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BASIC KNOWLEDGE ON SOIL

Laboratory Aide Training Program


Soil is the uncemented deposits of mineral or fragments covering large portion of the
earths crust. It includes widely different materials such like boulders, sand, gravels, clays
and silts.

Two Common Classification of Soil

1. Coarse-grained soil Are classified according on the basis of their grain size
distribution. More than 50% of the soil is retained on No. 200 sieve (0.075mm).
a. Gravel 50% or more of the coarse fraction is retained on No. 4 (4.75mm)
sieve.
b. Sand 50% or more of the coarse fraction is passed on No. 4 (4.75mm) sieve.
c. Boulders average particle diameter is more than 30 cm
2. Fine-grained soil are classified according to the basis of their plasticity. More
than 50% of the soil sample passes on No. 200 sieve.
a. Clay particles smaller than No. 200 (0.075mm) sieve but larger than
0.002mm sieve. Exhibit plastic properties within a certain range of moisture.
The permeability of clay is extremely low.
b. Silt particles smaller than 0.002mm sieve but larger than 0.001mm sieve.
Slightly plastic or none plastic regardless of moisture. The permeability of silt
if higher compared to clay.
Type of Compressibility
Silt
and
Clay
with
Low
Compressibility
Silt
and
Clay
with
Medium
Compressibility
Silt
and
Clay
with
High
Compressibility

Liquid Limit (MC in %)


less than 35
greater than 35 and less than
50
greater than 50

Different Moisture States of Soil

Saturated (wet)
Oven Dry

Saturated Surface Dry

Air Dry

1. Saturated (wet) surface and pores of soil are completely filled with moisture.
2. Saturated Surface Dry only pores are completely filled with moisture but surfaces
are dry
3. Air Dry pores are partially filled with moisture and surfaces are dry
4. Oven Dry no moisture is present on pores and surfaces.

Importance of Test

1. Grain-Size Analysis - it allows the determination of the distribution of particles


sizes of material.
2. Permeability Test (Constant Head and Falling Head Permeability Test) is
used in estimating water seepage in dam and other water containing structure. This
measures the soils ability to permit water to flow through its voids at a given time.
3. Atterberg Limit Test (LL and PL Test) To measure the Plasticity Index of the
soil (PI). High PI indicates high degree of compressibility and lowers the
permeability; and vise-versa. Those with PI of 0 is non plastic.
Plasticity Index and their meaning
a. 0 % - non plastic
b. 1-5 % - slightly plastic
c. 5-10% - low plasticity
d. 10-20% - medium plasticity
e. 20-40% - high plasticity
f. Greater than 40% - very high plasticity
4. Laboratory Compaction Test Is used to determine the maximum practical
density of the soil which can be obtained on site.
5. Field Density Test (Sand Replacement and Water Replacement Method) - To
calculate the degree of compaction and moisture content in relation to the given
design specifications for the purpose of stability and bearing capacity of soil.
6. Specific Gravity Test it tells us how many times the soil grains is heavier than
water
7. Quartering of sample to make sure that the sample was properly divided before
it is used on different test without affecting the natural distribution of its particles.

Soil Test Procedures


1. Grain-Size Analysis
Proper sampling was observed during the test. Thorough mixing of sample was
performed until homogeneous color and mixture is achieved. Samples are then subjected
to quartering and the required amount of samples for sieve analysis is prepared. The
samples are subjected to oven drying for at least 24 hours and are being washed manually
to eliminate the materials passing 0.075 mm (# 200) sieve. Washed samples are ovendried again for another 24 hours before running it to a set of sieve. Weight retained on
each sieve is recorded and percentage of mass is presented through a particle size
distribution curve.
2. Laboratory Permeability Test
Falling Head Permeability tests is used since the materials is composed of fine-grained
soil. Samples are prepared in a compaction mold with 15 cm diameter and 12.5 cm high.
The moisture content of samples shall be +3 % of the Optimum Moisture Content.
Prepared sample are then subjected to over-night saturation to permit the water to flow
through the voids inside the compacted sample. After saturation, water is poured on the
sample through a series of pipe connected to the permeability apparatus and the decrease
in head over the specified time is recorded. This test method is executed in accordance
with JIS A 1218.
3. Atterberg Limit Test (LL and PL Test)
In order to obtain the required Plasticity Index, liquid and plastic limit test must be
conducted. Plasticity Index is defined as the difference between the liquid limit and plastic
limit of a soil.. Sample to be used on this test are the materials passing through 0.425 mm
(#40) sieve.

For liquid limit test, sample weighing about 100g is mixed with 15 to 20 ml of water.
The samples are then thoroughly mixed using spatula to a uniform texture. A portion of
this paste is placed on a brass cup of liquid limit device and the soil pat is divided into two
increments using standard grooving tool. The brass cup is then mounted to its carriage
and a continuous number of drops were performed until the groove closed for about 13mm
from the bottom. The number of blows is recorded and the moisture content of the sample
is determined. Repetition of test shall be four (4) times minimum and the addition of water
shall be made by 1 to 3 ml increment. A graph is then prepared and the moisture content
on the 25th blows corresponds the liquid limit of the material.
For plastic limit test, sample weighing about 8g is mixed with water until the mass is
plastic enough to form into a ball. The ball of soil is rolled using fingers in a glass plate
with sufficient pressure to form a 3mm diameter thread. Continuous rolling shall be made
on the soil sample until the thread crumbles and the soil can no longer be rolled into
thread. A representative sample shall then be collected for moisture content
determination. This moisture content correspond the plastic limit of the materials.
4. Standard Compaction test
The method used on this test shall conform to the requirements of JIS A 1210. A sample
weighing about 6 kg is mixed with water and compacted at five layers on a prepared mold
with given dimension. Each layer is subjected to 55 blows using 2.5 kg rammer dropped at
a distance of 30 cm. The mass of the compacted sample is recorded and the
corresponding wet and dry unit weight is obtained. The test is repeated several times with
further addition of increasing water content until the mass of the compacted sample
decreases twice. A graph is prepared by plotting dry density of the compacted samples
and its corresponding moisture content. The plotted graph produced a compaction curve
which gives the values of Maximum Dry Density (MDD) and Optimum Moisture Content
(OMC) of the material being tested.
5. Specific Gravity test
Samples are being run through 4.75 mm (# 4) sieve. All samples passing 4.75 mm
sieve shall then be tested in accordance with ASTM C128 (Specific Gravity of Soil
Pycnometer Method) and samples retained are tested in accordance with ASTM C127
(Specific Gravity of Coarse Aggregates Wire Basket method). Average value of fine and
coarse-grained soil is calculated which represent the specific gravity of the whole samples.
6. Field Density Test by Sand Replacement Method
For Regular Core Material - Three (3) holes having a depth of 30 cm and a diameter of
25 cm
For Medium Core Material - Three (3) holes having a depth of 15 cm and a diameter of
25 cm
Preparation of test holes includes removal of the upper layer exposed to the sun. From the
excavated portion, test holes are prepared. Calibrated sand with known weight is poured
on the prepared holes in three equal layers and each layer is tampered 25 times using
tampering rod. Excess sand from the top of the hole is removed and the remaining sand is
weighed. All excavated materials from the test holes should be sent to material testing
laboratory for moisture content determination and other quality control test.
7. In-situ Permeability test by Constant Head Method
For Regular Core Material - Three (3) holes having a depth of 30 cm and a diameter of
25 cm
For Medium Core Material - Three (3) holes having a depth of 15 cm and a diameter of
25 cm
At first, the top layer of compacted soil is excavated. From the excavated portion, test
holes are made. Improvised shed is prepared to cover the test pit and holes are then
saturated for a minimum of 12 hours to permit the water to flow through its voids. After
saturation, the water level is checked if it is half full. Wire basket is installed inside the

hole with small amount of inch aggregates in it. After setting the wire basket,
permeability apparatus is then installed directly above it. Water is filled inside the cylinder
and the time is set to zero. The timer is started when the water at the cylinder starts to
bubble. The initial reading and the head of the water is recorded. The head of the water
is the height from the top of the test pit to the level of water inside it. The readings will be
taken every ten (10) minutes up to two (2) or more hours or until the water discharged
twice.
8. Field Density Test by Water Replacement Method
For Fine Filter Material - Three (3) holes having a depth of 30 cm and a diameter of 30
cm
For Coarse Filter Material - Three (3) holes having a depth of 40 cm and a diameter of
40 cm
Preparation of test holes includes removal of the top layer of prepared filter zone. After
removing the thin portion of the top layer, test pit holes are prepared and its dimension is
recorded. Polyethylene sheet is then placed inside to cover the entire hole. This is to allow
water to be poured inside the hole without overflow. Sufficient amount of water with
known weight is poured on the prepared test hole up to the top of it and the weight of
water is being recorded.
9. In-situ Permeability Test by Falling Head method
For Fine Filter Material - Three (3) holes having a depth of 30 cm and a diameter of 30
cm
For Coarse Filter Material - Three (3) holes having a depth of 40 cm and a diameter of
40 cm
Preparation of test holes includes removal of the top layer of prepared filter zone. After
removing the thin portion of the top layer, test pit holes are prepared and polyethylene
sheet is then placed inside to cover the entire hole. This is to allow water to be poured
inside the hole without overflow. After the hole was filled with water, the polyethylene
sheet is removed allowing the water to penetrate inside the voids of the prepared test
hole. The discharge time of water is monitored every 5 cm interval until all the water was
discharged.

Basic Knowledge on Computations


1. Moisture Content
Moisture Content,
MC %
Where:

W1 W2
W2 Wp

X 100

W1 = Weight of pan + wet sample


W2 = Weight of pan + dry sample
Wp = Weight of pan

2. Degree of Compaction
Weight of excavated
materials
Wet Density =
Weight of sand in the
hole
Dry
Density

Wet density
MC
1 +
100

Density of
sand

Degree of
Compaction

Dry Density
Maximum Dry Density
(MDD)

3. Plasticity Index
PI = LL PL
Where:

PI = Plasticity Index
LL = Liquid Limit
Pl Plastic Limit

4. Specific Gravity
a. Coarse-grained soil
Bulk Specific
Gravity, SSD

Weight of SSD sample in air


(Weight of SSD sample in air) - (Weight of
sample in water)

Absorption, %

(Weight of SSD sample in air) - (Weight of


oven dry sample)
Weight of oven dry sample

b. Fine-grained soil
Bulk Specific
Gravity, SSD

Weight of oven dried sample


(Weight of oven dried sample) - (Weight of
sample in water)

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