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CEE 346L – Geotechnical Engineering I Lab

Title: Visual Classification of Soil

Date of Test: 10/17/18


Report Prepared By: Abhishek Ray
Report Number: 5
Report Submission Date: 10/24/18
CEE 346L – Geotechnical Engineering I Lab

Contents
Introduction ................................................................................................................................................... 2
Equipment ..................................................................................................................................................... 2
Lab Procedures.............................................................................................................................................. 2
Data, Calculation and Results ....................................................................................................................... 5
Discussion ..................................................................................................................................................... 6
Conclusions ................................................................................................................................................... 7
Appendix ....................................................................................................................................................... 7

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CEE 346L – Geotechnical Engineering I Lab

Introduction
Although accurately predicting comes from experience, it’s a key skill of a geotechnical engineer to classify
soil visually as explained in the ASTM standard D-2488, quickly and reliably. Due to the sheer volume of
soil assessment prior to transportation that an engineer might perform in a typical day, this procedure was
developed. A window of 2-3 minutes is all they might have which may be a lot of pressure because he/she
would make the decision whether to use a certain material or not if the contractor witness unforeseen or
new conditions.

No special equipment is needed for this procedure but good notes on a data sheet is very helpful. Color,
geometry/shape of particles, moisture content, plasticity and an estimate of fines and gravel are some of the
key information that an individual must decipher from this test.

Equipment
No equipment needed

Lab Procedures
1.Observe the first sample. Touch and handle the
specimen.
2 Examine the moisture content of your sample.
Record your observations.
Use the following table from ASTM:

Figure 1. ASTM moisture content definition


3. Examine the color of your sample and make a note of it on your data
sheet.
4.Examine particle shape for sands and gravel sized particles according to
the following tables from ASTM. Do not attempt for silt and clay soils, as
the particles are too small to see with the naked eye.

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CEE 346L – Geotechnical Engineering I Lab

5. Estimate the gradation of the sample. Determine relative percentages of


gravel, sand and fines. Determine if the sample is “granular” or “fine grained,”
with 50% fines as the cut-off between the two categories. Record

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CEE 346L – Geotechnical Engineering I Lab

your observations.
6. Note for poorly-graded or well-graded?
7. Estimate the probable maximum particle size for the gravely samples
8. Note whether the samples is organic or inorganic if there large amounts of roots or
other organics present. Note the percentage of organics by VOLUME if and
only if present.
9. Note for the sample appear to be plastic or not. If so, estimate the plasticity of the
material based on the observed water content. Refer to Table 11 in the
ASTM standard for how to determine plasticity. Plasticity options for the
sheet and report are non-plastic, low plasticity, medium plasticity, high
plasticity.

10. For fine-grained samples, determine its consistency, softness,


Stiffness or hardness. Refer to Table 5 from the ASTM standard on how to
determine consistency.

11. For intact fine-grained samples determine the structure as follows in the
table from ASTM.

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CEE 346L – Geotechnical Engineering I Lab

12. Take pictures of all the samples. Make observations in lab and do not classify the sample until later
when looking back at your notes.
13. Once all the proceeding steps are complete for the first sample, proceed to the
next sample and repeat for all the samples at the station.
14. Clean bench top and all equipment. Return all equipment neatly to where they
were obtained.

Data, Calculation and Results


% Plasticity USCS Symbols
No. Gravel % Sand % Fines of fines Color Moisture
LEAN CLAY
1 0 0 100 High Dark Tan Moist (CL)
2 0 0 100 Low Light Tan Moist SILT (ML)
ORGANIC SOIL
3 0 0 100 Medium Dark Black Moist (OL/OH)
Well-graded
SAND with
4 38 55 7 NP Light brown Dry gravel (SW)
Poorly graded
5 1 97 2 NP Reddish (scoria) Dry SAND (SP)
Poorly graded
6 100 0 0 NP Pinkish Dry GRAVEL (GP)
Poorly graded
7 95 1 4 NP Red Brown Dry GRAVEL (GP)
Poorly graded
8 0 95 5 Low Dark Brown Wet SAND (SP)
SILTY SAND
9 2 83 15 NP Tannish Brown Dry (SM)
Poorly graded
10 0 95 5 NP Off White Dry SAND (SP)
Table 1: Summary of data collected from the 10 Samples

Pictures Attached in Appendix

Additional Info

Sample 1
Clay is firm, very fine and blocky

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CEE 346L – Geotechnical Engineering I Lab

Sample 2
It was firm, very fine and homogeneous

Sample 3
It was firm, rounded and homogeneous

Sample 4
There were angular and sub angular grain sizes, very hard, flat and elongated

Sample 5
Soil was hard, rounded but not flat or elongated

Sample 6
There were angular and sub angular grain sizes, very hard, flat and elongate

Sample 7
There were angular and sub angular grain sizes, very hard, flat and elongate

Sample 8
They were poorly graded, firm and small rounded particles

Sample 9
It was well graded, hard and sub angular to rounded particles.

Sample 10
It was firm, rounded particles.

Discussion
The USCS soil types were determined by looking at the soil type and then using the flow chart to
compare the fines, gravel and sand to come up with the names and symbols.
For instance, it’s the end of the day and a new class 5 material is brought in which looks a little
different but must be put before the scheduled concrete pour tomorrow. In this situation an
estimation is required.
No. 4 would make good base for foundation because it has components of fines, sand and gravel
causing good interlocking increasing the shear strength of the soil.
No. 6. or 7 would be great for filter material because it would have high pore spaces.
A mix of 6 and 4 would be good for roadway sub bases
No. 3 would be the worst of all because of its high organic content.

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CEE 346L – Geotechnical Engineering I Lab

Sources of error could be from clumps of clay which might be hard and be classified as rocks. The
color maybe misread because of moisture. Plasticity would be hard to determine if the soil if too
wet. Getting it done be many individuals is the best way to reduce these possible errors.
For the clay and silty kind of soil vibrating sheepfooter or plain roller should be used. For the well
graded ones, flat plate vibrator should be used. Finally, for the coarse ones, the flat bucket of the
excavator/dozer should be enough.

Conclusions
From this lab we learned that how imperative and the techniques to quickly classify soil because it is a
important skill to have. With experience we get better at it but further tests are required because it is just an
approximation. Although simple, this may save huge cost in terms of quick decision making and testing
required.

Appendix

Figure 2 Sample 2
Figure 1 Sample 1

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CEE 346L – Geotechnical Engineering I Lab

Figure 4 Sample 4
Figure 3 Sample 3

Figure 6 Sample 6
Figure 5 Sample 5

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CEE 346L – Geotechnical Engineering I Lab

Figure 8 Sample 8
Figure 7 Sample 7

Figure 10 Sample 10
Figure 9 Sample 9

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