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Sec. 5.

5 Supplemental Soil Classifications 151

Table 5.2 ASSESSMENTOFSOlLPROPERTlES BASE DON GROUPSYMBOL(Adaptedfrom Sowers, 1979)


Group Compaction Compressibility Drainage and Value as a Value as a Value as a
Symbol Characteristics and Expansion Hydraulic Fill Material Pavement Base Course
Conductivity Subgrade for
WhenNot Pavement
Subject to
Frost
:/-:c:c·_ · :~; ... ;: :"
Good. .
> ~
. "'·····'
GW · Almost oooe dl'ainage; Very stal:lie Excellent Good
peviious
·.Qood
ReasonabJy !3xcelleot
Almostoooe di'afnage; Poorto fair
stable togood
peivious
Poor
ReaS()Jlably . Excel4!nt
·drainage; Fairtopoór
.stable to good
semipervious
Good to fair,
Poor ..... Reasonably not suitable
Slight #na!le;· · stable
Good ··
ifsnbjectto
$erilipernous frost
Good
sw Good Almostnone drainage; Very stable Good Fair to poor
pervious
Good Reasonably
Good to
SP Good Almost none drainage; stable when Poor
fair
pervious dense
Poor Reasonably
Good to
SM Good Slight drainage; stable when Poor
fa ir
impervious dense
Fair to poor,
Poor
S light to Reasonably Good to not suitable
se Good to fair
medium
drainage;
stable fa ir if subject to
impervious
frost
Faír stability,
Poor
good Fair to
G. ood.··
. ·. ·t.o... poor.•.•. ••.•·••··· Slight to drainage; Not snitable
mi@ium compaction · poor
impervious
required
No drainage; Fair to
Good wfair Med.ium Good stability Not suitable
impervious poor
Poor Unstable,
POOr, not
drainage; sbould not~ Not suilaQle
suitable
impervious used
Fair to poor
Poor
stability, good
MH Fair to poor High drainage; Poor Not suitable
compaction
impervious
required
Fair stability,
No drainage; expands, Poor to
CH Fair to poor Very high Not suitable
impervious weakens, very poor
shrinks, cracks
Unstable.
No drainage;
OH Fair to poor High should not be Very poor Not suitable
impervious
u sed

.·. ~··· · ·
Fair topoor Shouldnot~ Not
·. •.. o·.t.. sui.·tab··.·.·
N Y~hi~ Not suitable
•.·...·• ·.w·.
·.••.·•·•·•.·•.. • • ..... • ••• • . . . . . ...... .
• dtainage used su1táhle
152 Soil Classification Chap.5

Moisture

Knowledge of the moisture condition of a soil can be very useful. Therefore, moi.~ture
content tests, as discussed in Chapter 4, are among the most common soil tests. In addition,
engineers often give a qualitative assessment of soil moisture using descriptors such as those
in Table 5.3.

TABLE 5.3 MOISTURE CLASSIFICATION


Classification Description

S!ightly moist Sorne moisture, but ~till has a dry appearance

Very moist Enough moisture to wet the hands

Color

The soil color can vary as its moisture content changes, so it is a less reliable classification.
Nevertheless, it is useful as a common supplementary soil classification. Although
standardized color description systems, such as the Munsell Color Charts, are available, they
express colors using an awkward notation (i.e., 10 YR 5/3). Therefore, most engineers just
use common color names, such as brown, tan, gray-brown, etc. Sometimes individual firms
or agencies standardize these names, but there is no widely accepted standard.

Consistency

The consístency of a soil describes its stiffness, and is a very useful supplementary
classification. For example, a hard CH soil is quite different from a very soft CH.
Consistency depends on the soil type, moisture content, unit weight, and other factors, and
may change in the field with time, especially if the soil becomes wet. Tables 5.4 and 5.5
present classifications of soil consistency, along with qualitative and quantitative
descriptions.
When classifying the consistency of coarse grained soil s based on standard penetration
test data, it is especially important to apply the overburden correction described in Section
3.9, thus obtaining (N 1) 00•
Sec. 5.5 Supplemental Soil Classifications 153

TABLE 5.4 CONSISTENCY CLASSIFICATION FOR FINE-GRAINED SOILS (Terzaghi, Peck, and
Mesri, 1996 and U.S. Navy, 1982; Adapted by permission of John Wiley and Sons, lnc.)
Undrained
SPT
Classification Shear Strength, s.
Description N6o
val ue (kPa) Obttr)

Thumb penetrates easily;·e~:trudes


Very soft <2 <1 2 <250
between fingers when squeezed
Thumb will penetrate soíl about 25
Soft mm; molds with light finger 2-4 12- 25 250- 500
pressure
Thumb will penetrate about 6 mm
Medium with moderare effort; molds witb 4-8 25;$6·· 500- 1000
strong fmger pressu.;e
Thumb indents easily, and will
Stiff 8- 15 50 -lOO 1000-2000
penetrate 12 mm with great effort
Tbumbwill not indent soil, but
Hard 15-30 100-200 2000-4000
thtimbriail readily indents it
Thumbnail will not indent soi1 or
Very hard > 30 >200 >4000
will indent it only with difficulty
' The N-value is defined in Chapter 4.
b The undrained shear strength is defined in Chapter 13, and is half of the unconfined compressive

strength.

TABLE 5.5 CONSISTE NCY CLASSIFICATION FOR COARSE-GRAINED SOILS (U.S. Navy, 1982,
and Lam be and Whitman. 1969; Adapted by permission of John Wiley and Sons, lnc.)

D,
Classification Description Relative
Density b

Very loose .> EasY ~ IJe!letrated with a 12-Jlll1l~~~ ~ < ···• · .· •.•. <íi
••
pushetl by hand · · ···· < , .•.. ·

Difficult to penetrate with a 12-mm diameter rod


Loose 4 - 10 15- 35
pushed by hand

Difficult to penetrate 300 mm with a 12-mm


Dense 17-32 65- 85
diameter rod driven with a 2.3-kg (5-lb) hammer

85- lOO

• These va1ues are for sandy soils. If sorne fine grave! is present, use two-thirds of the field va1ue. If
significant quantities of coarse grave1 are present, do not use this table.
b If CPT data is available, use Equation 4.25 to compute D,
154 Soil Classification Chap. 5

Cementation

Sorne soils are cemented with certain chemicals, such as calcium carbonate (CaC0 3) or iron
oxide (Fe20 3). The presence of calcium carbonate can be determined by applying a small
amount of hydrochloric acid (HCI) and noting the reaction. A bubbling action indicates the
presence of CaC03• A lack of bubbling indicates sorne other cementing agent. Iron oxide
gives the soil a red-orange tint, similar to rusty steel.
Table 5.6 presents a classification of soil cementation.

TABLE 5.6 CLASSIFICATION OF SOIL CEMENTATION (After ASTM 02488)

Classification Description

Moderate Crumbles or breaks with considerable finger pressure

Strong .. Wíll not.crumbk or break with flnger pressure

Structure

Soil particles can be assembled into many different structures. Often these need to be noted
in the classification of undisturbed samples as follows (ASTM D2488):

• Stratified - Altemating layers of varying material or color with layers at least 6 mm


thick
• Laminated- Altemating layers of varying material or color with the layers less than
6 mm thick
• Fissured - Breaks along definíte planes of fracture with little resistance to fracturing
• Slickensided- Fracture planes appear polished or glossy, sometimes striated (liner
markings showing evidence of past movement)
• Blocky- Cohesive soil that can be broken down into small angular lumps which
resist further breakdown
• Lensed- Inclusions of small pockets of different soils, such as smalllenses of sand
scattered throughout a mass of clay
• Homogeneous- Same color and appearance throughout

5.6 APPLICABILITY ANO LIMITATIONS

Standardized soil classification systems are very valuable tools that help geotechnical
engineers identify soils and make prelirninary assessments of their engineering behavior.
However, they also have limitations. Casagrande (1948) said:

"lt is not possible to classify all soils into a relatively small number of groups such
that the relation of each soil to the many divergent problems of applied soil mechanics
will be adequately presented."