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The Properties and

of Tensar Biaxial
The essential guide to the
properties and performance of
Tensar Biaxial Geogrids
Tensar Technology -
2 proven practical
solutions and the
know-how to get
them built
Based on the unique
properties of Tensar geogrids,
Tensar Technology is widely
adopted for ground
stabilisation and soil
reinforcement problems,
delivering real savings in cost
and time. We can help you Introduction to this guide
apply Tensar Technology to
improve the bottom line on This is your essential guide to the discussed, and information
your project. properties and performance of presented from actual testing or
Tensar biaxial geogrids when trials. The important features are
reinforcing unbound aggregates. highlighted.
The major topics of importance are:
interlock, load spread and pavement
performance. Each topic is

Brief history of Tensar Biaxial Geogrids

In the 1970s Netlon extruded biaxial geogrids, in a wide variety of
meshes were successfully introduced conditions and climates.
into civil engineering as a technique FEATURES
for stabilising soils. In the 1980s
Tensar biaxial geogrids were • High quality durable polymers
developed from these early ideas, • Unique interlock mechanism
specifically for reinforcing unbound between geogrid and aggregate
aggregates. They have been used
• High angle of load spread through
extensively in the construction of
reinforced granular layers
road pavements, trafficked areas,
foundations and load transfer • Improved pavement performance
platforms. During the last 25 years a • Confidence from extensive third
huge number of projects have been party trials and records of
completed successfully using Tensar performance

The performance of Tensar Biaxial

Geogrid in granular material
It works!
The simplest way to see how well The section using Tensar SS2 gave
Tensar biaxial geogrid stabilises satisfactory results, even after many
granular material is to use it over a passes of the 300t test crane.
wet, soft subgrade, where previous Initially, the crane passed along the
attempts with unreinforced material same track path, then moved from
have resulted in deep rutting and side to side along multiple paths.
failure, as shown in Figure 1. A The ruts were then filled in, and the
practical demonstration of this is trial continued along a single track
shown in Figure 2, overleaf, which path. In the comparative section, a
summarises the results from a trial woven polypropylene geotextile was
carried out to investigate the benefit used, and the settlement on the first
of Tensar geogrid in a working pass was 350mm. On the basis of
platform for very heavy cranes over this trial Tensar SS2 was chosen for
a soft clay subgrade. the platform.
Figure 1: Simple practical demonstration of the benefits of
Tensar biaxial geogrid.
Number of passes
0 10 20 30 40
0 230t crane carrying 70t load

Measuring 1.0m thick

100 point granular

Settlement (mm)
Single Multiple path Single path layer
After filling rut and several passes

pass Tensar SS2 Soft clay subgrade
Woven PP geotextile
400 Reinforcement layers
Figure 2a: Crane used in trial. Figure 2b: Comparative trafficking trial of heavy crane over reinforced granular platform.

Tensar biaxial geogrids work, as The apertures of Tensar biaxial
demonstrated above. This is because geogrids are very much like the
they interlock very efficiently with snooker rack. The Tensar
granular materials. When granular manufacturing process produces a
material is compacted over these unique grid structure, consisting of
grids, it partially penetrates and full strength junctions and stiff ribs,
projects through the apertures to which present a square, thick
create a strong and positive leading edge to the aggregate for
interlock. The interlocking effective mechanical interlock.
mechanism is similar to the effect of Interlock helps prevent dilation of
a snooker ball rack. aggregate particles, so that a very
The snooker ball rack confines the high effective angle of shearing
balls above due to its high stiffness resistance is mobilised. Vertical load
and the strength at the corners applied through aggregate particles
(junctions). Also, to confine the above the grid can generate tensile
snooker balls effectively, the rack has resistance in the ribs with very small
high, flat sides. If cyclic load is deflection. The combination of these
applied to the top ball, there will be features ensures that, in Tensar
negligible settlement. However, if geogrid reinforced granular layers:
the rack is very flexible, or the • Tensile load in the grid is
corners are weak, then cyclic load generated at very small deflections
will cause the stack of balls to settle. of an applied vertical load
A further important feature of this
• Reinforcement benefit can be
analogy is that the rack stabilises the
generated within the loaded area
snooker balls above without relying
on support from neighbouring racks.
Thus interlock is localised.
Figure 3: The snooker ball analogy.

applied force

tensile restraint 3
Figure 4a: The importance of the shape of Tensar biaxial Figure 4b: The unique cross sectional shape of Tensar ribs provides bearing points for fill particles
geogrid ribs. unlike other grid types with thinner or more rounded profiles.
Comparison with geotextiles
4 Provided that they are sufficiently Based on these points, the only types
robust to resist damage, both woven of application likely to benefit from
and non-woven geotextiles can the tensioned membrane approach
improve pavement performance by will be roads where fixed wheel
providing a separation function. paths are followed, and large rut
They can prevent contamination of depths are acceptable, for example
the granular fill by intermixing with narrow unsurfaced haul roads. It is
the subgrade soil. The only unlikely that the required conditions
mechanism which allows geotextiles can be met in the construction of
to offer a structural contribution to permanent pavements.
a road pavement or trafficked area is As shown on Figure 5, the interlock
as a tensioned membrane under the mechanism of Tensar geogrids is
wheel paths. For this mechanism to distinctly different to the tensioned
work effectively, the geotextile must membrane. By interlocking with the
be anchored outside the wheel path particles, Tensar geogrids confine the
and then deform sufficiently so that aggregate layer and prevent lateral
it can carry tension. displacement. Load is distributed
For the tensioned membrane from the wheel to the subgrade
mechanism to develop adequately, within the loaded area. Unless the
the following should occur: formation and maintenance of deep
• Relatively deep ruts should form to ruts is acceptable, geotextiles can
permit the membrane to develop only act as a separator. The two
materials are not directly
• The geotextile should be anchored interchangeable without design
outside the rutted area and load review and amendment.
transferred by friction
As part of a literature review of the
• The ruts should be maintained, use of geosynthetics in pavements,
implying that fixed wheel paths Webster (1) described a pavement
must be followed trafficking trial, which compared
• Formation of the ruts will deform four geotextiles and a geogrid with
and remould the subgrade soils a control section. The results are
summarised on Figure 6, which
• The ruts can act as invisible sumps,
shows rut depth versus the number
providing a water source to soften
of passes of a 5t military truck over
the subgrade
an unsurfaced granular pavement
• Performance above the ruts will consisting of six different sections
differ from performance between as shown.
the ruts

geogrids Geotextile

Confinement effect Tensioned membrane effect

Figure 5: Confinement versus membrane effect.

These results show that all four with the aggregate and confine it.
geotextiles perform either worse This greatly decreases lateral spread
than or similar to the control, of the aggregate, thereby reducing
whereas the geogrid is significantly rut depth.
better. The histogram shows the Webster (1) presented a literature
number of passes to form a 50mm review of 104 papers and
rut, and also indicates the strength publications, as part of the
of each product tested. It is preparation for a major aircraft
important to note that the strongest pavement trafficking trial (described
geotextile (strength is reported as a later in this document) to be carried
grab strength of 4450N which is out by the US Army Corps of
equivalent to a tensile strength of Engineers (USACE). One of the
about 90kN/m) gave the poorest conclusions from this review was:
performance. This probably occurred
If geotextiles are included in the
because the geotextile created a
structure no structural support
sliding surface, encouraging the
should be attributed to the
aggregate to displace laterally. The
geogrid, (tensile performance data
reported as 8.4kN/m at 5% strain is On the basis of this study, and the
similar to the longitudinal behaviour many trials and tests reviewed,
of Tensar SS1 which had a strength geotextiles were omitted from the
of 12.5 kN/m), is able to interlock USACE aircraft pavement trial.

5t military truck

Number of passes
0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000
Control G2
10 Control G2 G4 G5 G6 SS grid
Tensar SS grids G4
20 G5 G6
30 8.4 kN/m at
Rut depth (mm)

G2, G4, G5 and G6 5% strain

passes for 50mm rut

40 5000 geotextiles, value is

grab strength
50 4000

3000 1100N
2000 580N

100 0
Control G2 G4 G5 G6 Tensar SS
Figure 6: Comparison of geotextile and geogrid in USACE trafficking trial.
Trial section

Tensar geogrid reinforcement Geotextile 5

Figure 7: Geotextiles and Tensar geogrids perform differently.

Tensar biaxial geogrids interlock efficiently with aggregates – geotextiles cannot.

Twenty five years of research, tests and trials
6 Over the last 25 years, a large materials. They can be divided into
number of tests and trials have been the following main categories:
carried out by independent • Static load tests
organisations, to investigate the
performance of aggregate layers • Cyclic load tests
reinforced with Tensar biaxial • Trafficking trials
geogrids. These tests and trials
• Other tests
provide a huge body of high quality
data which gives the basis for Some of these tests and trials, and
methods to design aggregate layers their results, are described in the
reinforced with Tensar geogrids, and following sections.
is unrivalled by other geosynthetic

Static load tests

Oxford University tests (early 1980s) – improving
bearing capacity and load spread
Model footing experiments were change the failure mechanism. The
carried out by the University of gravel layer was confined by
Oxford, UK (2), to investigate the interlocking with the reinforcement,
benefit of reinforcing a granular which then resisted tensile strains at
layer over soft clay. Two of the its base. This prevented gravel
experiments are shown on Figure 8, particles from moving laterally away
and some of the load versus from the loaded area, which can be
settlement graphs are shown on seen in the unreinforced test on
Figure 9. Figure 8 (upper) as a reduction in
The experiments consistently gravel thickness below the
demonstrated that an improvement foundation. In addition, failure
in bearing capacity of around 40% planes were driven deeper into the
was achieved in the reinforced cases. soft clay in the reinforced tests.
Reinforcement was also found to

Figure 8: The University of Oxford, UK model footing

experiments, without (top) and with (bottom)
reinforcement at similar loads showing different

Load (kPa)

0 40 80 120 160


Dotted line
20 indicates
Settlement (mm)

test with Load

biaxial grid 75mm wide
strip footing
30 Gravel

Su = 6 kPa
40 50mm
Su = 10 kPa

Su = 16 kPa Tensar biaxial geogrid


Soft clay
60 Su = undrained shear strength

Figure 9: Some results from the Oxford University model footing experiments.
Earlier work for Oxford University
had provided some of the earliest
insights into geogrid performance
(3). The effect on angle of load
spread was evaluated and data
indicated a mean angle increasing
from 38˚ in the unreinforced case
to more than 50˚ with grid. This
simple approach indicates that
granular layer thickness may be
reduced by around 50% to give a
geogrid similar stress on the subgrade, see
Figure 10.
Figure 10: Load spread improvement.

Guido model foundation tests (1987) - optimising

geogrid layout
In 1987, Guido et al (4) reported the observations given above, namely,
results of larger model footing that reinforcement benefit by
experiments, intended mainly to look interlock is generated within the
at the effect of multi-layers of Tensar loaded area. It is not necessary to
geogrid beneath foundations. In this anchor grid well beyond the loaded
case the test medium was sand, and area to get maximum benefit.
no soft layer was present. The Further tests by Guido et al
parameters varied in the tests are demonstrated that maximum
shown in Figure 11, and were: reinforcing benefit is achieved when:
geogrid width (b), vertical geogrid
• The depth to the upper geogrid
spacing (∆z), depth to the top layer
layer is less than 0.25B
(u) and number of layers (N). Figure
11 also shows the effect of varying • Vertical spacing of geogrid layers
the geogrid width (b). It can be seen is 0.25B or less
that there is only a small increase in • 2 or 3 geogrid layers are used
bearing capacity for widths greater (but more than this does not give
than 2.5B. This provides justification further improvement)
for one of the important

Tensar SS1
Tensar SS2 B = 305mm
q square
Bearing capacity ratio (BCR)



1.4 z

Effect of grid width (b/B) b
u/B = 0.5, z/B =0.25, N= 3
0 1 2 3 4 BCR = q (with grid)/q(without grid)
at failure
Grid width (b/B)

Figure 11: Model footing experiments reported by Guido et al (4).

Full scale foundation tests by FHWA (1997) -
8 confirming Guido work
More recently, full scale foundation (Test TL146) and the much wider
tests have been carried out by FHWA geogrid layer (Test TL186) give the
in the USA. These are reported by same performance. This conclusion
Adams and Collin (5). Square is almost identical to that from
foundations up to 0.91m wide were Guido et al, again supporting the
tested using sand as the subsoil. observation that the reinforcement
Figure 12 shows the results from effect provided by the interlock
three of the tests, looking at the mechanism is localised. Other
effect of geogrid width. It can be conclusions concerning the optimum
seen that a single layer of depth to the upper geogrid layer,
reinforcement gives around 50% the spacing and number of geogrid
increase in bearing capacity, but that layers are all similar to those of
the narrow geogrid layer Guido et al.

Load (kPa) 600mm

0 100 200 300 400


20 Control

30 300mm 150mm
Settlement (mm)


Tests carried out using Tensar SS35
60 medium sand Test TL146

70 Control
80 Test TL146

90 Test TL186 Tensar SS35

Test TL186

Figure 12: Full scale foundation tests carried out by FHWA.

Design recommendations for foundations and load transfer platforms have been
developed from static load test results.

Cyclic load tests

The static loading tests described design, loads are generally well
above provide useful insight into the below static failure load, but they
mechanisms and benefits when are repeated many times. In order to
reinforcing granular layers with model better the effect of traffic
Tensar biaxial geogrids. The loading on a reinforced granular
conclusions have been used to layer, cyclic loading tests have been
develop design recommendations carried out in which a relatively low
for applications such as reinforced intensity load is repeated many
foundations and load transfer times.
platforms. However, for pavement
University of Waterloo cyclic load tests (mid 1980s) -
improving pavement performance
Research carried out at the A total of six loops were tested with
University of Waterloo, Canada, in CBR ranging from 0.5 to 8%,
the mid 1980s, was reported by Haas together with a range of pavement
et al (6). This consisted of a series of thicknesses and reinforcement
laboratory cyclic loading tests on full layouts. From this research it was
scale pavement sections. concluded that:
The pavement sections were The introduction of a Tensar geogrid
constructed with an asphalt layer allowed a three times increase in the
over a granular base layer. The number of load applications.
subgrade strength (in terms of %
The work carried out at the
CBR) was varied in the numerous
University of Waterloo was used to
experiments carried out. Each set of
develop a design method for
tests was referred to as a “loop”.
granular road base reinforced with
A test load of 40 kN was applied
Tensar biaxial geogrid, based on the
through a circular 300mm diameter
AASHTO pavement design manual.
steel plate, representing one side of
The pavement is designed by the
a standard 80 kN design axle.
conventional AASHTO procedure,
The results from Loop 2 are shown then the granular base thickness is
in Figure 13. In this case CBR = reduced by 33% to give the same
3.5%, and the graph shows the design life. This design method
settlement of the plate versus the (often referred to as the “one-third
number of load cycles. Comparison rule”) has been used since the mid
of the three sections shows that: 1980s, and has been extended to
• Reinforcement of the 200mm base sub-base design as well as other
has increased the number of load forms of trafficked area. It is
applications by a factor of three to applicable over a wide range of CBR
reach a given settlement values. Large numbers of road
• 100mm of reinforced base gives pavements have been designed in
Test Loop 2 this way, and measured performance
Test load applied by 300mm the same performance as the
circular plate loaded to 40kN 200mm control in two cases is reported later in this
All sections have 75mm asphalt document.

200mm 200mm 100mm

base base base
control SS1 SS1

Number of load cycles

0 40000 80000 120000 160000


200mm base control

200mm base reinforced
Subgrade CBR = 3.5% 10
100mm base reinforced
settlement (mm)

Cycles for 20mm settlement




0 50
Control Reinforced Reinforced
200mm base 200mm base 100mm base
Figure 13: Cyclic plate tests carried out by University of Waterloo. 9
Trafficking trials
10 Cyclic load tests provide useful scale pavements. Trafficking trials
information on the performance of are all carried out in a similar
Tensar geogrid reinforced fashion. A pavement is constructed,
pavements. However, the nature of generally with several different
the load does not correctly model sections representing the conditions
the effect of a wheel passing over to be investigated, including a
the pavement surface. This can only control section. A wheel of known
be done using trafficking trials, and load is then run over the section,
several such trials have been carried and the development of the rut and
out to investigate the performance other deformations are observed
of Tensar biaxial geogrids in full and recorded.

TRL pavement trials (mid 1980s) - investigating

rut profiles
Figure 14 shows some of the results substantiate some of the earlier
from trafficking trials carried out by observations concerning
UK’s Transport and Road Research granular layers reinforced with
Laboratory (TRRL - now known as Tensar biaxial geogrids:
TRL). The trials were carried out both • Interaction by interlock is
in the test facility and in the field. mobilised with minimal
The test facility work again identified deformation of the geogrid
the reinforcing effect of Tensar
80kN • Tensile strains and deformation in
Tensar biaxial geogrids, and the report (7)
SS1 stated: the subgrade are minimised
When geogrid reinforcement is used, • Interlock confines the aggregate
a given sub-base thickness can carry and minimises lateral displacement
Subgrade CBR = 4.8% about 3.5 times more traffic. • Rut depth for similar pavement life
0.4 The graph on Figure 14 shows a is reduced
Top of sub-base
cross section of one of the test This is quite different to the
sections after 800 axle passes. The tensioned membrane mechanism,
Height above datum (m)

unreinforced control section has a which requires large deformations
deep rut at the surface, and a rut both of the geosynthetic and at the
After 800 passes can also be seen at the top of subgrade surface. Furthermore, the
Before trafficking subgrade. On the reinforced section, tensioned membrane does not
Top of subgrade the surface rut is about half the confine the aggregate, and can help
depth, and there is negligible rutting to encourage lateral displacement of
at the top of subgrade. Similar aggregate particles.
behaviour was observed for CBR’s of
0.4% and 1.6%. These results
-2.1 -1.5 -0.9 -0.3 0.3 0.9 1.5 2.1
Transverse position (m)
Figure 14: Trafficking trials at TRRL.

USACE pavement trials (early 1990s) - comparing

geogrid types
Webster (8) reported the results of a One purpose of the USACE trial was
major trafficking trial carried out in to compare the performance of
the early 1990s, aimed specifically at different forms of geogrid and mesh
light aircraft pavements. The test (see Figure 15). It can be seen that
load consisted of a single 130 kN the various geogrids and meshes
wheel, and the test pavement was tested give greatly different
finished with 50mm of asphalt. performance. A study of these
Different base thicknesses were results and the products tested,
investigated, and the subgrade identified grid properties which
consisted of clay with CBR of 3% affect the reinforcement mechanism
and 8%. The results from one (Table 1). These included the rib’s
section of this trial are summarised shape, thickness and stiffness, and
in Figure 15.
Number of passes

0 500 1000 1500 2000 2500

the aperture’s size, shape, rigidity
10 and stability. It should be noted that
grid tensile strength (ie. rupture
25mm load at large strain) was not found
30 to be relevant to a grid’s
performance. This property is not
Rut depth (mm)

used when designing with Tensar
50 biaxial grids. The study also
determined that the prevailing
mode of failure of the pavement
70 was lateral movement of the base
Control Tensar SS1 aggregate away from the applied
Tensar SS2 Grid PET1 wheel loads. This movement was
Grid PET2 Grid PP prevented by the Tensar grids.
100 The report stated:
By interlocking with the base layer
130kN single aggregate, geogrids reduce
wheel mm asphalt permanent lateral displacement,
which accumulate with traffic
350mm granular
base passes.
The grids also effectively separated
the aggregate base from the
subgrade, in spite of their relatively
large apertures, without the use of
Control PET1 PP PET2 SS1 SS2 a separation fabric. The major
conclusion of the work was that:
CBR = 3%
The performance of the various
geogrid products tested ranged
600 from no improvement up to 40
percent reduction in total pavement
500 thickness requirement. The relatively
rigid sheet-type geogrid (Tensar SS2)
Passes for 25mm rut

400 performed the best of all products

tested. The lighter weight version of
300 this product performed second best.
However, one other sheet-type
200 product and one woven-type
product with good strength
100 properties failed to provide any
measurable performance
0 improvement. The remaining
Control PET1 PP PET2 SS1 SS2
woven-type products provided
Trial section
marginal performance
Figure 15: Pavement trial carried out by USACE comparing different grids.

Table 1 Geogrid properties affecting base reinforcement

Geogrid item Property Judgement
Rib Thickness Thicker is better.
Rib Stiffness Stiffer is better. Need test to measure stiffness.
Rib Shape Square or rectangular are better than rounded or curved shapes.
Aperture Size Related to base aggregate size. Optimum size not known.
0.75 to 1.5 inches (20-40mm) probably good target range.
Aperture Shape Round or square is better.
Aperture Rigidity Stiffer is better.
Junction Strength Need some minimum strength. All geogrids tested were adequate.
Grid Secant Modulus Need minimum secant modulus value. Optimum not known.
(ASTM D 4595) Should use that of SS2 as minimum.
Grid Stability The “Grid Aperture Stability by In-Plane Rotation” test developed by
Dr Thomas Kinney shows good potential for traffic performance
relationship. A minimum secant aperture stability modulus at a specified
torque may be a good index test requirement.
Grid sample
Mechanical properties of geogrid wheel. Testing has established that a
Pulley arrangement
to apply torsional
considered relevant to base product required to provide the
12 load to a grid reinforcement established in the geosynthetic function of
USACE trial (8) listed in Table 1, reinforcement in ground
include aperture stability. This is stabilisation should have high in-
measured using a torsional test plane stiffness, in addition to the
carried out in the plane of the ability to interlock effectively with
geogrid, which was developed by aggregate particles. To quote from
Kinney & Xiaolin (9). The apparatus Kinney & Xiaolin:
is shown in Figure 16, and the the aperture rigidity modulus is a
Clamp moment applied to the test measure of material property which
specimen imitates the torsional is significant to the geogrid
Figure 16: Apparatus for in-plane torsional rigidity test.
loading applied to a section of grid performance in base reinforcement
in a pavement due to a passing applications.

10 The USACE report introduces the For the USACE trial, TIF for a rut
Multiple wheel paths
9 concept of Traffic Improvement depth of 25mm for Tensar SS2 is
Single wheel path
TIF = 1 (no improvement) Factors (TIF). For any specific plotted against base thickness in
7 pavement, TIF is defined as: Figure 17. This shows that for base
6 thickness less than 400mm, TIF is
Number of passes with geogrid
5 TIF = around 5, but as the base becomes
4 Number of passes without geogrid thicker TIF reduces.

3 where the number of passes is

2 defined for a specific failure or
1 serviceability criterion.
100 200 300 400 500
Base thickness (mm)
Figure 17: Traffic improvement factors for Tensar SS2
from USACE trial.

Newcastle pavement trials (1996) - further

comparative testing
A more recent trafficking trial has sections with other forms of geogrid
been carried out at the Newcastle (coated woven polyester and
University, UK (10). In this case, the extruded PP) have similar rut depth
pavement was unsurfaced. The to the unreinforced control. Rut
results on Figure 18 show similar depth for Tensar SS2 is about half
trends to the previous trials and that of the control, which is similar
tests. After 52,000 wheel passes, the to the behaviour observed in both
the TRRL and USACE trials. This trial
included Tensar SS30, which has
Trial section superseded SS2, and it can be seen
Tensar Tensar that both Tensar grids give a similar
Control PET PP SS2 SS30
Rut depth after 52000

passes (mm)


64 kN wheel over 400mm sub-base

Figure 18: The Newcastle University trafficking trials.
40 kN double
tyred wheel
320 mm sub- TRL pavement trials (2000) - relating performance in
base layer
pavements to geosynthetic stiffness
In 2000, TRL carried out a further rut depth versus number of passes for
pavement trial, incorporating a variety five of the sections tested. Four of
of geosynthetic materials (11). The these sections include a 40 kN/m
pavement consisted of 320mm of sub- biaxial geosynthetic product at the
Control Woven Reinf Welded Tensar base over a clay subgrade with CBR = subgrade level. Table 2 summarises TIF
geotex geotex grid SS40
1.5%. The pavement was trafficked by (for a 40mm rut depth) for these four
a 40 kN double tyred wheel along a products, and also gives their stiffness
Clay, CBR = 1.5%
fixed path, representing one end of a (in terms of load at 2% strain from
4000 standard design axle. Figure 19 shows tensile tests).

Number of passes
No Passes for 40mm rut

3000 0 2000 4000 6000 8000 10000


40mm rut
Rut depth (mm)

1000 Each plotted point is the
80 mean of 15 rut depth
0 Control
Control Woven Reinf Welded Tensar Reinf geotex
geotex geotex grid SS40 120 All products have quality Tensar SS40
Trial section control (QC) strength of Woven geotex
140 40 kN/m Welded grid
Depth below edge of pit (m)

Top of sub-base Tensar SS40

0 Table 2: Summary of TIF for 40 kN/m products in TRL trial related to stiffness
-0.1 Product TIF Load at 2% strain (kN/m) Comments
Before trafficking
Top of subgrade
-0.2 After 10000 passes Woven PP geotexile 1.5 14.0 must rely on tensioned membrane
-0.3 Reinforced geotexile 2.1 26.0 must rely on tensioned membrane

-0.4 Welded grid 3.2 15.0 limited interlock possible

0 0.6 1.2 1.8 2.4 Tensar SS40 13.5 14.0 efficient interlock
Distance from edge of pit (m)

The woven geotextile has similar negligible heave and little

Depth below edge of pit (m)

Top of sub-base Reinforced geotextile stiffness to Tensar SS40, yet provides deformation of the subgrade
negligible reinforcing benefit. The surface. The welded grid consists of
0 reinforced geotextile (a composite very thin polyester strips welded to
-0.1 consisting of a non-woven geotextile form a grid shape, with similar
Before trafficking
Top of subgrade reinforced with high modulus stiffness to Tensar SS40. The thin
-0.2 After 5000 passes

aramid fibres) has twice the stiffness strips do not interlock effectively
of Tensar SS40, but provides very with the aggregate and the
0 0.6 1.2 1.8 2.4 little improvement in performance improvement in pavement
Distance from edge of pit (m) compared to the control section. The performance is less than 25% of that
lower part of Figure 19 shows rut provided by Tensar SS40. This
Figure 19: Comparative pavement trial carried out by TRL.
profiles measured in this section, comparison has similar conclusions
compared with Tensar SS40. After to many others, and again
5000 passes, not only is there deep emphasises that the most important
rutting and heave in the sub-base feature of a geogrid to reinforce a
surface, but also in the subgrade road pavement effectively is its
surface below. For Tensar SS40 after ability to interlock with the
10,000 passes, there is a smaller rut, aggregate particles.

Design recommendations for road 13

pavements and trafficked areas
Tensar Geogrid have been developed from cyclic
Figure 20: Concept of pavement design with Tensar biaxial load tests and trafficking trials.
geogrid - reduced pavement thickness for similar performance.
Plate loading tests
Plate tests reported by Vanggaard (1999) -
investigating layer modulus
The results from plate loading tests number of sites in Denmark. In each
are commonly used as input case, the subgrade modulus (Em) is
parameters for pavement design. measured, then the modulus on top
Vanggaard (12) reports the results of of the granular sub-base (Ev2). The
plate loading tests carried out to test arrangement and results are
investigate pavement modulus at a summarised on Figure 21. The
relationship between Em and Ev2 is a
160 measure of the increase in vertical
Circular steel plate Em measured on
Control subgrade
stiffness created by the sub-base.
Woven PET Figure 21 shows the results for
120 Tensar SS30 the control sections (without any
Subgrade soil
geosynthetic), and sections
Ev2 (MPa)

reinforced with Tensar SS30. The

80 Ev2 measured
on sub-base Sub-base vertical difference between the two
lines is a measure of the
40 improvement in vertical stiffness of
the sub-base by reinforcing it with
Subgrade soil
Tensar SS30. Figure 21 includes
0 20 40 60 80
some results from woven coated
Em (MPa) polyester grids, which show
Figure 21: The arrangement and results from plate tests to establish pavement modulus. considerably less improvement.

Plate loading tests reported by Seiler (1995) -

investigating layer modulus
During upgrading of a section of the loading tests on the sub-base. Sub-
Berlin to Munich railway line in base thicknesses of 400 and 600mm
Germany, plate load tests were were tested. Using a single layer of
carried out to determine the benefit Tensar SS2 at the base of the layer
of reinforcing the sub-base with resulted in approximately 100%
Tensar biaxial geogrid (13). In the increase in modulus. These results
test section the subgrade was very are similar to those reported by
weak with CBR around 0.5 to 1.0% Vanggaard, and are important
(modulus 7 to 15 MPa). Figure 22 because many pavement design
summarises the results of plate methods use modulus as the
principal design parameter of the
120 granular layers. This testing
demonstrates that including Tensar
Unreinforced geogrid in a granular layer
Reinforced with Tensar SS2
effectively increases its modulus by
a factor of 2 or more.
Ev2 modulus (MPa)




400mm 600mm
Sub-base thickness

Figure 22: Effect of using Tensar SS2 on sub-base modulus.

Void trial - The ultimate demonstration
of interlock
The University of Wales (14) carried top of the blockwork wall – it was
out a special trial to investigate just resting on top.
using Tensar biaxial geogrid The results from this trial are
reinforced pavements to span across remarkable for a number of reasons:
voids. The aim of this trial was to
• Strain reached a maximum of 4%
see if pavements reinforced in this
after completion of void
way could provide an early warning
formation, and increased very
system of a void appearing
little until 72 hours were reached,
unexpectedly beneath a road, for
when the trial was demolished
example, in areas of old mine
workings. The requirement was that • Tensioned membrane theory
the void would create a depression predicts that load in a membrane
in the road sufficiently deep to be used in this way should be well
detected easily, but able to survive above the breaking load of the
long enough for remedial measures geogrid – it clearly was not
to be taken safely. • Membrane theory and creep
The arrangement of the trial is properties of the PP geogrid
shown on Figure 24. A 3m diameter would suggest that grid strain
void was formed in between should increase rapidly with time –
blockwork walls, then filled with this did not happen
sand. A pavement consisting of
• Strain (and therefore load)
0.6m of granular sub-base was
measured in the geogrid at the
placed above the sand-filled void,
two points resting on top of the
reinforced with 2 layers of Tensar
blockwork wall (1.75m and 2.25m
Figure 23: Views of the void trial before (top) removing support SS35 geogrid. Two layers of
and inside void. on Figure 24) is zero, indicating
kerbstones were placed on top of
that the support mechanism does
the sub-base to give 5 kPa
not rely on friction between the
surcharge (Figure 23). The sand fill
grid and the top of the
was then removed to create the
blockwork wall
void. The underside of the lower
geogrid layer after formation of the This trial shows how effective
void can be seen on Figure 23 interlock is in creating a stiffened
(lower). The geogrid was monitored granular mattress, and how superior
with strain gauges at various it is to a tensioned membrane. As a
distances from the centre of the tensioned membrane, the granular
void and the results for the lowest pavement should have collapsed
layer are shown in Figure 24. It is very quickly. However, the sub-
important to note that the geogrid base/geogrid composite created a
was not fixed or anchored to the 0.6m thick gravel mattress spanning
3m at strains well below failure.
This unique composite action can be
Strain in lower layer of Tensar SS35
utilised in all applications where
granular layers are reinforced with
Tensar biaxial geogrids.
0.6m thick surcharge
Strain (%)


0.0m 1.5m

0.0m 0.25m

0.75m 1.25m
1.75m 2.25m

Location of strain
0 2 layers of gauges measured
0 20 40 60 80 Tensar SS35 from centre
3.0m diameter void
Time (hours) outwards
Figure 24: Void trial carried out by The University of Wales.
Performance in service
Glenlogan Park Estate, Queensland, Australia –
confirming the “one-third rule”
A pavement was built in 1997 as part deflectometer or FWD (15). The
of a housing development in South deflection results from the 2002
Queensland, Australia. A section of testing are shown on the upper graph
the pavement was built using Tensar of Figure 25, and they show a similar
SS30 placed at the subgrade level, but trend to the Benkleman beam tests,
with the upper granular layers namely consistent results with
designed using a one-third reduction deflection of the thinner reinforced
in thickness. Both six months and two pavement significantly less than the
years after construction, Benkleman thicker unreinforced pavement. FWD
Beam (BB) deflection tests were carried tests can be analysed to interpret layer
out on the reinforced and modulus in the pavement. This is
unreinforced sections of pavement. shown for the sub-base layer on the
Both series of tests gave consistent lower graph of Figure 25. The results
results, demonstrating that the thinner are consistent, and show that the
reinforced section of pavement modulus of the thinner reinforced
deflected consistently less than the sub-base is on average more than
thicker unreinforced pavement. double that of the thicker
unreinforced sub-base. This
In November 2000 and December observation is almost identical to the
2002 further performance testing was results from plate loading tests
carried out using the falling weight described earlier in this guide.

For mechanistic pavement design methods

based on layer stiffness, the benefits of Tensar
biaxial geogrids may be modelled by increasing
the stiffness of the reinforced granular layers

Figure 25: Comparison of reinforced and unreinforced pavements in Australia.

Wyoming, USA - confirming the “one third rule”
Huntington and Ksaibati (16) and by measuring rut depth. The
describe a pavement built in 1995 to results are summarised on Figure 26,
evaluate the performance of biaxial which shows that both sections have
geogrid. A control section was built almost identical characteristics.
adjacent to a section reinforced with Both trials described above confirm
Tensar SS1 geogrid (described by its the “one-third rule”, namely that a
US designation of BX1100 in the Tensar geogrid reinforced pavement
paper), and with a one-third with a 33% reduction in granular
reduction in granular base thickness. thickness gives similar or better
After three years service in 1998, the performance when compared to the
sections were checked using a thicker unreinforced control section.
Falling Weight Deflectometer (FWD),

Designed for 310 ESA per day for 20 years

20mm friction course
Wyoming Department
of Transport

3 100mm hot mix

With SS1
Deflection/rut (mm)


Measured granular
performance base
after 3 years in
1 Tensar SS1

Control CBR = 4%
Rut depth (mm) FWD deflection (mm)
Measurement method
Figure 26: Comparison of reinforced and unreinforced pavements in USA.

Durability and UV resistance

Tensar biaxial geogrids are extremely penetrating beyond a thin layer at
durable (17). They are not affected the surface. This excellent UV
by hydrolysis, and are resistant to resistance means that no special
attack by aqueous solutions of salts, wrapping or covering is required
acids and alkalis. They have no during handling, and there is no
solvents at ambient temperature. practical need to specify a maximum
PP is not a nutrient medium for duration before the material is
micro-organisms and is, therefore, covered in the installation
not affected by them. In addition, procedure.
the tough monolithic form of Tensar
biaxial geogrids gives them a high
degree of resistance to installation
Ultra-violet light (UV) can damage
unprotected polymers very rapidly,
by breaking down the polymer
chains. Tensar biaxial geogrids are
manufactured with a minimum of
2% well dispersed carbon black, 17
which gives a very high degree of
protection by preventing UV from
Quality control testing
18 For Tensar biaxial geogrids, quality limit determined in accordance with
control (QC) tensile testing is carried ISO 2602-1980.
out using the method specified in Tensar geogrids are manufactured
International Standard ISO 10319. in accordance with Quality and
This requires a specimen width of at Environmental Management
least 200mm. Strain rate is 20% per Systems which comply with the
minute and test temperature is requirements of BS EN ISO
20ºC. 9001:2000 and BS EN ISO
A typical test from an ISO 10319 QC 14001:1996 respectively.
test is shown on Figure 28. These
tests are carried out at prescribed
intervals according to the certified
quality control procedures. The
specified QC strength per metre Q 05288 EMS 86463
BS EN ISO 9001:2000 BS EN ISO 14001:1996
width is the 95% lower confidence




Load (kN/m)
Tensar SS30 QC test
15 QC limit

QC test on Tensar SS30
5 Typical result
Method: ISO 10319
0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14
Strain (%)
Figure 28: Test arrangement and result for ISO 10319 tensile
test on Tensar SS30.

Manufacturing process
Tensar biaxial geogrids are The polymer’s long chain molecules
Punched manufactured from carefully are orientated in the direction of
selected grades of polypropylene stretching resulting in a dramatic
(PP). A long service life is required in increase in both strength and
most civil engineering applications stiffness. This orientation passes
and the grade of PP used in Tensar through both the narrower ribs and
geogrids combines the optimum the thicker nodes, and is unique to
values of strength, stiffness, the patented Tensar manufacturing
toughness and durability. process.
Biaxial geogrids are made by The resulting product is a monolithic
Biaxial geogrid
extruding a sheet of PP to very grid with square edged ribs and
precise tolerances, punching an integral junctions which possess
accurate pattern of holes, then both geometrical and molecular
stretching the sheet under controlled symmetry; critical for consistency in
temperature, firstly in the manufacture and efficient load
longitudinal direction, then in the transfer in service. Aperture sizes
transverse direction. This process have been carefully chosen to
creates a geogrid with square or match with typical gradings of
almost square apertures, called a pavement aggregates..
Figure 27: The Tensar manufacturing process and the
biaxial grid because it is stretched in
stretched biaxial geogrid. two orthogonal directions.
Tensar biaxial geocomposites
All Tensar biaxial geogrids are also The composite products are
available in a composite form particularly suited for use with the
comprising a Tensar biaxial geogrid more uniformly sized aggregates.
laminated to a non-woven geotextile

A composite version is available incorporating a geotextile separator.

1. Webster, S L, Geogrid Reinforced Base Courses for Flexible Pavements for Light Aircraft: Literature Review and Test Section Design. Geotechnical Laboratory, Department of the
Army, Waterways Experiment Station, Corps of Engineers, Mississippi, 1991.
2. Milligan, G W E, & Love, J P, Model testing of geogrids under an aggregate layer on soft ground, Proc Symp Polymer Grid Reinforcement, Thomas Telford, London 1985.
3. Oxford University, The use of mesh products to improve the performance of granular fill on soft ground, Report 1346/81 to Netlon Limited, 1980.
4. Guido, V A, Knueppel, J D & Sweeny, M A, Plate Loading Tests on Geogrid-Reinforced Earth Slabs, Proc. Geosynthetics ’87 Conference, New Orleans, USA, pp 216-225, 1987.
5. Adams, M T & Collin, J G, Large model spread footing load tests on geosynthetic reinforced soil foundations, Journal of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering, ASCE,
p 66, January 1997.
6. Haas, R, Walls, J, & Carroll, R G, Geogrid reinforcement of granular bases in flexible pavements, Transportation Research Record 1188, 1988.
7. Chaddock, B C J, Deformation of Road Foundations with Geogrid Reinforcement, TRL Research Report 140,1988.
8. Webster, S L, Geogrid Reinforced Base Courses for Flexible Pavements for Light Aircraft: Test Section Construction, Behaviour Under Traffic, Laboratory Tests and Design Criteria,
Geotechnical Laboratory, Department of the Army, Waterways Experiment Station, Corps of Engineers, Mississippi, 1992.
9. Kinney, T C, & Xiaolin, Y, Geogrid Aperture Rigidity by In-Plane Rotation. Geosynthetics ‘95, Nashville, 1995.
10. Knapton, J, & Austin, R A, Laboratory testing of reinforced unpaved roads, Proc Symp on Earth Reinforcement, A Balkema, Rotterdam, 1996.
11. Blackman, D I, Greene, M J & Watts, G R A, Tensar International Limited: Trafficking trials for sub-base reinforcement, TRL Report PR/IS/13/2001, 2001.
12. Vanggaard, M, The effect of reinforcement due to choice of geogrid, Proc Int Symp on Pre-failure deformation characteristics of geomaterial, Torino 1999.
13. Seiler, J, Trials and practical experiences with orientated and woven geogrids on the Hochstadt - Probstzella section of the Berlin - Munich railway, Geotechnik, German
Geotechnical Society, 1995.
14. Bridle, R J, Jenner, C G & Barr, B, Novel Applications of geogrids in Areas of Shallow Mineworkings, Proc 5th Int Conf on Geotextiles, Geomembranes and Related Products,
Singapore, Vol 1, pp 297-300, 1994.
15. Pavement Management Services, FWD Testing Report, St Jude Circuit, Jimboomba, Glenlogan Park Estate, Test Report, 2002.
16. Huntington, G, & Ksaibati, K, Evaluation of Geogrid Reinforced Granular Bases, Geotechnical Fabrics Report, January/February 2000.
17. Wrigley, N E, Durability and long-term performance of Tensar polymer grids for soil reinforcement, Material Science and Technology, Vol 3, pp 161-172, London, 1988.

Contact Tensar International or your local distributor to receive further
literature covering Tensar products and applications.
Also available on request are product specifications, installation guides
and specification notes.
The complete range of Tensar literature consists of:
• Tensar Geosynthetics in Civil Engineering A guide to the products
and their applications
• Ground Stabilisation Stabilising unbound layers
in roads and trafficked areas
• Tensar Structural Solutions Bridge Abutments - Retaining Walls -
Steep Slopes
• Foundations over Piles Constructing over weak ground
without settlement
• Basal Reinforcement Constructing embankments over
weak ground
• Railways Reinforcing ballast and sub-base layers under railway track
• Asphalt Pavements Reinforcing asphalt layers
in roads and trafficked areas
• Erosion Controlling erosion on soil and rock slopes

Your local distributor is:

Tensar International Limited Tel: +44 (0)1254 262431

New Wellington Street Fax: +44 (0)1254 266868
Blackburn BB2 4PJ E-mail:
United Kingdom

Q 05288 EMS 86463

BS EN ISO 9001:2000 BS EN ISO 14001:1996

©Copyright Tensar International Limited

Printed July 2005, Issue 4, 79010055

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