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Piling, Nailing, and Mixing



Driving piles is not generally thought of as a soil stabilization procedure,

and indeed piles are driven primarily to support loads that cannot be safely
carried at or near the surface. With few exceptions, piles are not driven for
the major purpose of stabilizing soils. Nonetheless, driving piles into
granular deposits will densify those deposits, and make them more capable
of supporting pile loads. This is due to a combination of lateral
displacement and vibration.
If the pile is a hollow tube, tted with a bottom plate that stays
in place when the pile is withdrawn, sand can be added and compacted
during withdrawal, creating a sand pile capable of carrying a signicant
load. Well graded gravel or crushed stone may also be used in place of
Sand piles may also be created in cohesive soils, but do not densify
the formation as the piles are placed. Remolding can occur, which over a
short period of time may increase the adhesion to the pile above the
cohesion value. The sand piles will reduce the drainage paths for consolidation to take place. In a loaded soil mass, the resulting settlement may result
in downdrag on the piles, decreasing their capacity to carry structural

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The actual load carrying capacity of a sand pile is much less than that
of a similar size concrete pile. The surest way to determine capacity is by
eld load tests.
Minipiles, those smaller in diameter than about 10 inches, function the
same as larger piles. They are particularly suited in places where operating
headroom is low, and where conventional pile driving equipment will not t.
They, too, will densify granular deposits as they are driven. However, their
small cross sectional area makes them unsuitable for (load bearing) sand
piles. The smaller sizes, however, are lled with uncompacted, narrowly
graded sand in clay deposits, to create sand drains.



Soil nailing is similar to ground anchors or tiebacks in that a steel rod is

grouted into a pre-drilled hole. There are, however, several important
differences. Nails are considerably smaller and shorter than anchors, and
while anchors are pre-stressed after placement, nails are not (with few
exceptions in which a very small pre-stress is applied), and do not pick up
load until the soil mass deforms. Nails, like anchors, add shear resistance to
the soil mass.
Soil nailing dates back to the early seventies, a process developed in
Europe for stabilizing natural slopes. Originally, the nails (which were and
still are steel reinforcing bars) were driven directly into the soil without predrilling. This method is still in use, particularly when pre-drilled holes will
not stay open. In some instances augers have been drilled into place,
avoiding the problem of caving drill holes. Recent experiments have
indicated that the effectiveness of a nail is directly related to its pull-out
resistance. Therefore augers, while more costly than plain or deformed steel
bars, are also more effective. Currently, the major use of nailing is to
stabilize man-made slopes, which occur as excavation proceeds for belowground structures.
Typically, soil nailing is done as the excavation progresses, usually in
ve-foot vertical strips (or less, if soil conditions indicate), and in a length
consistent with a days work. Wire mesh is placed on the exposed soil face
and shot crete is applied. Nail holes are then drilled to form a square grid
with four or ve foot spacing. The holes slant downward, up to 208 from the
horizontal. Nail lengths are designed to extend beyond the possible failure
plane for unreinforced soil, usually 75 to 100% of the slope height.
Reinforcing bars are placed in the holes, kept centered by plastic spacers.
The nal step is to grout the annulus with good quality cement.

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



Nailing is done to protect slopes as excavation proceedsthat is, it is a

process that works from the top down. In contrast, when ll is placed to
raise an area, the slope is created from the bottom up. For high lls, it may
be necessary to reinforce the soil in order to prevent a slope failure. This
may be done with geotextile sheets, which are placed horizontally to cover
the entire ll surface at vertical intervals of several feet. The geotextile sheets
add shear resistance to possible slip or failure planes. In order to be
effective, the sheets must extend a signicant distance beyond the failure
planes for unreinforced soil. Rigorous design procedures are not yet
available, and the parameters for eld use are selected on the basis of past
eld experience.



The term mixing is applied to the addition of foreign materials intimately

intermingled with the soil particles (as opposed to nails or sheets which are
added at wide intervals to the soil mass). The earliest mixing was probably
done in antiquity, when sand or stones were thrown into mud to make a
more supportive medium. Modern practice uses specialized equipment to
apportion and mix a wide variety of additives into existing soil formations.
Most mixing procedures are done to stabilize and improve soils at shallow
depths. In the past several decades, however, effective equipment and
procedures have been developed to treat soils to substantial depths. These
are discussed in the following section.
Surface treatments are economically effective to depths up to 18
inches. The most common additive is Portland cement. When added to
saturated sands, the cement hydrates and forms a strong material referred to
as soil-cement. If the soil is not saturated, it may be necessary to add water
to insure full hydration of the cement. After mixing, the soil cement is
compacted and graded and left to cure. The process works best with
granular materials. Seldom are concrete strengths approached. The presence
of silt and clay in the soil reduce the nal strength, and the process obviously
cant be controlled as closely as making concrete. Nonetheless, soil cement
generally provides a suitable wearing surface for light trafc and uses such
as warehouse oors, bike paths, etc.
The desirable properties for the nal pavement are determined by
moisture-density, freeze-thaw, wet-dry, and strength tests in the laboratory,
using the unmodied in-situ soil. Generally, the freeze-thaw and wet-dry
tests are done rst, to determine the amount of cement to be used. This
value is then used for the moisture-density tests. Cement contents can vary

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

between three and 15%, with the lower values for coarser granular materials,
the intermediate values for ne, granular materials, and the higher values for
soils containing organic materials and clays.
Typically, the cement is spread on the soil surface, then thoroughly
mixed to the design depth. Next, the required amount of water is added, and
mixing continues until a homogeneous, uniform mixture is attained. Mixing
continues until all of the mixture passes a 1/2 inch sieve. Many specs also
require 80% of the mixture to pass a No. 4 sieve. Compaction to the values
determined by the moisture-density tests and grading complete the work.
Soil-cement has its initial set in a matter of hours, then cures to its nal
strength over a period of several weeks. It may be necessary to cover or wet
the surface periodically to promote proper curing. Soil-cement mixtures can
attain signicant strengths, as shown in Figure 6.1, where the road surface
has bridged over a washout.
Cohesive materials, particularly clays, are more effectively stabilized
by the addition of hydrated lime. Best results are obtained with clays of
medium to high plasticity. The lime supplies calcium cations, which replace
the cations on the clay minerals, thus changing the mineralogy to a material
with more desirable engineering characteristics. The chemical reaction
continues for a long time, even years, as long as lime is present to keep the
pH above 10.
As with cement, mix design is determined by laboratory tests, and inplace mixing is done in the eld to add the appropriate amount of lime,


Bridging action of soil-cement road surface.

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

which will generally fall in the three to eight percent range. (Lime may be
spread either dry, or as a slurry). Thorough mixing and pulverization must
be done to combine the lime and the soil intimately. Mixing follows
immediately after spreading, to reduce the soil clods to less than two inch
size. The material is then lightly compacted, and left to cure for several days
(but no longer than a week). Final mixing is then done to reduce all of the
clods to less than one inch, with specs often calling for as much as 60%
passing the No. 4 sieve. Final compaction follows, and is necessary for
maximum development of strength and durability. Curing is also important,
and eld tests can be used to measure the rate of cure, so that loads are not
applied prematurely.


Many distinct methods have been developed for introducing cementitious

materials into soils at substantial depths below the surface. All of these
methods are covered by the generic name deep mixing.
The original concept dates back to 19541956, when a patent led by
Intrusion-Prepakt (a company no longer in existence) described the use of a
single auger to create a mixed-in-place pile. The results of one of the very
early eld projects is shown in Figure 6.2. The method was used only
occasionally in the US, probably due to equipment limitations, but was
developed further in Japan. Since 1967, both Japan and Scandinavia
mounted intense research efforts, and the methods developed have been
widely used in both those geographical areas. Widespread use in the US
began after 1980.
Current construction practice produces solid, overlapping piles, as
shown in Figure 6.3.
Deep mixing is an in situ soil treatment which enhances the
engineering properties of existing soil strata in well dened zones such as
columns and panels. Virtually all soil deposits can be treated, except for
those which contain rocks or boulders, or other debris which prohibit
penetration by the drilling and mixing tools. Materials commonly mixed
with the soil include cement, lime, yash, and bentonite. Different
equipment permits the additives to be placed as a slurry (wet), or as dry
powders. Compared to the early work, currently achieved mixed-in-place
piles are much larger, more uniform, and placed with much greater
Wet mixing is generally done with a cement slurry, placed at the
bottom of a hollow auger stem as the auger is withdrawn. Paddles, attached
just above the auger bottom, are the major mixing devices. Mixing
equipment takes many forms, and is often specially designed for a specic

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


Earliest eld work with deep soil mixing.

site. One such mixing tool is shown in Figure 6.4. These tools can create
stabilized columns as much as ve to six feet in diameter, to depths over 100
feet. Typically, augers rotate in the 30 to 40 rpm range, and can penetrate as
rapidly as three feet per minute. The withdrawal rate is much slower, to
insure thorough mixing, since the success of the work depends upon the
mixing process. The drilling rigs to do deep soil mixing will carry and use
simultaneously as many as four augers, to create stabilized panels quickly
and efciently, as shown in Figure 6.3.
Stabilization materials can also be placed as dry powders. Originally,
lime was used in cohesive deposits, based on its successful use for surface
stabilization. Recent research has indicated, however, that better results are
obtained over a wide range of soils with a cement/lime mixture, with the
lime in the range of 20 to 25% of the mixture. Dry powders are placed by air
pressure, through special auger tips considerably smaller than those used for
slurry injection. Dry placement has obvious advantages in the Scandinavian

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

FIGURE 6.3 Barrier wall constructed by deep soil mixing, using a limecement slurry. (Courtesy of Underpinning and Foundation, SKANSKA,
Maspeth, NY.)

countries, where much construction is done where temperatures are below

freezing. Since the dry materials placed must take reaction water from the
formation, it may be necessary to add water to the formation before placing
the dry mix.
The design of the grout used in the wet mixing process is related to the
properties of the in situ soils, the properties desired in the nished product,
and to economic considerations. It is determined with the aid of laboratory

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

FIGURE 6.4 Mixing tool for deep soil work. (Bruce, D.A., The Return of Deep
Soil Mixing, Civil Engineering, Dec. 1996, pp 4446. Reproduced by
permission of ASCE, Resion, VA.)

tests for strength, density and permeability. In the largest job done to date in
the US (The Boston Central Artery Tunnel, 1998), the slurry was a mixture
of cement and water of about a three to one ratio. Mixed with local deposits
(Boston blue clay and organic silts), the treated soil met the specications of
300 psi in unconned compression.



Piles which are driven to support loads can also densify loose granular
deposits. This will increase the frictional resistance and improve the pile load
capacity. In cohesive soils, remolding and consequent stiffening may also
increase frictional resistance. If the soil is under-consolidated, however, and
the pile driving signicantly shortens the drainage paths, downdrag may
develop, reducing the pile capacity to carry structural loads.
Hollow tubes driven into cohesive soils are lled with loose, narrowly
graded sand to make sand drains. If such tubes are lled with well graded
compacted sand, sand piles result, capable of carrying structural loads.
Compacted gravel and crushed stone may also be used for this purpose.

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

Minipiles function similarly to larger piles, and are of major use in

places where headroom is limited, and large equipment cant be
accommodated. Their small cross-sectional area, however, makes them
unsuitable for sand piles.
Soil nails are similar to ground anchors, but on a much smaller scale,
and they are not pretensioned. Nails are installed on a grid from the top
down, as a slope results from excavation. Reinforced ll is a method of
supporting a slope as it is being constructed, from the bottom up. Geotextile
sheets are applied over the entire ll on layers several feet apart. Like nails,
the sheets add shear resistance to the soil mass.
Mixing solid materials into weak or unsupportive soils is one of the
oldest methods of soil improvement. Although recent research shows
promise for the use of short inorganic bers, all current eld work is done
with cementitious materials, mainly cement for granular deposits and lime
for cohesive soils. Non-cementing materials such as bentonite and yash are
often used in conjunction with cement and lime. Procedures for design and
construction of stabilized surface deposits are detailed in industry standards.
In the last half century, the advent of heavy, sophisticated drilling
equipment has permitted materials to be added to soils to form columns
and panels more than 100 feet deep. The various techniques to do this are
called deep mixing, and construction use is widespread and growing.



1. Subhahit, N. et al., Generalized Procedure for Optimum Design of Nailed Soil

Slopes, International Journal for Numerical and Analytic Methods In
Geomechanics, V19, #6, pp 437442, June 1995.
2. ORourke, T.D. and C.J. ODonnell, Field Behavior of Excavation Stabilized
by Deep Soil Mixing, Journal of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental
Engineering, V123, #6, June 1997, NY.
3. Walker, Andrew D., DSM Saves the DAM, Civil Engineering, December
1994, pp 4851, NY.
4. Bruce, Donald A., The Return of Deep Soil Mixing, Civil Engineering,
December, 1996, pp 4446, NY.
5. Bruce, D.A., M.E.C. Bruce and A.F. DiMillio, Deep Mixing Method: A
Global Perspective, Civil Engineering, December, 1998, pp 3841, NY.
6. Porbaha, A., K. Zen and M. Kobayashi, Deep Mixing Technology for
Liquifaction Mitigation, Journal of Infrastructure Systems, pp 2135 ASCE,
March, 1999.
7. Bruce, Donald A., Al F. DeMillio, and Ilan Juran, A Primer on Micropiles,
Civil Engineering, Dec. 1995, pp 5154, ASCE, NY.
8. Ueblacker, Gernot, On Solid Ground, Civil Engineering, Feb. 1997, pp 12A
16A, ASCE, NY.

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

9. Mitchell, Carole L.B., William J. Perkins, and Thomas M. Gurtowski, Seattle

Solutions, Civil Engineering, Dec. 1999, pp 5457, ASCE, NY.
10. Haider, Tarek F., Michael J. Byle, and Richard E. Horvath, Dam Within a
Dam, Civil Engineering, November 2001, pp 5661, ASCE, Reston, VA.
11. Esrig, Melvin I. and Peter E. MacKenna, Lime Cement Column Ground
Stabilization For 115 in Salt Lake City, 34th Annual Symposium on
Engineering Geology and Geotechnical Engineering, April 1999, Utah State
Univ. Logan, Utah.
12. Rathmayer, H., Deep Mixing Methods for Soft Subsoil Improvement in the
Nordic Countries, Proceedings 2nd International Conference on Ground
Improvement Geosystems, Tokyo, Japan, May, 1996.

Internet: Specs/99-04-23.pdf



How do nails differ from tie backs and ground anchors?

Why would minipiles be used instead of larger piles?
Describe dry soil mixing, and the materials and equipment used.
Fibers have been used to reinforce soils. Find a recent reference.

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