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Laboratory Testing

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Geotechnical Laboratory Testing

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Geotechnical Info .Com provides free downloads from the list of publications below that relates to Geotechnical Laboratory Testing. Please look at other information and related sources pertaining to laboratory testing in the technical guidance or software sections below. Or, post a question in the Geotechnical Forum.



The publications listed below are good sources for types and application of various geotechnical lab testing. For publications on how to perform the tests, you need the appropriate texts from ASTM or AASHTO.


Geotechnical Laboratory Testing Publications Available for Downloading

FHWA NHI-00-044 - Corrosion/ Degradation of Soil Reinforcements for Mechanically Earth Stabilized Walls and Reinforced Soil Slopes. Discusses corrosion of metals, corrosive soil environments, geosynthetic durability and degradation, monitoring and testing for soil reinforcements.

NAVFAC 7.01 - Soil Mechanics. This publication includes soil/ rock identification and properties, field exploration, field testing, instrumentation, laboratory testing, distribution of stresses, settlement analysis, volume expansion, seepage, erosion control, drainage filters, slope stability and slope protection.

NAVFAC 7.03 - Soil Dynamics and Special Design Aspects. Main topics include soil dynamics, earthquake engineering and special design aspects. Information pertaining to these topics include machine foundations, impact loadings, dynamic soil properties, slope stability, bearing capacity, settlement, vibratory compaction, pile driving analysis and field testing, ground anchor systems, seismic design parameters, liquefaction, sheet pile walls and laboratory testing.

USACE TM 5-818-7 - Foundations in Expansive Soils. Note: This publication does not have an appendix. For link to appendix, click here.

USACE EM 1110-1-1804 - Geotechnical Investigations. Note: This publication does not have an appendix. For link to appendix, click here.

USACE TM 5-818-1 - Soils and Geology Procedures for Foundation Design of Buildings and Other Structures (Except Hydraulic Structures)


References to Geotechnical Laboratory Testing in other Publications

Canadian Society for Civil Engineering, Cold Climate Utilities Manual, Canadian Society for Civil Engineering, Montreal, 1986. An in-depth publication concerning water facilities. Also has excellent information pertaining to foundations, roadways, runways, dams, earthwork and soil properties.

Lamb, T.W., and Whitman, R.V., Soil Mechanics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, John Wiley and Sons, New York, 1969.

Means, R.E., Parcher, J.V., Physical Properties of Soils, Charles E. Merrill Publishing Company, Columbus, OH, 1963.

Phukan, Arvind, Frozen Ground Engineering, Prentice Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1985. This publication has information on soil classifications including a frost susceptibility soil classification, ice descriptions, as well as physical, mechanical and thermal properties of frozen soils. Drilling, sampling and testing are discussed. This book also includes a foundation design philosophy, and analysis of thaw settlement, shallow foundations, pile foundations, roadways, airfields, utility systems, and slope stability.

Terzhaghi, K., Peck, R.B., and Mesri, G., Soil Mechanics in Engineering Practice, 3rd ed. , John Wiley and Sons, New York, 1996.



SOILS - Geotechnical data file for testing, instrumentation and explorations



Soil Properties

Specific soil properties are usually determined by an appropriate laboratory test. Typical soil and soil related properties are provided in the links below:

Angle of Internal Friction
External Friction Angle
Modulus of Vertical Subgrade Reaction
Phase Diagram
Soil Classification Comparisons
Soil Unit Weights
Standard Proctor values
Unified Soil Classification System
USDA Textural Triangle
Youngs Modulus

Soil properties may be classified as either engineering properties or index properties. Examples of engineering properties are permeability, shear strength and consolidation. Index properties are soil attributes such as grain size distribution, moisture content, Atterburg limits, specific gravity and void ratio.


Soil Classification

Formal classifications are a way to group and identify similar soils. Each soils group have similar characteristics that are used in predicting behavior. For the most part, these characteristics are distinguishable by the percentages of various particle sizes such as gravel, sand, silt and clay. Secondly, characteristics may be further refined in some classification systems from the plasticity of silt and clay size particles. Various soil classification schemes have been used for over 100 years. One of the first classification systems for soils was accomplished by the Bureau of Soils in 1890. The most popular for engineers in the U.S. are the Unified Soil Classification System (USCS) and the AASHTO Classification System. Also see the Soil Classification Systems for a good comparison.


Soil Testing

Many soil testing procedures and equipment are standardized by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). Other agencies and their corresponding standardization includes AASHTO and local State Department of Transportation. The following soil tests with ASTM designation are provided.

AASHTO Soil Classification (ASTM D3282) - A soil classification system usually used for highway design and construction.

Atterberg Limit Tests (ASTM D4318) - 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.

CBR Test (ASTM D1883) - California Bearing Ratio is a laboratory test that is used to determine the suitability of of a soil for use as a subbase in a pavement section.

Compression Test (ASTM D4546) - The compression test is performed in the laboratory using a relatively undisturbed ring sample. 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.

Cone Penetrometer Test (ASTM D3441) - A penetration test in which a cone that has a 60 point is pushed into the ground at a continuous rate. 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 D2435) - 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.

Direct Shear Test (ASTM D3080) - Laboratory test used to determine the relationship of shear strength to consolidation stress by graphing the Mohr's failure envelope. Strength characteristics that are estimated from this test includes cohesion and angle of internal friction.

Fines Content Test (ASTM D1140) - Laboratory test used to determine the amount of clay- and silt-sized particles in a soil sample.

Hveem's Resistance Value Test (ASTM D2844) - Evaluation of a particular soils' suitability within a pavement section. See R-Value

In-Place Density Tests - Field testing used to estimate density (unit weight), and moisture content of soils. Usually used as part of a quality control/ quality assurance plan for verifying compacted fill meets required specifications. Common in-place density tests include nuclear densiometer test (ASTM D2922), rubber-balloon method (ASTM D2167) and sand cone test (ASTM D1556).

Moisture Content Test (ASTM D2216) - Laboratory test for determining the water content of a soil sample.

Particle Size Analysis Test (ASTM D422) - Laboratory test used to measure the distribution of clay, silt, sand, gravel, cobbles and boulders. 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 D2434) - 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 D1195) - This field test is usually performed on compacted soils to provide an indication of shear strength, and estimate the modulus of subgrade reaction. From graphing the increasingly applied loads versus deflection, the bearing value is interpolated as the load (psi) that produces a 1/2 inch deflection. The slope of the line is the modulus of subgrade reaction. See Modulus of Vertical Subgrade Reaction for some typical values.

Proctor Test - Proctor tests in the laboratory either use standard effort (ASTM D698) or modified effort (ASTM D1557). 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 4546) - 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.

Standard Penetration Test (SPT) (ASTM D1195) - The SPT is performed in the field utilizing a split-spoon sampler. Resistance is measured by penetrating the sampler with a 140 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.

Triaxial Test - Laboratory tests such as the consolidated-undrained (CU) test (ASTM D4767) and unconsolidated-undrained (UU) test (ASTM D2850) that are used to determine the soils' strength characteristics such as cohesion and angle of internal friction.

Unconfined Compressive Strength Test (ASTM D2166) - Laboratory test similar to the unconsolidated-undrained test performed on plastic soils, usually clay. From this test, the undrained shear stregth is calculated as 1/2 of the unconfined compressive strength. Cohesion is considered to be equal to the undrained shear strength.

USCS Soil Classification (ASTM D2487) - A soil classification system that is most common for engineers in the United States. The Unified Soil Classification System (USCS) was established in 1953 by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Visual Classification (ASTM D2488) - A field test that is used to estimate soil characteristics such as the range of particle sizes and plasticity.


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