Soil Testing Equipment

Referent and Standards Product for Soil Testing Equipment

Three Types Of Soil Samples Can Be Recovered From Borings

Three Types Of Soil Samples Can Be Recovered From Borings :


FIGURE 6.1 Soil Samplers (no. 1 is the California Sampler in an open condition,
no. 2 is a Shelby Tube, and no. 3 is the Standard Penetration Test sampler.)


1. Altered Soil.

During the boring operations, soil can be altered due to mixing or contamination. For example, if the boring is not cleaned out prior to sampling, a soil sample taken from the bottom of the borehole may actually consist of cuttings from the side of the borehole. These borehole cuttings, which have fallen to the bottom of the borehole, will not represent in-situ conditions at the depth sampled. In other cases, the soil sample may become contaminated with drilling fluid, which is used for wash-type borings. These types of soil samples that have been mixed or contaminated by the drilling process should not be used for laboratory tests because they will lead to incorrect conclusions regarding subsurface conditions. Soil that has a change in moisture content due to the drilling fluid or heat generated during the drilling operations should also be classified as altered soil. Soil that has been densified by over-pushing or over-driving the soil sampler should also be considered as altered because the process of over-pushing or over-driving could squeeze water from the soil.

2. Disturbed Samples.

Disturbed soil is defined as soil that has been remolded during the sampling process. For example, soil obtained from driven samplers, such as the Standard Penetration Test spilt spoon sampler, or chunks of intact soil brought to the surface in an auger bucket (i.e., bulk samples), are considered disturbed soil. Disturbed soil can be used for numerous types of laboratory tests

3. Undisturbed Sample.

It should be recognized that no soil sample can be taken from the ground in a perfectly undisturbed state. However, this terminology has been applied to those soil samples taken by certain sampling methods. Undisturbed samples are often defined as those samples obtained by slowly pushing thinwalled tubes, having sharp cutting ends and tip relief, into the soil. Two parameters, the inside clearance ratio and the area ratio, are often used to evaluate the disturbance potential of different samplers, and they are defined as follows:


where :
De =diameter at the sampler cutting tip
Di = inside diameter of the sampling tube
Do = outside diameter of the sampling tube

In general, a sampling tube for undisturbed soil specimens should have an inside clearance ratio of about 1% and an area ratio of about 10% or less. Having an inside clearance ratio of about 1% provides for tip relief of the soil and reduces the friction between the soil and inside of the sampling tube during the sampling process. A thin film of oil can be applied at the cutting edge to also reduce the friction between the soil and metal tube during sampling operations. The purpose of having a low area ratio and a sharp cutting end is to slice into the soil with as little disruption and displacement of the soil as possible. Shelby tubes are manufactured to meet these specifications and are considered to be undisturbed soil samplers. As a comparison, the California Sampler has an area ratio of 44% and is considered to be a thick-walled sampler.

It should be mentioned that using a thin-walled tube, such as a Shelby tube, will not guarantee an undisturbed soil specimen. Many other factors can cause soil disturbance, such as :

  • Pieces of hard gravel or shell fragments in the soil, which can cause voids to develop along the sides of the sampling tube during the sampling process
  • Soil adjustment caused by stress relief when making a borehole
  • Disruption of the soil structure due to hammering or pushing the sampling tube into the soil stratum
  • Expansion of gas during retrieval of the sampling tube
  • Jarring or banging the sampling tube during transportation to the laboratory
  • Roughly removing the soil from the sampling tube
  • Crudely cutting the soil specimen to a specific size for a laboratory test
he actions listed above cause a decrease in effective stress, a reduction in the interparticle bonds, and a rearrangement of the soil particles. An ‘‘undisturbed’’ soil specimen will have little rearrangement of the soil particles and perhaps no disturbance except that caused by stress relief where there is a change from the in-situ stress condition to an isotropic ‘‘perfect sample’’ stress condition. A disturbed soil specimen will have a disrupted soil structure with perhaps a total rearrangement of soil particles. When measuring the shear strength or deformation characteristics of the soil, the results of laboratory tests run on undisturbed specimens obviously better represent in-situ properties than laboratory tests run on disturbed specimens.

Soil samples recovered from the borehole should be kept within the sampling tube or sampling rings. The soil sampling tube should be tightly sealed with end caps or the sampling rings thoroughly sealed in containers to prevent a loss of moisture during transportation to the laboratory. The soil samples should be marked with the file or project number, date of sampling, name of engineer or geologist who performed the sampling, and boring number and depth.

Source : Robert W. Day Chief Engineer, American Geotechnical San Diego, California

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