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Rock and Soil: Identification

and Classification


The Geologic Materials


Precise definitions of the two general constituents, rock and soil, that are applicable to all
cases are difficult to establish because of the very significant transition zone in which rock is
changing to soil or in which a soil formation has acquired rock-like properties, or various other
conditions. In general terms, the constituents may be defined as follows.


Material of the Earths crust, composed of one or more minerals strongly bonded together that
are so little altered by weathering that the fabric and the majority of the parent minerals are
still present.


A naturally occurring mass of discrete particles or grains, at most lightly bonded together,
occurring as a product of rock weathering either in situ or transported, with or without
admixtures of organic constituents, in formations with no or only slight lithification.

The definitions given are geologic and not adequate for

application to engineering problems in which the solution
relates to hydraulic and mechanical properties as well as
to certain other physical properties, such as hardness. For
most practical engineering problems, it is more important
to describe and classify the materials in terms of their
physical conditions and properties than to attempt in
every case to define the material as a soil or a rock.

Rock Groups and Classes

Geologic Bases

Based on their geologic aspects, rocks are grouped by origin as igneous,

sedimentary, or metamorphic, and classified according to petrographic
characteristics, which include their mineral content, texture, and fabric.

Engineering Bases

On an engineering basis, rock is often referred to as either intact or in situ. Intact rock
refers to a block or fragment of rock free of defects, in which its hydraulic and
mechanical properties are controlled by the petrographic characteristics of the
material, whether in the fresh or decomposed state. Classification is based on its
uniaxial compressive strength and hardness.

Soil Groups and Classes

Geologic Bases

Geologically, soils are grouped or classified on a number of bases, as


Origin: residual, colluvial, alluvial, aeolian, glacial, and sedentary

Mode of occurrence: floodplain, estuaries, marine, moraine, etc.

Texture: particle size and gradation

Pedology: climate and morphology

Engineering Bases

Soils are classified on an engineering basis by gradation, plasticity, and organic

content, and described generally as cohesionless or cohesive, granular, or


Soils are grouped by their engineering characteristics as strong or weak, sensitive

or insensitive, compressible or incompressible, swelling (expansive) or nonswelling,
pervious or impervious; or grouped by physical phenomena as erodible, frostsusceptible, or metastable (collapsible or liquefiable, with the structure
becoming unstable under certain environmental changes).

Soils are also grouped generally as gravel, sand, silt, clay, organics, and mixtures.


The Three Groups

The Three Groups

Igneous rocks are formed by the crystallization of masses of molten rock originating from
below the Earths surface.

Sedimentary rocks are formed from sediments that have sometimes been transported and
deposited as chemical precipitates, or from the remains of plants and animals, which
have been lithified under the tremendous heat and pressure of overlying sediments or by
chemical reactions.

Metamorphic rocks are formed from other rocks by the enormous shearing stresses of
orogenic processes that cause plastic flow, in combination with heat and water, or by the
heat of molten rock injected into adjoining rock, which causes chemical changes and
produces new minerals.

Petrographic Identification

Rocks are described and classified by their petrographic

characteristics of mineral content, texture, and fabric.

A knowledge of the mineral constituents of a given rock type

is also useful in predicting the engineering characteristics of
the residue from chemical decomposition in a particular
climatic environment. Residual soils are commonly clayey
materials, and the activity of the formation is very much
related to the original rock minerals.

Rock Composition

Rock minerals are commonly formed of two or more elements, although some rocks consist of
only one element, such as carbon, sulfur, or a metal.


Oxygen, silicon, aluminum, iron, calcium, sodium, potassium, and magnesium comprise 98% of
the Earths crust. Of these, oxygen and silicon represent 75% of the elements. These elements
combine to form the basic rock minerals.


The mineral groups are silicates, oxides, hydrous silicates, carbonates, and sulfates.Silicates and
oxides are the most important. The groups, mineral constituents, and chemicalcompositions
are summarized in Table 1.2. Chemical composition is particularlyimportant as it relates to the
characteristics of materials resulting from chemical weatheringand decomposition.


Texture refers to the size of grains or discrete particles in a specimen and is generally
classified as given in Table 1.3.


Fabric refers to grain orientation, which can be described in geologic or in

engineering terminology.

Geologic Terminology

Equigranular: grains essentially of equal size

Porphyritic: mixed coarse and fine grains

Amorphous: without definite crystalline form

Platy: schistose or foliate

Mineral Identification Factors

Crystal Form






Specific Gravity (SG or Gs)


Some useful hand tests are:

Window glass has a hardness of about 5.5.

Pocket knife blade has a hardness of about 5.

Brass pinpoint has a hardness a little over 3 (can scratch


Fingernail is a little over 2 (can scratch gypsum).

Igneous Rocks
Origin and Occurrence

Molten rock charged with gases (magma) rises from

deep within the Earth. Near the surface a volcanic vent
is formed, the pressures decrease, the gases are
liberated, and the magma cools and solidifies. Igneous
rocks occur in two general forms

Sedimentary Rocks

Soil particles resulting from the decay of rock masses

or from chemical precipitates, deposited in
sedimentary basins in increasing thickness, eventually
lithify into rock strata due to heat, pressure,
cementation, and recrystallization.

Metamorphic Rocks

The constituents of igneous and sedimentary

rocks are changed by metamorphism.

Engineering Characteristics of Rock


Engineering characteristics of rock masses are examined

from the aspects of three general conditions:

intact rock (competent rock)




Competent Rock

Intact rock that is fresh, unweathered, and free of

discontinuities and reacts to applied stress as a solid
mass is termed competent or sound rock in
engineering nomenclature.

Permeability, strength, and deformability are directly

related to hardness and density, as well as to fabric
and cementing.

Competent Rock

Decomposed Rock

Decomposition from weathering causes rock to become

more permeable, more compressible, and weaker. As
the degree of decomposition advances, affecting the
intact blocks and the discontinuities, the properties
approach those of soils. The final product and its
thickness are closely related to the mineral composition
of the parent rock, the climate, and other environmental

Decomposed Rock

Nonintact Rock

Discontinuities or defects, representing weakness planes in the mass,

control the engineering properties by dividing the mass into blocks
separated by fractures such as faults, joints, foliations, cleavage,
bedding, and slickensides, as described in Table 1.17. Joints are the
most common defects in rock masses. They have the physical
properties of spacing, width of opening, configuration, and surface
roughness. They can be tight, open, or filled with some material,
and can display the strength parameters of cohesion and friction
along their surfaces

Nonintact Rock

Rock-Mass Description and


Systems that provide an accurate description and

classification of rock mass are necessary as a basis for
the formulation of judgments regarding the response to
engineering problems including:


of slopes and open and closed excavations


to sustain loads


to transmit water

Rock Mass Description

The degree of complexity of description depends upon the nature

of the problem under study and the relative importance of the
rock-mass response. For routine problems, such as the average
building foundation on good-quality rock, simple descriptions
suffice whereas for nonroutine problems, the rock mass is
described in terms of intact rock, characteristics discontinuities,
and groundwater conditions.

Descriptions are made from the examination of outcrops,

exploration pits and adits, and boring cores.

Rock Mass Description

Intact Rock Characteristics : Descriptions should include the

hardness, weathering grade, rock type, coloring, texture, and

Discontinuities : Joint spacing and joint characteristics are

described, and details of joint orientations and spacing should be
illustrated with photographs and sketches to allow for the
preparation of two- or three-dimensional joint diagrams.

Groundwater Conditions : Observations made in cuts and other

exposures must be related to recent weather conditions, season,
and regional climate to permit judgments as to whether seepage
is normal, high, or low, since such conditions are transient.

Example of Intact Rock Classification

On The Basis of Uniaxial Compressive Strength After Deere, D.U., Rock Mechanics in Engineering Practice,
Stagg and Zienkiewiez, Eds., Wiley, New York, 1969.

Example of Intact Rock Classification

On the Basis of Modulus Ratio

Modulus ratio: Defined as the ratio of the tangent modulus at 50% ultimate strength to
the uniaxial compressive

Rock Mass Classification

Simple Classification Systems : Early workers in rock mechanics

developed systems to classify joints according to spacing.

Rock Mass Classification

Complex Classification Systems : Systems have been developed to

provide detailed information on rock quality that includes joint
factors such as orientation, opening width, irregularity, water
conditions, and filling materials, as well as other factors. They are
most applicable to tunnel engineering.

Example : Rock Mass Rating (RMR) by Bieniawski (1989)

Rock Mass Classification

Rock Mass Rating, Bieniawski (1989)

It is based on grading six parameters: uniaxial compressive

strength (from the point-load test), RQD, joint spacing, joint
conditions, joint orientation, and groundwater conditions.

Each parameter is given a rating, the ratings are totaled, and the
rock is classified from very good to very poor.

Rock Mass Classification

Rock Mass Rating
Bieniawski (1989)



Geologically, group or class of soils are based on:

Origin, (residual, colluvial, alluvial, aeolian, glacial, and sedentary)

Mode of occurrence, (floodplain, estuaries, marine, etc.)

Texture, (particle size and gradation)

Pedology, (climate and morphology)

Engineering based, type of soil is divided into classes and groups, which are:

Classes, based on its gradation, plasticity, and organic content. It is described generally as
cohesionless (coarse or fine grained) and cohesive soil.

Groups, based on its engineering characteristic as strong or weak, sensitive or insensitive,

compressible or incompressible, swelling or nonswelling, pervious or impervious; or based
on its physical phenomena as erodible, frost-susceptible, or metastable. It is described
generally as gravel, sand, silt, clay, organics, and mixtures.


In this chapter, we will mainly discuss about:

Components of Soil

Granular and Cohesionless Soils


Organic Materials

Related Engineering Properties

Classification and Description of Soils


Basic component is defined by grain size, (boulders, cobbles, gravel,

sand, silt, and clay)

Major grouping is based on grain size, physical characteristics, and

composition. And may be placed in a number of major groups, i.e.:

Boulders and cobbles

Granural soils

Clay soils

Organic soils

VI. Lapisan paling luar (top soil) campur

V. Completely weathered zone (CWZ),
IV. Strongly weathered zone (SWZ),
III. Moderately weathered zone (MWZ),
II. Partly weathered zone (PWZ),
I. Fresh zone atau batuan segar (F).

Dekomposisi batuan menghasilkan residual soil

(Dearman, 1991)

Granular or
Cohesionless Soils

Boulders and cobbles normally

respond to stress as individual units.
Gravel, sand, and silt respond to stress
as a mass and are the most significant
granular soils.

The main properties of these types are

cohesionless and nonplastic

Granular or
Cohesionless Soils

Grain minerals could be:

Quartz (dominantly)

Garnet, magnetite, and hornblende


Calcareous or carbonate (offshore)

The mineral composition of soil is

depend on its source rock

Granular or
Cohesionless Soils

Silt often grouped with clay as fine

grained soils,

Silt is often classified as inorganic,

ranging from nonplastic to plastic,
or organic, containing appreciable
quantities of organic matter.


Characteristic of clays, are composed of elongated mineral particles of

colloidal dimensions, commonly taken as less than 2 m in si.

Clay particles form two general types of

structures: flocculated; saltwater (a) and fresh
water (b), and dispersed (c).

Clays are also classified on the basis of the

cations adsorbed on the particle surfaces of the
mineral (H, Ca, K, Mg, or Na).


Common clay minerals are Kaolinite,

Halloysite, Illite, and Montmorillonite

Each of minerals have its own origin,

activity, and particle appearance.

Organic Materials

Originally, organic matter is derived primarily from decayed plant life and
occasionally from animal organisms.

The formation of organic materials can be divided into:

Top soil, formed as plant life dies and becomes fixed with the surficial soils.

Rootmat, forms in marshy regions and is a thick accumulation of living and dead marsh

And peat, which is fibrous material with a sponge-like structure, composed almost entirely
of dead organic matter, which can form to extensive thickness.

Characteristics of organic deposits are characterized by very low natural densities,

very high natural water contents, a loss in mass upon ignition, and substantial
shrinkage upon drying.

Organic Materials

Rootmat and silty clay exposed in


Undisturbed sample of clayey sand

overlying organic silty at a 25 ft depth

Related Engineering Properties

The major soil groupings have distinguishing characteristics that

relate directly to their engineering properties.

Characteristics of:

Granular soils: gradation, relative density, grain shape, and mineral


Clay soils: mineral type, chemistry, plasticity, and stress history

Organic materials: percentage of organic matter vs. soil particles, and

stress history

Mixtures: combine the characteristics, but relative density quickly

becomes insignificant

Related Engineering Properties

Gravels and Sands
Hydraulic Properties

Permeability: Gravels and sands are free-draining materials with large storage capacity, acting as aquifers
or natural reservoirs, providing the sources of water flowing into excavations, or through, around, and
beneath dams.

Capillarity: Negligible.

Frost heaving: Essentially nonsusceptible.

Liquefaction and piping: Potential increases with increasing fineness. Loose fine sands are most susceptible;
gravel is nonsusceptible.

Rupture Strength

Strength is derived from intergranular friction.


Response to load is immediate as the voids close and the grains compact by rearrangement. Deformation
is essentially plastic, with some elastic compression occurring within the grains.

Related Engineering Properties

Silts (Inorganic)
Hydraulic Properties

Permeability: slow draining

Capillarity: high

Frost heaving susceptibility: high

Liquefaction and piping susceptibility: high

Rupture Strength

Strength is derived from intergranular friction and apparent cohesion when silt is partially saturated.
Strength is destroyed by saturation or drying. Upon saturation, collapse may occur in lightly cemented
formations, such as loess.


Slow draining characteristics result in some time delay in compression under applied load. Compaction
in fills, either wet or dry, is relatively difficult.

Related Engineering Properties

Hydraulic Properties

Permeability: Clays are relatively impervious, but permeability varies with mineral composition. Sodium montmorillonite with void ratios
from 2 to as high as 15 can have k108 cm/s2.

Capillarity: It is high, but in excavations evaporation normally exceeds flow. Frost susceptibility: Many thin ice layers can form in cold
climates, resulting in ground heave.

Liquefaction susceptibility: Nonsusceptible.

Piping: It occurs in dispersive clays.

Rupture Strength

Consistency provides a general description of strength identified by the relationship between the natural moisture content and the
liquid and plastic limits and by the unconfined compressive strength.

Failure occurs by general shear, local shear, or punching shear.


Compression, by plastic deformation, occurs in clays during the process of consolidation. Clay soils retain their stress history as
overconsolidated, normally consolidated, or underconsolidated.

Expansion is a characteristic of partially saturated clays in the presence of moisture.

Related Engineering Properties

Organic Soils
Hydraulic Properties

Permeability of peat and rootmat, primarily fibrous matter, is usually very high and, for organic silts and
clays, is usually low. In the latter cases, systems of root tunnels can result n k values substantially higher
than for inorganic clays.

Rupture Strength

Peat and rootmat tend to crush under applied load, but shallow cuts will stand open ndefinitely
because of their low unit weight, as long as surcharges are not imposed. Organic silts and clays have
very low strengths, and generally the parameters for clay soils pertain. Embankments less than 2 m in
height placed over these soils often undergo failure.


Organic materials are highly compressible, even under relatively low loads.


Because of their high acidity, organic materials are usually highly corrosive to steel and concrete.

Classification and Description of Soils

Current Classification System

American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO M-145)

Unified Classification System (ASTM D2487)

American Society for Engineering Education System

MIT Classification System

Classification and Description of Soils

American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO M-145), the

system is a modification of the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads system dating
from 1929, which is commonly used for highway and airfield investigations.

Classification and Description of Soils

Classification and Description of Soils

MIT Classification System. Presented by Gilboy in 1931, the MIT system was the basic
system used by engineering firms for many years, and is still used by some
engineering firms in the United States and other countries. Summarized in Table
1.27, it is similar to the British Standards Institution system.

Classification and
Description of Soils

The table shows comparison

between all of the classification
system and field identification.