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pavement slab pumping


T he p[urpose of this article is to familiarize mainte-

nance men with the early recognizable signs of slab
pumping and to describe a tested and well established
method that will stop slab pumping once it is recog-
Highway maintenance men have for some time rec-
ognized pavement slab pumping as one of the major
factors contributing toward concrete slab failures. The
value of preventive maintenance, correcting slab pump-
ing by mud-jack treatment before serious damage is
done to the slab, cannot be underestimated. Experience
has shown that pavement life is definitely prolonged.
Free water flows out onto pavement surface on steep grade.
Slab pumping may be defined as follows: Heavy axle
loads deflect concrete pavement slabs at joints and
cracks. Free water that has entered the subgrade
through the joints and cracks is forced out, carrying soil
particles in suspension. This, in turn, creates a void or
reservoir in which more free water accumulates. Re-
peated deflections enlarge the void and the pavement Some of the visual indications of the progressive
becomes unsupported. If the pavement is not resup- stages of slab pumping occur in the following order:
ported by filling the voids with a soil-cement mixture 1. Excessive center line spalling
pumped with the mud-jack, it will break and the rate of 2. Ejection of water from joints and cracks
deterioration will increase rapidly.
3. Discoloration of pavement surface by subgrade soil
THE PRINCIPAL CAUSES OF SLAB PUMPING near the joints and cracks
Slab pumping is the result of four contributing factors: 4. Hole in shoulder at edge of pavement
1. Joints and cracks 5. Faulting of joints or cracks
2. Heavy axle loads 6. Breakage of the pavement either as a corner break
3. Unsuitable subgrade soil at
center line or a half-width crack
4. Free water
Eliminate any one of the four factors and the useful life THE MUD-JACK TREATMENT
of the pavement will be extended for many years.
If the mud-jack treatment is performed before the
Joints and cracks in existing pavements cannot be
pavement breaks, it is classified as a preventive treat-
eliminated. It is not probable that the legal weight re-
ment. If the mud-jack treatment is delayed until after the
strictions will be reduced. It is too costly to remove un-
pavement fails, it is classified as a corrective treatment.
suitable subgrade soil. Free water alone can be con-
In either case, the pavement will be fully supported af-
trolled in an effort to retard the failure of portland
ter the mud-jack treatment and the breakage and pro-
cement concrete pavements on highways or airport run-
gressive cracking will be greatly reduced.
Maximum benefits will be derived from this treatment
if it is performed as a preventive measure to provide the
necessary support before the pavement begins to fail.
Once we are able to recognize the initial signs of slab
pumping the preventive treatment can be applied as the
pavement surface will require. The pavement will be ful-
ly supported and breakage and progressive cracking
greatly reduced.


Many states have adopted the use of the mud-jack
treatment to fill the voids under the concrete surfaces
that are to be resurfaced. Every joint and crack should be
treated before the old concrete is resurfaced. The quan-
tity of materials required will vary depending on the type
of subgrade soil, the quantity of traffic utilizing the high-
way and the age of the old pavement; the maximum
quantity required for this treatment has been 100 cubic
yards per mile. The mud-jack treatment when used for Slab deflection by heavy traffic caused this danger sign.
this purpose will insure maximum life for the new sur-
face and reduce the number of cracks and joints project-
ed through the new surface from the pavement.
High water tables, filled or silted roadway ditches, side
hill seepage, fills placed on unstable soil and underlying
stratas which cause shifting are all contributing factors
to pavement failures. These factors, when they do exist,
must be corrected to adequately maintain a smooth rid-
ing surface. This will necessarily mean less damage from
traffic impacts. The mud-jack treatment is the only es-
tablished method for restoring the stability of the sub-
grade and providing uniform support for the old pave-
ments that are to be resurfaced.
If the entire weight of the pavement is kept on the sub-
grade, it will place the soil under pressure. When the soil
is under pressure it will absorb much less moisture and Discoloration of the slab surface by the appearance on the
remain more stable than if it is not subjected to any pres- pavement of subgrade soil, forced out by traffic impacts, is
sure. This uniform soil pressure will be attained in the one of the early indications of erosion by slab pumping.
pavement subgrade if the voids are filled with a soil-ce-
ment mixture to provide a homogenous support for the
concrete pavement.
When it is necessary to replace damaged concrete
with new patches, the mud-jack treatment should be
used to fill the voids under the old pavement surround-
ing the patch area. This will reduce the deflection of the
old concrete and relieve the new patch from being sub-
jected to excessive traffic impacts. The progressive
cracking will be retarded in the old pavement and the
necessity of a future patch will be greatly reduced. The
life of the patch will be extended by using this mud-jack
treatment in conjunction with the concrete replacement

MINIMUM PERSONNEL REQUIRED Continued slab pumping washes out subgrade, leaves slab
The minimum crew required to mud-jack consists of: improperly supported. Unsupported concrete pavement
A foreman quickly breaks up under impacts of heavy axle loads.
A jack hammer operator
A mud-jack operator paint in the form of a 1- to 1 1/2-inch dot. When the hole
A nozzle operator is drilled, the paint will be displaced, leaving the surface
free of any marks except the hole.
A laborer (feeder man) The jack-hammer operator, usually working by him-
A laborer (clean-up man) self, moves the truck and compressor, services and oper-
A truck driver (helps load dirt trucks) ates the compressor and drills the holes. It may be ad-
vantageous to provide this operator with a helper, if
A laborer in soil pit traffic is heavy or the sight distance restricted, to act as
A flagman flagman and move the equipment as the drilling pro-
THE MUD-JACK TREATMENT PROCEDURE The mud-jack crew pumps the slurry under the pave-
The foreman is trained by the maintenance superin- ment until it begins to rise. Complete filling of all the
tendent to understand the mechanics of slab pumping voids is very important. In sections where there has been
and how to analyze each joint and crack so that the nec- no settlement or faulting, pumping is stopped just as
essary holes may be located for the jack hammer opera- soon as there is the first indication of rising.
tor. The holes should be indicated on the pavement with The nozzle operator can detect the slightest rise by
placing his fingers in the joint or crack or by placing a
thin mud pat across the joint or crack. It will show a
slight hair check when the pavement begins to rise.
In sections where there is faulting at the cracks or
joints or where settlements have resulted, the pumping
procedure should be continued until the desired lift is
reached. If the work is in preparation for resurfacing it is
not necessary that all irregularities in the old surface be
removed, but there should be a slight indication of lifting
to insure the proper filling of all the voids.
When sufficient slurry mixture has been pumped, the
nozzle operator signals the operator who stops the mud-
jack pumping. The nozzle operator then closes the valve
at the end of the hose and pulls the nozzle from the hole.
He inserts a tapered wooden peg to retain the pressure
and stop the flowing back of the mixture until the clean-
up man is ready to permanently plug the hole.
The clean-up man pulls the tapered wooden peg,
tamps in dry soil and cement until the hole is complete-
Two-inch 5-ply hose is carried on dollies. Tapered steel
nozzle is used to pump slurry mixture through 1l2-inch holes. ly plugged. The moisture from the mixture will seep
through the soil-cement plug and cause it to harden. The
clean-up man passes his shoe over the plug, which pro-
vides a hard glazed finish when the plug is hardened.
This will provide a surface that will not be readily dis-
placed by tires of the vehicles passing over it.
If the pavement surface is to be resurfaced within a
few weeks or months, the cracks and joints should not
be sealed where the slurry mixture has been forced to
the surface through them. The bituminous material
used for this purpose would not have sufficient time to
cure and would therefore bleed through the new surface.
If the pavement is to be carried over to the following
season before resurfacing or is to remain as originally
constructed, the joints and cracks should be cleaned and
completely sealed with a satisfactory material. The holes
drilled for filling the voids should likewise be cleaned to
a depth of 1 to 2 inches and filled with a dense graded bi-
tuminous mixture and thoroughly compacted.

Two-inch quick opening valve enables nozzle operator to COST OF THE MUD-JACK TREATMENT
stop leakage of slurry mixture when nozzle is moved from The cost of this operation will vary as wage scales vary.
hole to hole.
Mud-jack crew at work treating joints on highway. Equipment includes water truck, mud-jack, material truck.

In one state in 1944 where 9,455 cubic yards of soil was ment, the location of the holes as shown in Fig. 3 is rec-
pumped, using 37,820 bags of cement, the cost was ap- ommended. In either case, each joint or crack should be
proximately $9.28 per cubic yard. A breakdown of this analyzed and the number of holes drilled which provide
cost shows the following data: the maximum benefit.
Average Cost When treating a four-corner break, such as shown in
per Cu. Yd. Fig. 1, it has been found possible to completely treat the
Labor $4.24 area that has failed using one hole. However, a few extra
holes drilled in other corners will soon show if full cover-
Equipment rental 2.12
age is being obtained by the slurry mixture.
Materials 2.09
Either a sandy loam or a loam top soil are best adapt-
Supplies and small tools .33
ed for this mixture. Soils containing high percentages of
Overhead expense (subsistence) .42 clay should be avoided if possible because they are hard
$9.28 to mix, require more water to produce the desired con-
As stated previously, the quantities required to com- sistency and provide a poor permanent support for the
pletely fill the voids under the pavement vary according pavement after they have been mixed into a thin slurry.
to the age of the pavement, character of the soil, and vol- A soil approaching the grain size accumulation curve as
ume of the traffic, ranging from 15 cubic yards to 100 shown in Fig. 4 will be satisfactory for this mixture. In
cubic yards per mile. some localities, if soil having these characteristics is not
available, it may be possible to blend a suitable soil and
SIZE AND LOCATION OF HOLES sand or it may be necessary to ship in a desirable soil.
The size of hole used for this treatment is 1 _ inches in The use of too much sand in some mud-jacks will induce
diameter. A hole of this size is sufficient to pump the wear in the bearings on the pug mill shaft as well as the
slurry mixture through the pavement to the subgrade. rubber tread ring on the pistons.
The holes are spaced 12 inches from the center line It will often be necessary to screen the soil through a
and 12 inches beyond the transverse joint or crack in 1/2- or 5/8-inch mesh screen, except where the soil is
the direction of traffic. When treating a transverse joint, free from hard lumps, stones, sticks and grass roots. This
it is recommended to use two holes in diagonal corners. not only makes it much easier to mix and pump, but
When treating a transverse crack, one hole is usually suf- when material containing any amount of stone is used
ficient to treat the entire width of a two-lane highway. If the narrow openings between the slab and the support-
outside holes are needed to fill the voids or raise a fault- ing grade are clogged, causing the formation of voids
ed joint, then they are placed 30 inches from the edge of and in many cases completely clogging the hole through
the pavement and 30 inches beyond the crack or joint in which the mud is being forced, stopping the pump.
the direction of traffic. This is shown graphically in Fig. 2. It is desirable to have a mixture that will set as rapidly
When performing the treatment on a multilane pave- as possible so as not to be disturbed by traffic. Therefore,
LOCATION OF HOLES FOR 4 sacks of regular cement per cubic yard of selected soil
MUD-JACK TREATMENT has been determined in the laboratory as being the
TYPICAL FOUR CORNER FAILURE proper amount to give the best results. This is approxi-
ONE HOLE USUALLY SUFFICIENT IF SLAB IS TIGHT mately 20 percent cement by weight of the soil.
The addition of emulsified asphalt may be desirable to
increase the durability of the mixture. In this event the
cement content should be reduced to 12 percent with
12 percent emulsified asphalt added. Some states have
used SC asphalts, when they are available, with very
good success, instead of emulsified asphalt.
The voids under the pavement are very irregular in
depth and therefore the shrinkage which would develop
if soil and water alone were used would be detrimental
in that a uniform support would not be provided for the
pavement. The addition of the cement not only reduces
the shrinkage of the mixture but causes the soil mixture
to set in a short time.
The consistency of the mixture is obtained by adding
45 to 55 percent water. The amount of water will vary de-
pending on the moisture content of the soil as received
from the borrow pit. The mixture is often referred to as a
slurry mixture because it is very thin and flows uniform-
ly under the pavement to fill minute voids. It is compa-
rable to the consistency of cream.






1 mud-jack
1 500-gallon water tank
1 small gas driven water pump
1 105 c. f. portable air compressor
1 45# pneumatic jack hammer
4 trucks1 l/2-ton size, two of which should be
equipped with dump bodies.


Tapered steel nozzle
18-inch drill steel
1 l/2-inch drill bits
Tapered wooden pegs
Square point and round point shovels
If the mud-jack utilized for this work is a pumping unit
only it will be necessary to have a small plaster or bitu-
minous mixer to pre-mix the soil, cement and water.
The tapered steel nozzle used for this mud-jack treat-
ment is 9 inches in length with the taper from 2 inches to
1 inch (inside diameter) in 7 inches. The nozzle should
have a 10-inch circular splash shield welded to the pipe
with a strip of belting extending downward 4 inches
from the shield to protect the operators eyes and also
the passing motorists.
A 2-inch 5-ply rubber hose 50 feet in length is best
adapted for the mud-jack treatment. The hose should
ride on dollies to make shifting of the hose easier for the
operator. The hose should be equipped with a 2-inch
quick opening valve so that the nozzle operator can
close it when moving from hole to hole. This will prevent
wasting the mixture in the hose line and keep the surface
of the pavement clean.
Usually two trucks are used to haul the soil from the
borrow pit to the mud-jack. Of course, this depends on
the length of haul and the quantity of material pumped
each day. One truck is used to pull the mud-jack and
haul the mixing water. A flat bed truck would be best
suited for this purpose. One truck is used to pull the air
compressor. END

*The author is Marketing Manager, National Accounts,

Koehring Company, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Copyright 1962, The Aberdeen Group
All rights reserved