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Evaluation of Capacity of Rock Foundation Sockets

Kulhawy, Fred H.
Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, USA

Prakoso, Widjojo A.
University of Indonesia, Depok, Indonesia

Akbas, Sami O.
Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, USA
Copyright 2005, ARMA, American Rock Mechanics Association
This paper was prepared for presentation at Alaska Rocks 2005, The 40th U.S. Symposium on Rock Mechanics (USRMS): Rock Mechanics for Energy, Mineral and Infrastructure
Development in the Northern Regions, held in Anchorage, Alaska, June 25-29, 2005.
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as presented, have not been reviewed by ARMA/USRMS and are subject to correction by the author(s). The material, as presented, does not necessarily reflect any position of USRMS,
ARMA, their officers, or members. Electronic reproduction, distribution, or storage of any part of this paper for commercial purposes without the written consent of ARMA is prohibited.
Permission to reproduce in print is restricted to an abstract of not more than 300 words; illustrations may not be copied. The abstract must contain conspicuous acknowledgement of where
and by whom the paper was presented.

ABSTRACT: Drilled foundations often are socketed into rock to increase the foundation capacity. However, procedures to
quantify the side resistance capacity of sockets vary considerably. This paper reviews many of the proposed methods to predict
this capacity and critically assesses them. One method then is recommended, based on the currently available data. Statistics for
this method are presented, and design implications are noted.

Drilled shafts are a common foundation selection
for all types of structures. When the structure loads
are relatively large or where the soil is of relatively
poor quality, the shafts often are drilled through the
soil to the underlying rock mass. These shafts then
could be founded or seated on the surface of the
rock mass, or they could be drilled into the rock
mass to create a rock socket, as shown in Figure 1.
In this figure, the load or stress applied at the butt is
supported by the socket through both tip and side
resistances, assuming for illustration that the soil is
non-contributory. How the loads are distributed
between the tip and side is a function of the loading
magnitude, problem geometry, elastic properties of
the rock mass and shaft concrete, ultimate bearing
capacity of the tip, and the side resistance of the
socket. A complete discussion of all of these issues
is well beyond the scope of this paper. Herein the
focus is on the socket side resistance.
In this paper, the basics of socket side resistance are
described first. Then early approaches to evaluating
sockets are discussed briefly. Following then are
discussions of pertinent papers that trace the evolution of methods to evaluate socket side resistance,
leading to the most current thoughts on the subject.

Fig. 1. Illustrative rock socket.

The paper concludes with final recommendations

for use in design.
In early literature on the subject, the socket side
resistance was commonly called the socket bond or
the bond stress, using the common analogy of bond
between concrete and reinforcing bars. This analogy
is useful conceptually, but it is not strictly correct
and it negatively influenced some later developments, as will be discussed.

Examination of earlier foundations texts indicates a

relative lack of sophistication in addressing rock
socket design, although it is frequently mentioned
that load tests can and should be done because of
this lack of knowledge.
In the 1961 Chellis text [1], there is an illustration
and discussion of a test method for rock bond. But
he also states that, on work designed and built to
date, a bond stress of 200 psi (1.38 MN/m2) has
been used on the socket wall. Considering his calculation example, this value likely comes from 0.05
times f 'c, for 4,000 psi (27.6 MN/m2) concrete.
In his 1962 text, Teng [2] differentiates between
hard and soft rocks. In hard rock, he suggests taking
the side resistance as the bond value between concrete and reinforcing bars. In soft rock, he says the
side resistance "is governed by the shear strength of
the rock which must be determined by test of rock
In their 1972 text, Woodward, et al. [3] stress that
strength reduction factors () have not been developed for rock and the side resistance can only be
determined from load tests. They also note, from a
sampling of typical design practice, that the side
resistance is seldom more than 1/5 or less than 1/10
the allowable tip resistance. Values they tabulated
from practice were 7.5 tsf (104 psi or 720 kN/m2),
except in one locale where values to 250 psi (1.72
MN/m2) were used. They further noted that, in some
areas of practice, the side resistance in relatively
strong and sound rock is considered to be controlled
by the strength of the shaft concrete, using 0.04 to
0.05 f 'c but not exceeding 200 psi (1.38 MN/m2).
In their 1974 text, Peck, et al. [4] do not discuss the
design of rock sockets.
It is clear that, as of the mid-1970s, our collective
knowledge of the behavior of rock sockets was limited, and our ability to predict the side resistance
was rudimentary.
Figure 2 depicts the generalized load-displacement
behavior of drilled shafts under axial load. This
general pattern holds in both soil [5] and rock [6],
as shown in many load tests that were carefully conducted and well-documented. There is essentially a
linear response from the origin to L1, followed by a
nonlinear transition region to L2, after which there
is a final linear region. In rock masses, these

Fig. 2. Generalized load-displacement behavior [5, 6]

regions correspond to initial linear elastic behavior,

followed by bond breakage and progressive slip,
and then full frictional slip with dilation. The same
general pattern holds for both compression and uplift tests, although the relative sizes and importance
of the regions differ somewhat. In all cases, the
occurrence of a clearly defined peak to the curve is
With nonlinear curves such as these, there is always
a major question about how to define the foundation
"capacity" for subsequent design use. Examination
of the literature [5] reveals at least 41 different
methods for the interpretation of axial load tests,
including displacement limits (absolute and percent
of diameter), graphical constructions, and mathematical functions. These also reflect a mix of what
actually are both ultimate limit state and serviceability limit state criteria.
Our detailed studies [5, 7, and many others] indicate
that a consistent and reasonable method for defining
the "interpreted failure load" is to use QL2, which is
the load at L2. The L1 and L2 points are determined
graphically from a plot at a scale similar to that of
Figure 2. [Note that L1 represents the "elastic
limit".] The QL2 value always follows the nonlinearity, sometimes represents the actual curve peak
where there is little or no dilation, and can be evaluated from virtually all quality test data.
Once the "capacity" is defined, then the side resistance (QsL2) can be evaluated from measurements
that separate the tip and side resistances in compression tests of full sockets. In uplift tests, and in
compression tests with a void or frangible material
beneath the tip (i.e., shear tests), the evaluation is

straightforward and only requires consideration of

the shaft weight.
Using this side resistance and the actual as-built
socket side area (As), the average or unit side resistance (f) can be computed as follows:
f = QsL2 / As


This value then is most often compared to one of

the simpler rock material indices, such as the uniaxial compressive strength (qu). The qu tests should
all be done in accordance with proper test procedures, such as those given by ASTM, ISRM , or
others. Estimating qu from simpler tests such as
point load index, Schmidt hammer, or others, is
inappropriate. Strictly speaking, any comparison
also should be with the average qu over the depth of
the socket.
Most of the studies conducted to date have not met
these criteria, based on the documentation presented
or stated. This statement is not intended to fault the
authors, who undoubtedly presented the best information they could. It is intended to point out that
we are frequently dealing with imperfect and sometimes poor data, and therefore our expectations
should be tempered acccordingly.

4.2. Horvath, 1978

The first systematic attempt to assess the socket side
resistance was by Horvath [9] and was subsequently
described by Horvath and Kenney [10]. Their database included large and small scale drilled shafts in
the field, rock anchors in the field, and small scale
shafts in the laboratory, with multiple tests at some
sites. Of the 87 field tests reported [10], 75 were in
sedimentary rock (with 50 in the shale family).
Apparently, the capacity was defined as the maximum applied test load, while qu was reported as
given in the original source or was estimated. They
also suggested that the weaker of the concrete or
rock would control the side resistance, so therefore
their property range was for the lesser of f 'c / pa or
qu / pa between 1 and 400. It should be noted that
no other researcher has adopted this convention.
All others use qu /pa. Horvath [9] plotted his data as
shown in Figure 3.


Beginning in the mid-1970s, a number of models
were proposed to compute the socket side resistance. To compare these models, they have been rewritten in consistent form as follows:
f / pa = C (qu / pa)n


in which pa = atmospheric pressure in the desired

units (1 atm = 1.058 tsf = 101.3 kN/m2 = 14.7 psi)
to make the relationships dimensionless, C = constant, and n = exponent.
4.1. Rosenberg and Journeaux, 1976
Perhaps the first relationship for socket side resistance was given by Rosenberg and Journeaux [8].
They presented a relationship between f and qu that
can be approximated by:
f / pa = 1.09 (qu / pa)0.52


Unfortunately, their plot was based on only six data

points, with qu / pa between 5 and 340. Of these six
points, two were not conducted to failure, and two
only had estimated qu values. There were no apparent consistencies in evaluating the capacity and qu.

Fig. 3. Bond strength for shafts and anchors from Horvath [9]

The regression equation given by Horvath [9] for all

of his data is as follows (f = bond):
f / pa = 1.04 (lesser of f'c / pa or qu / pa)0.5


For larger field scale drilled shafts (B > 400 mm),

Horvath and Kenney [10] gave the following:
f / pa = 0.65 to 0.78 (lesser of f'c / pa or qu / pa)0.5(5)
and then recommended using C = 0.65.
Horvath, et al. [11] subsequently discussed the
improvement of shaft capacity by roughening the
socket. This technique can increase the capacity
significantly in softer rock. However, a detailed
discussion on quantifying roughness effects is
beyond the scope of this paper.
4.3. Meigh and Wolski, 1979
Meigh and Wolski [12] reviewed the Rosenberg and
Journeaux and the Horvath and Kenney relationships, and they compared them to some 13 drilled

shaft tests. Of these 13 tests, several were used in

the prior relationships, and about half were considered to have "uncertain" data. The range of qu / pa
was from 2 to 200. They suggested a lower bound
for weak rock (qu / pa = 7 to 125) that can be approximated as follows:
f / pa = 0.55 (qu / pa)0.6


For qu / pa between 4 and 7, they recommended a

constant lower bound at f = 0.25 qu.
4.4. Williams, et al., 1980
Williams, et al. [13] focused on some 18 field load
tests they conducted at four sites in Melbourne
mudstone. They supplemented their data with
results of some 18 tests by others at several sites in
the same mudstone and in Sydney shale. The range
of qu / pa was from 5 to 800. For their tests, they
achieved peak values of side resistance from the
load-displacement curves. However, the qu values
were determined from correlations between the insitu water content and the drained strength parameters.
The resulting relationship they developed can be
approximated by:
f / pa = 1.84 (qu / pa)0.37


They also addressed many issues of socket roughness.

4.5. Rowe and Armitage, 1984
Another comprehensive summary was done by
Rowe and Armitage [14, 15], with more than 80
tests from over 20 sites. The range of qu / pa was
from over 4 to under 400. Foundation capacity was
largely as defined by the original authors, as was the
rock strength. The resulting data plot is given in
Figure 4, which also shows that a substantial percentage of the tests did not reach failure. From
these data, the following suggested correlation was
given (f = max):
f / pa = 1.42 (qu / pa)0.50

Fig. 4. Side resistance from Rowe and Armitage [14]

They also conducted a more sophisticated

evaluation of 12 of the field load tests, with the
results shown in Figure 5. Basically these analyses
confirmed Eq. (8) for the suggested correlation and
Eq. (9) for the lower bound.


They further suggested a higher value of C for

roughened sockets.
4.6. Carter and Kulhawy, 1988
Carter and Kulhawy [6, 16, 17] examined the Rowe
and Armitage data further and noted that there is an
approximate lower bound to these data that is given
conveniently by:
f / pa = 0.63 (qu / pa)0.50

Fig. 5. Load test evaluations by Carter and Kulhawy [6, 17]

After examination of these data, they also made two

important design check recommendations. First,
values of f in excess of 0.15 qu, over the full range
of expected values, should be used only when they
are demonstrated to be reasonable by a load test,
local experience, or adequate in-situ testing. And
second, after obtaining the design value of f, typically from Eq. (8), and applying a factor of safety to
this value, a check should be made against the concrete bond value of 0.05 f 'c. The lower value should
be used unless load test data show otherwise.
4.7. Reese and O'Neill, 1988 and 1999
Reese and O'Neill [18] used some of the relationships described previously and have suggested
design recommendations based on them for geomaterials they define as rock, with qu / pa > 17.
For qu / pa > 19, they recommend the Horvath and
Kenney Eq. (8) with C = 0.65. This recommendation is very conservative since others have shown
this to be a lower bound value.
For qu / pa from 17 to 19, they recommend taking
the Carter and Kulhawy design check of f versus
0.15 qu and turning it into a design recommendation
to evaluate f = 0.15 qu. This unintended usage
actually gives values that are even lower than the
lower bound by Meigh and Wolski.
In 1999, O'Neill and Reese [19] revised the above
recommendations. Rock is now defined by qu / pa >
50, and they still recommend the Horvath and
Kenney Eq. (8) with C = 0.65.
4.8. Kulhawy and Phoon, 1993
Kulhawy and Phoon [20] used the database developed by Rowe and Armitage [14], as described previously, and a database for drilled shafts in Florida
limerocks developed by Bloomquist and Townsend
[21] and McVay et al. [22]. For the Florida data,
there were 47 tests from 23 sites. These data had
essentially the same limitations as the other data.
Figure 6 shows these integrated results, along with
those for shafts in clay. Figure 6a shows all of the
data, and Figure 6b shows the data averaged per
site. The second case essentially eliminates the site
bias caused by multiple tests at one site. In both of
these figures, there are regression lines shown (for
a, r2 = 0.46 and standard deviation = 0.25, and for b,
r2 = 0.71 and standard deviation = 0.17).

Fig. 6. Side resistances by Kulhawy and Phoon [20]

These results were the first to demonstrate the importance of eliminating site bias and were among
the few to use regression analyses for ther data.
The resulting interpretation of the data suggested
using the Rowe and Armitage Eq. (8), which is
appropriate since these data dominate.
4.9. Zhang and Einstein, 1998, 1999
Zhang and Einstein [23, 24] also looked at the
available data and proposed relationships. Their
initial assessment [23] suggested the following:
f / pa = 1.26 (qu / pa)0.50


However, their subsequent assessment [24] gave the

same as the Carter and Kulhawy lower bound, given
by Eq. (9), with C = 0.63, which is 1/2 Eq. (10).
4.10. Prakoso, 2002
More recently, Prakoso [25] re-examined the data
available and attempted to evaluate them in a more
consistent manner. First, the only data used were
those that had load-displacement curves to failure
so that the "interpreted failure load" could be determined for all the data. Therefore, at least all the
load test "capacities" were evaluated in a consistent

manner. However, it was not possible to reevaluate the qu data to ensure consistency in test
conduct and averaging over the shaft depth.


in which qL2 is the stress at L2. To link the prior

formats with this one, note that the equations for
these formats are given by:
log10 r = A - B log10 (qu / pa)



r = 10A (qu / pa)-B



f / pa = 10A (qu / pa)B



log10 (f / pa) = A + B log10 (qu / pa)


Figure 7 shows the results for all of the data, including multiple tests at the same site and results for (a)
shafts in natural and man-made rocks, (b) grouted
piles in natural rocks, and (c) rock anchors in natural rocks. The regression line is given by:
f / pa = 2.00 (qu / pa)0.69


Figure 8 shows the results of the data averaged per

test site. The regression line corresponds to:
f / pa = 1.74 (qu / pa)0.67


Careful examination of these results indicates that

the rock anchor data are clustered in the lower portions of the figure, especially in the lower right.
Setting these data aside gives the results for drilled
shafts and grouted piles as shown in Figure 9 by the

Side Resistance Factor, r

r = qL2 / qu = f / qu



log10 r = 0.24 - 0.67 log10(qu / pa)

m = 52, r2 = 0.69, S.D. = 0.30


I. Intrusive
I. Extrusive
I. Pyroclastic
S. Clastic (fine)

S. Clastic (coarse)
S. Chemical
M. Non-Foliated






Uniaxial Compressive Strength, qu / pa

Fig. 8. r vs. qu for all data, averaged per site [25]


Side Resistance Factor, r

The results were presented in terms of the side

resistance factor (r), which is given by:


log10 r = - 0.01 - 0.50 log10(qu / pa)
m = 41, r2 = 0.51, S.D. = 0.31


I. Intrusive
S. Clastic (coarse)
I. Extrusive
S. Chemical
I. Pyroclastic
M. Non-Foliated
S. Clastic (fine)
Regression Line for Data with Rock Anchors






Side Resistance Factor, r

Uniaxial Compressive Strength, qu / pa

Fig. 9. r vs. qu for drilled shafts and grouted piles, averaged

per site [25]


solid line. The regression line corresponds to:


f / pa = 0.98 (qu / pa)0.50

which can be conveniently rounded to

log10 r = 0.30 - 0.69 log10(qu / pa)

m = 104, r2 = 0.72, S.D. = 0.29


I. Intrusive
I. Extrusive
I. Pyroclastic
S. Clastic (fine)

f / pa = (qu / pa)0.50

S. Clastic (coarse)
S. Chemical
M. Non-Foliated





Uniaxial Compressive Strength, qu / pa

Fig. 7. r vs. qu for all data [25]




This value is on the order of about 70% of the value

from Eq. (8), which was the recommended value
when the capacity definitions were unknown or uncontrolled. Now, when the "interpreted failure load"
is given at L2, Eq. (19) is the more appropriate one
to use. The lower bound C value of 0.63 that was

cited previously actually represents the lower bound

for 90% of the data in Figure 9. To capture 100%
of the data points, the absolute lower bound would
be about 0.25.
It should be noted in Figure 9 that the regression is
altered significantly when the rock anchor data are
included. Clearly these data constitute a separate
In addition to the general relationships described
above, there have been a number of studies that
have focused exclusively on localized rock units,
such as the chalks of southern England and the
limerocks of Florida. These studies are of local
importance and are too specialized to be discussed
herein. When these are addressed, they should be
considered within the broad framework described
Carter and Kulhawy [6] made a design check recommendation to compare the allowable side resistance of the rock socket (f / FS) to the concrete
bond strength, given by 0.05 f 'c. The lower value
would control, unless field testing showed otherwise. By using typical safety factors of 2 and 3, the
ultimate side resistance can be compared with the
factored concrete bond strength, as given in Figure
10. Typical ranges of concrete strength, f 'c / pa =
200 - 400, were used for comparison.
As can be seen, most side resistances are below the
limiting concrete values. The percentages are given
in Table 1, which shows that there are more cases of
sockets exceeding the concrete bond strength with

Side Resistance, f / pa


S. Clastic (coarse)
S. Chemical
M. Non-Foliated

0.05 FSlim (fc' / pa)


FSlim = 3

fc' / pa = 400


fc' / pa = 200




Table 1. Socket side resistance exceeding concrete bond

f 'c / pa

% socket fallow > 0.05 f 'c

FSlim = 2
FSlim = 3



The behavior of normal rock sockets for drilled
shafts has been reviewed, and a survey has been
conducted of various proposals to estimate the
socket side resistance. In general, the side resistance can be estimated from the following:
f / pa = C (qu / pa)n


in which C = constant and n = exponent.

The databases used by different authors have varied
widely, as have the controls on the data type and
quality. However, for all practical purposes, nearly
all authors have shown that n = 0.50. On the other
hand, values of C have varied depending on the
author and database. The most recent evaluation,
apparently the only one in which all the load test
data were interpreted in the same manner, gave a
mean value of C equal to 0.98, which is conveniently rounded to 1.0. Therefore, the recommended
equation for predicting the side resistance of normal
rock sockets for drilled shafts is as follows:
f / pa = (qu / pa)0.50


For a lower bound to 90% of the data, the value of

C is equal to 0.63. For roughened sockets, C will be
larger than 1, but this evaluation is beyond the
scope of this paper.

I. Intrusive
I. Extrusive
I. Pyroclastic
S. Clastic (fine)

lower concrete strength and factor of safety. It must

be noted that all of these cases showed acceptable
behavior when the concrete bond strength was
exceeded. Clearly the concrete behaves better when
it is confined in a socket and reinforced than when it
is unconfined and unreinforced.



Uniaxial Compressive Strength, qu / pa

Fig. 10. Socket side resistance versus concrete bond strength

Finally, the data show that, in a small percentage of

the cases, the allowable socket side resistance is
larger than the concrete bond strength. This point
illustrates that the concrete behaves better when it is
confined in a socket and reinforced than when it is
unconfined and unreinforced.


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