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Under the action of gravity, surface water and groundwater always tend to
ow from higher to lower elevations. Surface water will ow over solid and
through permeable formations, and its volume and velocity are a function of
the available supply and the uid head. Groundwater can move only
through a pervious material (fractured or ssured rock or soils with
interconnected open voids), so its ow characteristic is also a function of
formation permeability. Groundwater elevation varies as the supply source
varies and can be raised or lowered locally by increasing or decreasing the
local supply (naturally by precipitation or articially by pumping a well or
irrigating). In general, over a large surface area, groundwater surface is a
subdued replica of ground surface.
Many construction projects require the lowering of the natural land
surface to provide for foundations, basements, and other low level facilities.
Other projects such as tunnels and shafts require underground construction
of long, open tubes. Whenever such excavations go below groundwater
surface, they disrupt the existing ow patterns by creating a zone of low
pressure potential. Groundwater begins to ow radially toward and into the
excavation. The situation is further aggravated by the fact that construction

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procedures generally enlarge existing ssures and voids and create new ones
in the vicinity of the excavation.
Contractors anticipate inltration when the excavation is planned to
go below groundwater level and generally make provisions for diverting the
ow of water before it reaches the excavation or removing it before or after
it enters. Water problems during construction, which carry a cost penalty,
occur when the provisions to handle groundwater prove ineffective. Water
problems can range from nuisance value to actual retardation of the
construction schedule to complete shutdown.
Water problems may also occur after the completion of construction.
Seepage that may have been tolerable during construction may become
intolerable during facility operations. Post construction seepage may
increase to intolerable levels due to termination of construction seepage
control procedures. Unanticipated water problems may occur because the
structural elements cause long-term modication of surface drainage
patterns or subsurface seepage patterns. Unusual amounts of precipitation
may raise normal ground water levels. Occasionally, shrinkage cracks in,
and settlement of foundation elements may result in postconstruction
seepage problems.
The presence of unanticipated groundwater (either static or owing)
may lower the design value of bearing capacity. If higher values are used,
based on dry conditions, water must be kept permanently from the
foundation area. The presence of water in basement areas may prevent use
of such areas.
The contractor has at his or her disposal many eld procedures to
prevent seepage or to control it after it reaches intolerable amounts. Some of
these procedures are briey discussed in Sec. 1.2.



Modication implies a minor change in the properties of soil or rock,

while stabilization implies any change which renders the soil or rock
adequate for changed strength or permeability properties (or both) required
by eld construction. Generally, all modication procedures result in
increased stability for granular materials and most cohesive soils, but not
necessarily for rock formations. These terms are used interchangeably in this
For granular (non-cohesive) materials, modication always consists of
changing the volume of the soil voids, or replacing the void material, or
both. For cohesive materials, modication consists of mixing with stabilizers
and preloading to eliminate or reduce future settlements.

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Decreasing the void volume of a soil mass, when done slowly enough
to avoid pore pressure build-up, results in increased shear strength, which
increases bearing capacity and safety factor against plane failure. Replacing
the void uid with a solid material will decrease the formation permeability,
and may also add shear strength. (Under some special conditions, replacing
pore water with a weak grout may decrease the formation shear strength).
Field procedures to decrease the void volume include static and
dynamic compaction, pile driving and the use of surface and deep vibratory
equipment. Explosives have also been used for this purpose.
Ground water can be removed from a site by drainage ditches, by
pumping from sumps, and by wellpoints and wells.
Field methods to replace or modify the void uid include grouting
(both particulate and chemical), freezing, surface and deep mixing, jet piling
and slurry trenching. Compressed air may also be considered as a method of
changing the void uid from water to air.
This past decade has also seen the development of biological
stabilization methods, which add strength to a soil mass through the
growth of roots.


Everything we build, at some point during its construction, rests on soil or

rock. It is obvious that the soil or rock, for every specic case, must have
adequate properties to support whatever rests on it without structural
failure or deleterious settlement.
It is usually a straightforward design problem to determine the loads a
structures foundation transmits to its supporting soil or rock. It is also a
relatively straightforward problem to estimate the ability of the soil or rock
to withstand the foundation loads. However, while the foundation loads can
be determined to a high degree of accuracy, the estimation of soil and rock
properties which determine bearing capacity is subject to many sources of
While a full-scale eld loading test, properly performed and
interpreted, will reliably dene the foundation: soil interaction, such tests
are generally not feasible. Thus, the way a soil or rock mass responds to
being stressed is usually determined by previous experience in similar
conditions, by extrapolating the results of small load tests or by using
specic soil properties in various empirical formulae. These soil properties
are sometimes inferred from previous experience, but more often reect the
results of laboratory and eld tests on soil and rock samples.
Samples of soil from shallow depths can be obtained from holes or
pits. In granular soils, holes and pits will cave unless the side slopes are less

Copyright 2003 by Marcel Dekker, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

than 35 to 45 degrees. Therefore, taking samples in holes or pits becomes

economically unfeasible below depths of several feet.
In cohesive soils, walls of a pit may remain vertical for considerable
depth. However, below 5 to 6 feet personnel safety calls for bracing, making
deep pits uneconomical.
Samples scraped from the sides or bottom of holes and pits are
disturbed. That is, whatever structure and stratication the soil may have
had in nature has been destroyed by the sampling operation.
Hand augers of all kinds can be used to extract soil samples from holes
up to 20 feet and more. Motor driven augers can go much deeper. All such
samples are disturbed, and may even be mixed from different strata.
The usual method for obtaining samples at signicant depths below
the surface is to push or drive a pipe or tube into undisturbed soil at the
bottom of a drill hole. Of course, this process disturbs the soil, particularly
when the pipe is heavy walled. Many different kinds and sizes of samplers
are used, and the most common is shown in Figure 1.1. This sampler is
commonly called a split spoon. When used with the dimensions shown, and
hammered into the soil by a free falling, 140 pound weight, dropping 30
inches, this is the Standard Penetration Test (see ASTM Standard D.1586,

FIGURE 1.1 Split spoon sampler. (Reprinted with permission from The
Annual Book of ASTM Standards, copyright ASTM, 100 Bar Harbour Drive,
West Conshohocken, PA, 19428.)

Copyright 2003 by Marcel Dekker, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Standard Method for Penetration and Split Barrel Sampling of Soils). The
number of blows recorded per foot of penetration is used as a guide to other
soil properties. Of course, the samples obtained are disturbed.
The degree of disturbance caused by driving a sampling spoon
decreases as the spoon wall thickness decreases. The thinner the wall
thickness, however, the more tendency for the spoon to crumple under the
driving forces. For sampling granular soils, spoon wall thickness is generally
1/4 inch or more. For cohesive soils, tubing with walls as thin as 1/16 inch is
often used. Sampling spoons using such tubing are known as Shelby Tube or
Thin Wall Samplers. A typical design is shown in Figure 1.2 (see ASTM
Standard D-1587, Standard Practice for Thin-Walled Tube Geotechnical
Sampling of Soils).
Thin wall samplers are generally pushed into the soil rather than
driven. Even so, they still cause disturbance mostly adjacent to the tube

FIGURE 1.2 Thin-wall sampler. (Reprinted with permission from the Annual
Book of ASTM Standards, copyright ASTM, 100 Bar Harbour Drive, West
Conshohocken, PA, 19428.)

Copyright 2003 by Marcel Dekker, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

walls. If the outer 1/4 to 1/2 inch is discarded, what remains is considered an
undisturbed sample.
Samples of rock can only be obtained by coring, that is, by drilling
into a rock mass with a hollow drill bit. Bits are available in many sizes, with
the cutting edges made of tempered steel or of steel in which many tiny
industrial diamonds are imbedded. The solid portions of the rock cores
obtained are considered undisturbed, and representative of the properties
of the in-situ rock. The makeup of a rock sample is a function of the relation
between the sample size and the joint or fracture system, as shown in
Figure 1.3.

FIGURE 1.3 Intact or fractured rock samples, as a function of the relation

between sample size and fracture separation.

Copyright 2003 by Marcel Dekker, Inc. All Rights Reserved.



Soil properties are determined by tests made in the eld and in the
laboratory on what are assumed to be representative samples. Except for
density and related tests, all of the tests discussed in subsequent sections are
done on soils recovered by sampling in drill holes. Figure 1.4 shows two
possible soil proles as determined by drilling and sampling. In the
regular deposit on the left, all the strata are the same depth and thickness,
and each drill hole shows the same prole (a condition that doesnt occur
too often in the eld). In the erratic deposit on the right (a more usual
condition), each drill hole shows a different prole, and the horizontal
extent of the various strata has been estimated (read: guessed at). This
results in a plus or minus error of unknown magnitude, when, for example,
computing the volume and extent of compressible soils. While Figure 1.4 is
an illustrative drawing, actual proles in erratic deposits are similar, as
shown in Figure 1.5, plotted from a real eld investigation.
The closer the spacing of borings, the better the delineation of the soil
mass. However, economic considerations generally dictate the spacing of
borings to be similar to the guide values shown in Table 1.1.
Drill holes, of course, are continuous. Sampling, which is expensive, is
often done at specied intervals along the depth of the hole, such as every
ve feet. It can be seen that even for continuous sampling the actual volume
of the sample is a tiny, tiny part of the soil mass. For example, for borings
on a 50 foot square grid, each foot of depth of bore hole represents 2500
cubic feet of soil. If a 12-inch long sample is taken in a 2 1/2-inch diameter


Regular and erratic soil deposits.

Copyright 2003 by Marcel Dekker, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


Erratic deposits plotted from eld borings.

tube, the sample volume is about 1/30 cubic foot. Thus, the sample
represents a volume of soil about 75,000 times larger than itself. If, in the
laboratory, a consolidation test is performed on a one-inch thickness of the
sample, then the test sample is assumed to reasonably accurately represent a
volume of soil almost a million times greater than itself. What chance is

Copyright 2003 by Marcel Dekker, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


Typical Spacing of Borings in Construction Practice

Type of structure
or project

Spacing of
borings, ft

One-story buildings


Multistory buildings


Highways (subgrade)
Earth dams


Borrow pits I


Depth of borings
20 to 30 ft below foundation level,
with at least one deep boring to
search for hidden weak deposits
For a heavily loaded structure, deep
boring should go to a depth
approximately 2 times width of
structure or rock, whichever comes
3 to 5 ft min below subgrade
40 to 50 ft min or 10 ft into sound rock,
whichever comes rst
10 to 20 ft

there that the sample is 100% representative of the eld soil mass? Would a
sample taken ve feet away give the same results? Twenty feet away?
This discussion points out the fallacy of reporting lab test data to more
than two or three signicant gures, and indicates that test results should be
considered guidelines, not gospel.
The various tests performed on soils and their purposes in design are
shown in Table 1.2.
Rock cores recovered from sampling a homogeneous formation or
stratum are to a high degree representative of solid rock properties (rock
strata tend to be more homogeneous than soil strata). Many different tests
are performed on rock samples for various purposes. However, the only
rock property that can be modied is mass porosity or permeability. While
materials such as siltstone and sandstone may have measurable overall
porosities and permeabilities, the porosity and permeability of strong, solid
rock such as granite depends almost entirely on rock fractures. The only
feasible method of permanent rock mass modication is grouting.
Temporary modication can be made by freezing.



A safety factor can be dened as the ratio of stress that would cause failure
divided by the actual applied stress. Everything has a safety factor, which if
exceeded would cause failure.

Copyright 2003 by Marcel Dekker, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


Soil Tests and Their Uses

Type of test

Use of data

Specic gravity of solids

Necessary for hydrometer analysis,

void ratio, and density calculations

Mechanical analysis

Soil classication, estimate frost

susceptibility, compaction
characteristics, shear strength,

Atterberg limits
Liquid limit
Plastic limit
Shrinkage limit

Soil classication, preliminary

indication of behavior such as
sensitivity of clays to loss of
strength on remolding, and
estimate of compressibility of
normally loaded clays

Water content

Correlation with compressibility,

compaction, and strength

Constant head
Falling head

Flow problems, such as ow nets

and drainage


Settlement prediction

Shear tests
Direct shear
Unconned compression

Investigation of stability of
foundations, slopes, retaining

Laboratory vane

Same as above


Specications for placing of ll

Field density

Control of placing of ll

California bearing ratio

Design criteria for exible


Ignition test

Loss of weight by ignition identies

organic materials

Treatment with hydrochloric acid

Indicates presence of calcium


Safety factors for foundations of structures are usually in the range of

two to three. These values reect to some extent the uncertainty in
determining soil properties, but also reect the fact that economically
feasible structures can be built using those values. This is not true for earth

Copyright 2003 by Marcel Dekker, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

dams and many other soil slopes. An earth dam designed with slopes whose
safety factor is 2.5 would be nancially unbuildable.
Safety factors for foundations can be determined with reasonable
accuracy (provided the soil properties have been determined with reasonable
accuracy). For projects involving soil modication methods such as freezing
and grouting, it is difcult to arrive at a value for safety factor with
reasonable condence, due to the uncertainty of the spread of freezing or
grout, as well as the contribution these methods make to strength. Freezing
and grouting projects often are designed on the basis of empirical data from
previous experience.
Modication is often done in the eld to increase an existing safety
factor (known to be more than one because failure has not occurred, but
presumed to be inadequate for proposed new loads). After the modication
work and the increased loading, assume failure does not occur. Was the
work successful? Suppose the existing safety factor was three, and with
modication it is now four. The modication work was successful, but was it
necessary? Was the money it cost wasted?
Unfortunately, in many cases the only clear determination if
modication was successful and needed is when a failure occurs. Then
you know the work was unsuccessful.
There are many factors which contribute to the accuracy with which a
safety factor may be determined. The most important is the accuracy of the
soil formation properties used in the computation for safety factor. In fact,
it is more realistic to consider the computed value as an estimated value
rather than a very accurate one. Although mathematical attempts have been
made to determine the range of error in an estimated safety factor, the
proposed equations still depend upon an estimate of formation properties.
In the end we must still rely heavily on engineering judgment.



Nothing that we build will last forever. It follows, therefore, that every
structure we build has a nite life (this may be due to actual deterioration of
the structure or because of technical obsolescence). It further follows that
materials and processes used to build structures should last as long as the
structures themselves.
Until recently there hadnt been questions about the permanency of
building materials. The earliest ones in use, stone and wood, outlasted the
builders, and in the case of stone outlasted generations. Later materials such
as metals and concrete have now been in use for centuries, and are thought
of as permanent.

Copyright 2003 by Marcel Dekker, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The permanence of the methods used for soil stabilization never came
into question for two reasons: 1) many of the methods were needed only
during the construction phase, and 2) the materials used (such as cement and
lime) were considered permanent.
The rst use of cement as a grouting material was about 160 years ago,
and never raised any questions about permanence because of the past
history of the use of concrete. The rst use of chemical grout (sodium
silicate, about 120 years ago) left no record of questions about its
permanence (although there certainly must have been some) and there are
no questions now.
The issue of permanence did not come into sharp perspective until the
1950s, with the proliferation of organic materials for plastics and chemical
grouts. There was concern that these materials themselves might deteriorate,
or that dissolved chemicals in groundwater might have deleterious effects.
Because of these considerations, some Federal Agencies, in the 1950s and
1960s, included requirements in their job specications that all materials
used have a history of 50 years of successful eld applications. Only now has
one of those materials, acrylamide, approached that goal. Nonetheless,
many grouting materials developed after acrylamide were used in the eld
immediately upon their availability, generally with success.
The number 50, used by the Federal Agencies, is arbitrary and based
on an estimated life of the project. Project life is a reasonable measure of
performance, and is also a reasonable denition for permanence of chemical
grouts. The number 50 for project life seemed reasonably all-inclusive
several decades ago. Now, however, with consideration of using containment barriers for radioactive wastes, it is necessary to think of longer life
periods, and to test the proposed barrier materials for resistance to
deterioration caused by radiation. Because some radioactives have half-lives
in centuries and millennia, there has been discussion in technical meetings of
developing grouts which would last for 1,000 years. However, it is difcult
to think that with the exponential growth of technological advancement, we
will not have found far better ways to deal with radioactive wastes in much
less than 1,000 years.
The denition of permanence used in this book will refer to a material
whose required properties last for the life of the project in which it was used.


Despite the best efforts made to prevent them, failures do occur. These can
be due to poor design, defective materials, faulty construction, or many
other reasons. Catastrophic failures, such as the collapse of a structure, can
be readily recognized. The reasons for such failures may be difcult to ferret

Copyright 2003 by Marcel Dekker, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

out, and are sometimes left to a group of non-technical people (a jury) to

Non-catastrophic failures, such as structural settlements which
endanger utility lines, may be difcult to recognize or categorize as a
failure. What appears to be a failure to an owner may not be considered a
failure by a contractor. Such opinion differences can also lead to legal
Particularly in soil stabilization contracts where success or failure of a
job may be borderline, it is imperative that job specications clearly
delineate the future performance that both the owner and the contractor
agree upon as representing either success or failure. When work is being
done primarily to increase a safety factor, it is equally important that the
specications detail methods of evaluating the work done.


As urban and industrial expansion continue, areas that were considered

unsuitable or marginal are being used for foundations, transportation
avenues, and public works. These areas must be treated to improve the
properties of existing soils. Methods of modifying and stabilizing soils are
selected and specied on an individual case basis. In order to avoid postconstruction legal problems, job specications should include unambiguous
criteria for measuring the adequacy of work and use performance.


1. Geotechnical Special Publication Number 113, Foundations and Ground

Improvement, ASCE, June 9, 2001.
2. Soft Ground Improvement, ASCE, 1996.
3. Geotechnical Special Publication Number 81, Soft Improvement for Big Digs,
ASCE, October 18, 1998.


Summarize a recent article from a technical publication which
describes a project that required soil stabilization. Were permanence
or safety factor mentioned in the article? Were parts of the technical
description too vague to be of help in doing similar work? In what
areas would you have liked to see more detailed data?

Copyright 2003 by Marcel Dekker, Inc. All Rights Reserved.