above observation could be explained
using the wave equation simulation program
developed by varying the stiffness of the toe as
shown in Figure 5. The ultimate capacity of the
simulation pile was kept constant but the ratio
between the toe resistance and the skin
resistance was varied so that the stiffness of the
spring representing the material at the pile toe
is varied as shown in Figure 5. It is evident

ENGINEER 83
from Figure 5 that the toe reflection could be
either negative or positive depending on the
stiffness of the material present at the toe of the
pile. If the stiffness of the material at the toe is
high, the toe reflection could be negative
whereas when the stiffness of the material
present at the toe is low the toe reflection could
be a positive velocity pulse.

3.2 Variation of the velocity record depending
on the variation of the stiffness of the soil
along the pile shaft.

It is commonly observed that the velocity
records of the PIT tests show positive or
negative velocity reflections that are not
relevant to the variation of the impedance of
the pile shaft. To demonstrate this the skin
friction was varied along a uniform pile shaft.
Figure 6 (a) shows a simulated velocity
reflection of a pile having a 5m thick very soft
layer, sandwiched between stiff layers, at about
5m depth from the top of the pile. Figure 6 (b)
shows a similar velocity record of a pile having
a 5m thick relatively stiffer layer present at
about 5m from the top of the pile.
Velocity Vs Time
-0.004
-0.002
0
0.002
0.004
0.006
0 0.005 0.01 0.015 0.02
Time (seconds)
V
e
l
o
c
i
t
y

(
m
/
s
e
c
)
(a)
Velocity Vs Time
-0.004
-0.002
0
0.002
0.004
0.006
0 0.005 0.01 0.015 0.02
Time (Seconds)
V
e
l
o
c
i
t
y

(
m
/
s
e
c
)

(b)
Figure 6 - Effect of the variation of the skin
friction on the velocity record (a) presence of a
very soft layer (b) presence of a stiff layer
It is evident from the above demonstration that
the PIT records are influenced by the stiffness
of the soil layers present along the pile shaft. If
the person interpreting the records is not aware
of the subsurface conditions at the site, the
interpretation could be erroneous and the good
piles may be identified as defective due to the
reflections from the soil layers along the pile
shaft. However, it should be noted here that the
reflections due to the soil layer variations along
the pile shaft are relatively small in magnitude
and the pulse width is wider than the
reflections due to defects of the shaft.

3.3 PIT records showing defective piles.

Figure 7 shows a PIT record with a positive
reflection indicative of a defect at about 7.5m
below the top of the pile. In subsequent Pile
Driving Analyzer (PDA) testing it was
confirmed that the pile is defective and the
(ratio between the impedance) at the location of
the defect is about 60%.

-0.23
-0.03
0.18
0.38
16: # 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 cm/s
Vel
MA: 20.00
MD: 5.20
LE: 17.21
WS: 4106
LO: 0.88
HI: 0.00
PV: 0
T1: 32
0 4 8 12 16 m
T1 Toe

Figure 7- PIT record of a defective pile
(Exponential magnification of 20 is applied to
the toe reflection)

The simulation of a defect at the middle of the
simulation pile is shown in Figure 8. It should
be noted here that the in both actual and
simulated records, the positive reflection is
between two negative reflections. However, the
relative magnitude of the positive reflection of
the defect is higher than that of the negative
reflections. It should be noted here that the
actual velocity record has a exponential
magnification of 20 of the toe reflection.

Positive
reflection
Negative
reflection

ENGINEER 84
Velocity Vs Time
-0.004
-0.002
0
0.002
0.004
0.006
0 0.005 0.01 0.015 0.02
Time (Seconds)
V
e
l
o
c
i
t
y

(
m
/
s
e
c
)

Figure 8 - Simulated velocity record with
Presence of a necking

3.4 Typical reflections of PIT records in Sri
Lanka

In most of the PIT records from Sri Lanka
observed by the author indicate negative
reflections immediately after the input velocity
pulse and immediately before the toe reflection.
This observation is clearly shown in Figure 4 (a)
& (b) as well. This could be explained using the
soil stiffness variations along the pile shaft. In
most of the sites in Sri Lanka, there is a hard fill
placed above soft soil deposits at the top level
of the pile. Moreover, towards the lower end of
the pile a very strong weathered rock layer is
present. Due to the high stiffness of the fill at
the top and the strong residual formation
towards the toe of the pile, the positive
reflections are generated and such a velocity
record of a pile simulating this condition is
shown in Figure 9.

Velocity Vs Time
-0.005
-0.004
-0.003
-0.002
-0.001
0
0.001
0.002
0.003
0.004
0.005
0.006
0 0.005 0.01 0.015 0.02
Time (Seconds)
V
e
l
o
c
i
t
y

(
m
/
s
e
c
)


Figure 9 - Typical velocity record with stiff
soil layer at the top and bottom of the pile





4.0 Conclusions

Interpretation of the PIT results using the sonic
pulse echo method was investigated in this
paper. Typical problems associated with
interpretation of the Time velocity record of
the PIT test done on bored and cast insitu
concrete piles were shown using typical
velocity records from PIT tests. Special
attention was paid to the toe reflections and
reflections due to the variations of the stiffness
of the soil present along the pile shaft.
A computer programme capable of modeling
pile response due to the hammer blow using
the wave equation method was used to
quantify the variations observed in the actual
field PIT records. It was shown that the
reflection of the toe could give rise to a positive
or negative velocity reflection depending on the
stiffness of the soil at the toe of the pile. If the
soil at the toe of the pile is soft, the resulting
velocity reflection could be positive while the
presence of stiffer material at the pile toe could
generate negative velocity reflection. However,
it should be noted here that the toe reflection of
the pile is a qualitative indication only and it
should not be used to estimate the carrying
capacity of the pile. Reflections due to the
stiffness variation of the soil along the pile shaft
were also qualitatively discussed using the
wave equation model developed. It was shown
that a relatively soft layer present along the pile
shaft could give rise to a positive velocity
reflection, which could be erroneously
identified as a defect. Positive velocity
reflection due to a defect present along the shaft
of an actual pile and that of a simulated pile
using the wave equation method was also
presented. Finally, it could be concluded that
the developed computer program using the
wave equation method could be used to
qualitatively explain the observations of the
PIT.

References

1. Smith, A. E. L. Pile Driving Analysis by
Wave Equation, Journal of SMFD, ASCE,
86(4), pp 35-61, 1960.

2. Thilakasiri, H. S., Abeyasinghe R. M. and
Tennakoon, B. L. A study of ultimate
carrying capacity estimation of driven piles
using pile driving equations and the wave
equation method, Proc. Annual
Transactions of IESL,