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Soil Classification

ENGINEERING DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION

The Purpose
To distinguish
between the main soil
types

sand
silt

clay

To assess the
strength and structure
of the soil

Classification systems
Unified Soil Classification Systems
(USCS)
BS Classification Systems (in BS 5930)
AASHTO/ASTM Classification Systems
Further reading:
1) Carter,M. Geotechnical Engineering Handbook. London:
Pentech Press.
2) Other geotechnical references.

Soil Classification Tests


Particle Size
Analysis
Atterberg
limits
Specific
gravity

Particle size distribution


The size of particles within a soil mass can vary
from less than 0.001 to over 100mm. The BS
size ranges is shown below:

Sieve test (coarse grain)


Oven dried sample of
soil is weighted and
passed through a
series of sieves.

Particle size distribution form

Well graded
100
80
60
40
20
0
0.01

0.1

1
Grain size (mm)

10

100

Fine grain analysis


Pipette method
Hydrometer method

Particle size distribution curve


Soil can be described according to the shape of
the curve and where it fits on to the chart.
Uniform soil all particle are approximately the
same size, will have almost vertical curve.
Well graded soil containing wide range of
particle size, will have a curve spread evenly
across the chart.
Poorly graded (or gap graded) stretch across
but shown deficiency of some intermediate
sizes. Grading curve exhibit flat section or
plateau.

Particle size distribution curve


Effective size the
maximum particle
size of the smallest
10% and called

D10

Uniformity coefficient,
CU the ratio of the
maximum particle
size of the smallest
60% to effective size:

D60
CU =
D10
Cu < 4.0 uniformly graded
Cu > 4.0 well graded or gap graded.

PSD curve
Uniform soil will have Uniformity
Coefficient approaching down to 1
Well graded soil will have a high
Uniformity Coefficient.

Example 1:PSD
Total wt of sample = 147.2 g

Retained on sieve size (mm)

Weight retained (g)

20

12.5

1.7

10

2.3

6.3

8.4

5.6

5.7

2.8

12.9

3.5

1.4

1.1

0.5

30.5

0.355

45.3

0.18

25.4

0.063

7.4

Cumulative
Sieve Sizes Wt retained
wt
retained

% Passing
Wt. passing

20

147.2

100

12.5

1.7

1.7

145.5

98.8

10

2.3

143.2

97.3

6.3

8.4

12.4

134.8

91.6

5.6

5.7

18.1

129.1

87.7

2.8

12.9

31

116.2

78.9

3.5

34.5

112.7

76.6

1.4

1.1

35.6

111.6

75.8

0.5

30.5

66.1

81.1

55.1

0.355

45.3

111.4

35.8

24.3

0.18

25.4

136.8

10.4

7.1

0.063

7.4

144.2

2.0

Example 1: curve

Percentage passing

100
90
80
70
60

D10 = 0.23
D60 = 0.7

50

U = D60/D10

40
30

= 0.7/0.23
=3.04

20
10
0
0.01

0.1

1
Size (mm)

10

100

Atterberg limits (plasticity)


Quantitatively
describe the effect of
varying water content
on the consistency of
fine-grained soil.
The increasing water
content cause the
changes of the soil
from solid to semisolid to plastic and to
liquid states.

Volume
of
Sample

Semi
solid

liquid
Plastic

LL

solid
SL

PL

Moisture
content

Graphical representation.
P.I.
SL
solid

PL
Semi-solid

LL
plastic

Increasing water content

liquid

Liquid Limit (LL)


Plastic Limit (PL)
Shrinkage Limit
(SL)
Plasticity Index (PI)

The minimum moisture content at


which the soil will flow under its own
weight.
The minimum moisture content at
which the soil can be rolled into a
thread 3mm dia. w/out breaking up.
The maximum moisture content at
which further loss of moisture does
not cause a decrease in the volume
of the soil.
The range of soil over which a soil is
plastic.

PI
Represent the relative amount of clay
particles in soil
Higher PI = greater amount of clay
particles present = more plastic a soil.
The more plastic soil will:
Be more compressible
Higher shrink swell potential
Less permeable

Liquid limit test

Casagrande Apparatus

Cone penetrometer

Exercise
Sieve
Sizes
50
37.5
20
14
10
6.3
3.35
1.18
0.6
0.15
0.063

Wt
retained
0
15.5
17
10
11
33
114.5
63.3
18.2
17
10.5

The total mass of the sample


was 311 g, plot the particle
size distribution curve and
from the curve, determine the
effective size and uniformity
coefficient. Classify the soil.
Answer: D10 = 0.7mm
D60 = 5.2 mm
Cu = 7.4
70 % gravel, 30 percent sand
Well graded Sandy Gravel.