You are on page 1of 31

Chapter 7.

Well Foundations

CE- 471: Foundation Engineering

Well foundations are being used in India
from very early days. Taj Mahal was
built on such foundations. Wells are
classified as deep foundations. The
main difference between a well and a
pile foundation is that, while a pile is
flexible like a beam under horizontal
loads, the well undergoes rigid body
movement under such loads.

CE- 471: Foundation Engineering

Types of Wells
Wells have different shapes and
accordingly they are named
1. Circular Wells
2. Dumb bell
3. Double-D Wells
4. Double Octagonal Wells
5. Single and Double
Rectangular Wells
6. Multiple Dredged Holed

CE- 471: Foundation Engineering

Components of Well Foundation
The various component of
a well foundations are

1. Cutting Edge
2. Well Curb
3. Bottom Plug
4. Steining
5. Top Plug
6. Well Cap
CE- 471: Foundation Engineering
Design of Wells

Design of wells basically involves finding

1. Depth of the well

2. Size of the well and
3. Design of the other components.

CE- 471: Foundation Engineering

Depth of Scour
Well foundations are constructed in river beds, they
should be taken to a safe depth well below the
anticipated scour level. Scour around piers depends on
several factors like flood discharge, the angle of attack
of the flow, flow obstruction etc. The scour depth is
calculated as follows.
q 13
Ds 0.473
Ds Scour depth (m)
q Design discharge (m 3 /s)
sf Silt factor 1.76 Dm
Dm Mean diameter of soil particle in river bed (mm)

CE- 471: Foundation Engineering

Type of material Mean diameter (mm) sf

Values of Coarse silt

Fine sand
Silt Factor Fine sand 0.15 0.68
Medium sand 0.3 0.96
Medium sand 0.5 1.24

Coarse sand 0.7 1.47

Coarse sand 1 1.76

Coarse sand 2 2.49

CE- 471: Foundation Engineering

Grip Length for Wells
The foundation should be taken well below the scour level to protect it from
any movement due to the force of the stream and other external forces.

D .Ds
D Grip length of well

CE- 471: Foundation Engineering

Size of Wells
The size of dredge hole of a well varies.
In small and shallow wells, the
minimum diameter of the dredge hole
should be 1.8 m. In larger wells, the
minimum size of the dredge hole
should be 3 m. The final size is
decided after satisfying the lateral
stability condition of the wells.

CE- 471: Foundation Engineering

Bearing Capacity of Wells
IS 3955 recommends the following formula for allowable
bearing pressure for sands based on its N value for safety
against shear failure
[5.4N 2 B 16(100 N 2 )D]
qa Safe bearing capacity (kN/m 2 )
N Corrected SPT value
B Smaller dimension of well
D Depth of well foundation below scour level
CE- 471: Foundation Engineering

This is subjected to
different types of
stresses. At the
sinking it is subjected
to water and earth
pressure. At dredging
stage, inside surface is
subjected to water
pressure while outside
surface to the earth
pressure. IRC
recommends some
rules of thumb for
fixing the thickness of
steining which are
given below.
CE- 471: Foundation Engineering
Cement concrete steining
1. For circular and dumbbell - shaped wells
T k (0.01DH 0.1De )
k 1.1 for sandy, silty and soft clay
1.25 for hard strata including
hard clay, boulders, kankar, shale etc.
DH Height of well
De External diameter of the well
2. For rectangular and double - D wells
T k (0.01DH 0.12)
k 1.0 for sandy strata
1.1 for soft clay
1.15 for clay
1.20 for boulders, kankar, shale etc.
CE- 471: Foundation Engineering
Brick Steining
T k
8 40
k 1.0 for sand
1.1 for soft clay
1.25 for hard clay
CE- 471: Foundation Engineering

The curb of a well transfers all the superimposed loads to the soil through the
cutting edge while sinking. The material used for curbs may be timber or RCC.
The forces acting on well curb are shown in Fig(b). The total horizontal force
on the well curb on both sides is

De Di
Di Internal diameter of well
W Weight of well and curb
per unit length along the centre line of steining
Internal angle of the well

CE- 471: Foundation Engineering

Cutting Edge

The cutting edge is provided at the bottom of the well below the curb to cut
through the soil during sinking. It is generally made of steel and welded to an
angle iron to fit the outer dimensions of the well steining. The height of the
cutting edge is given by
qu Crushing strength of rock
t Thickness of cutting edge
fc Safe compressive stress of concrete

The value of is usually taken as 300. The choice of this angle has been proved to
be suitable for easy access to the cutting edge.

CE- 471: Foundation Engineering

Bottom Plug

After final grounding of the

well to the required
foundation level, a
concrete plug is provided.
The bottom plug transfer
the entire load to the
ground. The bottom plug
functions as an inverted
dome supported along the
periphery of the steining.
As it is not feasible to
provide reinforcement at
the bottom, it is generally
made thick and a rich
concrete mix (M20) is

CE- 471: Foundation Engineering

Sand Filling

The bottom plug concrete is cured and

after curing, the well is filled with
sand in saturated condition. Sand
filling provides

1. Stability to the bottom of the well.

2. Eliminate the tensile forces at the
3. Cancels hoop stresses induced in
CE- 471: Foundation Engineering
Top Plug

The top plug is provided

after the filling is
completed. Top plug
helps in transferring the
load of the pier and
superstructure to the
steining. The thickness
of the top plug is
generally kept greater
than 50 % of the smaller
dimension of the dredge
hole. If sand filling is
used, the top plug is
simply constructed using
PCC of 1:2:4 otherwise
it is reinforced with steel
bars and lean concrete
of 1:3:6 is used.
CE- 471: Foundation Engineering
Well Cap

As the shape of the well pier and cap

are different, the well cap forms an
interim layer to accommodate the
pier. The well cap is so designed that
the base of the pier is provided with a
minimum all round offset. The centre
of the well cap is made to coincide
with that of the pier and not with that
of the well. Such positioning nullifies
the effect of the minor shifts which
might have occurred during well
CE- 471: Foundation Engineering
Stability Analysis of Well Foundations
A well foundation supporting a bridge pier is subjected
to vertical and horizontal forces. The various forces
acting on the well are
1. Self weight of the well and its superstructure
2. Live loads
3. Water currents and buoyancy
4. Temperature, wind and earth quake
5. Breaking and tracking forces
6. Resistance of the well walls
7. Base and skin friction
CE- 471: Foundation Engineering
Terzaghi (1943) gave an
approximate solution
based on the analysis
of the free rigid bulk.
Resolve all forces in
vertical direction and
obtain the resultant
P V.
Resolve the forces in two
horizontal directions
i.e along and across
the pier and get the
values of PB and PL
CE- 471: Foundation Engineering
The resultant vertical force PV
and the resultant
horizontal force PB are
considered for analysis.
The forces and earth pressure
distribution acting on the
well are shown in the
Pressure at any depth z below
the scour level is
p z ( Kp Ka ) zK '
z DPD DK '
CE- 471: Foundation Engineering
The well is assumed to fail as
soon as the soil reaction at
the bottom is equal to PD.
For equilibrium at that
( PB ) max resultant of total pressure per unit length
area of AEF - area of BCF
1 1
D 2 K ' 2DK ' D1
2 2
( PB ) max DK ' ( D 2 D1) (1)
Taking moment about E
1 D 1 D1
( PB ) max H 1 D 2 K ' 2DK ' D1 (2)
2 3 2 3
Solving for D1
2D1 3H 1 9 H 2 1 2 D (3H 1 D)
CE- 471: Foundation Engineering
Putting D1 in equation (1) and solving for D. This D is
the grip length required to sustain the maximum
horizontal force.
A safe depth can be obtained by reducing PD by a
factor of safety F. This theory is based on following
1. The well is treated as a light bulk head
2. KP and Ka are Rankine' s earth pressure coefficients
3. There is no friction at the base and wall
Omision of these frictional forces yields a
conservative (PB)max.
If 1 and 2 are the horizontal displacements,
then the angular deflection of the centre line
of the well, is given as
tan ( 1 2)
CE- 471: Foundation Engineering
Stability Analysis of a Heavy Well
In the Terzaghi approximate
analysis, it is assumed that
the bulkhead tends to
rotate about some point O
above the lower edge and
tends to transfer the soil
from elastic to plastic
equilibrium. But in case of
heavy wells embedded in
cohesionless soil, the well is
assumed to rotate about its
base and the assumed
pressure distribution is
given in Fig(a). Taking the
moment about the base,
the value of (PB)max
CE- 471: Foundation Engineering
1 D3
( PB ) max ' ( KP Ka )
6 H D
Normally around the well, scouring takes place.
Beyond the well surroundings, the uncovered
soil acts as a surcharge. The surcharge depth D2
is very difficult to assess and may be assumed to
be equal to half the normal depth of scour. The
pressure distribution is shown in Fig(b). The
equivlant maximum resistance force is then given as
1 D 2 ( D D 2)
( PB ) max ' K '
6 H D
CE- 471: Foundation Engineering
If d is the diameter or length of the well, the total
resisting force after allowing a factor of safety, F
is given as
( PB ) max d
The factor of safety should not be less than 2.
The maximum pressure f at the base of the
well for the no overturning moment condition is
W is the net direct load on the well base
after making allowance for buoyancy
and skin friction
A Area of well base
z section modulus of the well base
The maximum foundation pressure
should be kept within the safe bearing capacity
of the soil assuming no tension occurs at the base.

CE- 471: Foundation Engineering

The maximum moment on the steining occurs
where the resultant force is zero. If the shear
force is zero at a depth y below the maximum
level, then
' K' y 2 d
' K' d
CE- 471: Foundation Engineering
IRC and IS Design Recommendations
The IRC and IS 3955 publications recommend
the following procedure for design of well
foundations in sand deposits (for clay the
expressions should be suitably modified)

1 Check the stability of well under working

loads, assuming elastic theory
2. Find the factor of safety of the well against
ultimate failure using ultimate load theory
CE- 471: Foundation Engineering
Causes of Tilts and Shifts
1. Nonuniform bearing capacity
2. Obstruction on one side of the well
3. Sand blowing in wells during sinking. It will cause
sudden sinking of well
4. Method of sinking: Material should be removed from
all sides equally otherwise the well may experience
5. Sudden sinking due to blasting may also cause tilting
of well
6. Irregular casting of steining will cause less friction on
one side leads to chances of tilting of well.

CE- 471: Foundation Engineering

Rectification of Tilt
1. Eccentric grabbing
2. Eccentric loading
3. Water jetting
4. Arresting the cutting edge
5. Pulling the well
6. Strutting the well
7. Pushing the well by jacks

CE- 471: Foundation Engineering