Guide Geotechnical Laboratory Measurements for Engineers

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Geotechnical Laboratory Measurements for Engineers guides geotechnical engineers and students in conducting efficient testing without sacrificing the quality.
Table of contents

The most popular for engineers in the U. Also see the Soil Classification Systems for a good comparison. The following soil tests with ASTM designation are provided. Atterberg Limit Tests ASTM D - The water contents of a soil mass corresponding to the transition between a solid, semi-solid, plastic solid or liquid. Laboratory test used to distinguish the magnitude of plasticity for clay and silt particles.

The sample is loaded with expected building pressures to estimate the amount of compression the soil undergoes. The sample is then inundated with water in order to measure additional compression or swelling.

Resistance is measured by correlating the depth penetrated with the force applied. Recently, the dynamic cone penetration test is surpassing in popularity. Consolidation Test ASTM D - A laboratory test in which results are used to predict consolidation of a soil under applied structural loads.

Also known as confined compression tests and oedometer tests. Strength characteristics that are estimated from this test includes cohesion and angle of internal friction. See R-Value. In-Place Density Tests - Field testing used to estimate density unit weight , and moisture content of soils.

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A sieve analysis is performed in order to determine the amount and distribution of various sand- and gravel-sized particles as well as the combination of silt and clay particles. The hydrometer analysis is used for determining the specific distribution of clays and silts. Permeability Test ASTM D - Constant head permeameters or falling head permeameters may be used to determine a soils' coefficient of permeability. Soil permeability relates to groundwater flow, and is a measurement of continuous void space within a soil medium. See permeability for typical values relating to various soils.

Plate Bearing Value Test ASTM D - This field test is usually performed on compacted soils to provide an indication of shear strength, and estimate the modulus of subgrade reaction. The slope of the line is the modulus of subgrade reaction. See Modulus of Vertical Subgrade Reaction for some typical values. Proctor tests are used to determine maximum dry density and optimum moisture content. Results from Proctor tests are used in the field to correlate relative compaction from in-place density testing during the placement and compaction of fill. See typical Standard Proctor values for a range of maximum dry densities and optimum moisture contents.

Remolded Swell Test ASTM D - Using the same equipment as the compression test, the soil sample is remolded and compacted in order to achieve similar earthwork conditions for the project's soils. The amount of swell can be measured after inundating the soil sample with water after the applied loads have stabilized.

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Resistance is measured by penetrating the sampler with a pound hammer, dropped from a height of 30 inches. After the initial 6 inches of penetration, the N-Value is recorded by counting the number of blows required to drive the sampler an additional 12 inches. The N-Value can be used to estimate relative density and angle of internal friction of the in-situ soils.


Cohesion is considered to be equal to the undrained shear strength. Visual Classification ASTM D - A field test that is used to estimate soil characteristics such as the range of particle sizes and plasticity.

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Detecting Problems with Results. Reference Procedures. Chapter 3 Specific Gravity.

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  8. Chapter 4 Maximum Density, Minimum Density. Chapter 5 Calcite Equivalent. Chapter 6 pH and Salinity. Chapter 7 Organic Content. Chapter 8 Grain Size Analysis. Chapter 9 Atterberg Limits. Chapter 10 Soil Classification and Description. Intact Sampling.

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    Processing Intact Samples. Reconstituting Samples. Data Collection and Processing. Chapter 13 Hydraulic Conductivity: Cohesionless Materials. Chapter 14 Direct Shear.

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