 Determination of surface and subsurface soil conditions and features in
an area of proposed construction that may influence the design and
construction and address expected post construction problems. Also
known as soil investigation.
1. Topographic Survey
 TSs provides information regarding ground surface feature of the
site (i.e., surface condition of the site)
2. Soil Exploration (Site Investigation)
It provides data regarding subsoil conditions (i.e., underground
condition), groundwater position and its fluctuations etc.
The primary objective of the site investigation is as follows:
1. To assess the sequence, thickness and lateral extent of the soil
strata and, where appropriate, the level of bedrock.
2. To obtain representative samples of the soils (and rock) for
identification and classification to determine the relevant soil
3. To determine the position of GWT and limits of its fluctuation
during wet/dry season.
Thus exploration essentially provides information to decide about:
i) The suitability of the site for proposed work ii) To develop
economical design iii) To predict any construction problems along
with their possible remedies.
1. Feasibility Phase (Reconnaissance):
It generally involves collection of background information
about the site. Following information is collected:
– Project Details
• Type of structure, intended use of structure, construction method, etc.
– Surface and Subsurface Conditions of the site
• Study of topographic/geologic maps, aerial photographs, data from previous
investigations, satellite imagery, etc.
– Study of existing structures in the area
2. Preliminary Investigation
Location of bedrock is established by drilling a few holes. Position
of GWT may also be established.
3. Detailed Investigation
This phase may include test pits excavation, boreholes, in-situ
testing and collection of both disturbed and undisturbed soil
samples for detailed laboratory testing/analysis. GWT may also be
monitored by installing piezometers.
4. Construction/Post Construction Investigation
Sometimes monitoring of movement of structure and monitoring
of groundwater fluctuations, both during and after construction,
may be required.
 By amount of exploration is meant to decide about the extent of
investigation i.e., to determine the number, location, and depth
of open excavations (pits, trenches, etc.) and borings/drillings.
The extent of exploration depends upon many factors, major
being the following:
Site condition (variability of soil/rock strata and GWT depth at site)
Nature and extent of the project. (building, highway, dam, etc.)
Availability of time, fund and equipment for exploration.
 The main rule for determining the extent of investigations is that
there is no hard and fast rule for this purpose.
 The methods to determine the sequence, thickness and lateral
extent of the soil strata and, where appropriate the level of
bedrock. The common methods include:
1. Test pits
2. Boring or drilling
The excavation of test pits is a simple and reliable method.
 The maximum depth is limited to 4-5m only.
 If the pit is to be extend below the GWT, some form of dewatering is
 The in-situ conditions are examined visually.
 It is easy to obtain disturbed and undisturbed samples.
 Block samples can be cut by hand tools and tube samples can be taken
from the bottom of the pit.
 Test pits are suitable for investigations in all type of soil, including those
containing cobbles or boulders.
 Walls of the test pit indicate four layers (1) Clayey silt (2) Sandy
silt (3) Clean sand (4) Sandy gravel
 Boring refers to advancing a hole in the ground.
 Boring is required for the following:
 To obtain representative soil and rock samples for laboratory tests.
 To identify the groundwater conditions.
 Performance of in-situ tests to assess appropriate soil characteristics.
 Some of the common types of boring are as follows:
 Auger boring
 Hand Augar
 Mechanical Augar
 Rotary drilling
 Wash boring
 Percussion boring
1. Hand Augar:
The hand augar (also called post-hole or Iwan augar) is a very simple hand
tool used for drilling into soft soils down to maximum of 5-6m in small
Hand-augered holes can be made up to about 20m depth, although depth
greater than about 8-10m is usually not practical.
For hard soil and soil containing gravels boring with hand auger becomes
The auger is rotated until it is full of soil, then it is withdrawn to remove the
soil and the soil type present at various depths is noted.
They can be used for soil exploration work for highways and small structures.
The soil samples collected in this manner are disturbed but they can be used
for classification test in laboratory such as grain-size determination and
Atterberg limits.
Auger boring may not be possible in very soft clay or coarse sand because the
hole tends to collapse when auger is removed.
Hand Augar
Plugged while advancing the auger
Plug removed and sampler attached
Continuous Flight Auger
Truck mounted auger boring machine
2. Mechanical Augar:
Mechanical Auger means power operated augers. The power required to rotate the
auger depends on the type and size of auger and the type of soil.
Downwards pressure can be applied hydraulically, mechanically or by dead weight.
The diameter of the flight auger usually is between 75 to 300mm, although diameters
up to 1m and bucket augers up to 2m are available.
Borehole depths up to 50m are possible with continuous-flight augers.
The most common method is to use continuous flight augers. Continuous flight augers
can be solid stem or hollow stem with internal diameter of 75-150mm.
Hollow stem augers are used when undisturbed samples are required. Plug is
withdrawn and sampler is lowered down and driven in to the soil below the auger.
If bed rock is reached drilling can also take place through the hollow stem.
The presence of cobbles and boulders create problems with small-sized augers.
There is a possibility that different soil types may become mixed as they rise to the
surface and it may be difficult to determine the depths of changes of strata.
Experienced driller can however detect the change of strata by the change of speed
and the sound of drilling.
 Although primarily intended for investigations in rock, the
method is also used in soils.
 Rotary drilling is a procedure by which rapidly rotating drilling
bits attached to the bottom of drilling rods cut and grind the soil
and advance the borehole down.
 Water or drilling fluid is pumped down the hollow rods and
passes under pressure through narrow holes in the bit or barrel:
this is the same principle as used in wash boring.
Various types of diamond drill
bits for rotary drilling
Rotary Drilling
 There are two forms of rotary drilling, open-hole drilling and core
 Open-hole drilling, which is generally used in soils and weak rock, uses a
cutting bit to break down all the material within the diameter of the hole.
Open-hole drilling can thus be used only as a means of advancing the
hole: the drilling rods can then be removed to allow tube samples to be
taken or in-situ tests to be carried out.
 In core drilling, which is used in rocks and hard clays, the diamond bit cuts
an annular hole in the material and an intact core enters the barrel, to be
removed as a sample. However, the natural water content of the material
is liable to be increased due to contact with the drilling fluid.
 Wash boring is another method of advancing a borehole.
 In this method, a casing about 2m to 3m (6 to 10 ft) long is driven
into the ground.
 The soil inside the casing is then removed by means of a
chopping bit that is attached to a drilling rod.
 Water is forced through a drilling rod, and it goes out at a very
high velocity through the holes at the bottom of the chopping
 The water and the chopped soil particles rise upward in the drill
hole and overflow at the top of the casing through a Tconnection.
 The wash water is then collected in a container.
• Percussion drilling is an alternative
method of advancing a borehole,
particularly through hard soil and rock.
• The boring rig consists of a derrick, a
power unit and a winch carrying a light
steel cable which passes through a
pulley on top of the derrick.
• In this technique, the borehole is
advanced by the percussive action of
the tool which is alternately raised and
dropped (usually over a distance of 1–
2m) by means of the winch unit.
• Borehole diameters can range from 150
to 300mm. The maximum borehole
depth is generally between 50 and
 This test gives information about soil strength.
 It is carried out at regular intervals during a boring operation or
where change of strata is noted.
 A split-spoon sampler is attached to the drill rods, lowered to the
bottom of boreholes and driven into the ground by repeated
blows of a standard 65kg hammer falling freely through 75cm.
 The number of blows requires to drive the sampler through three
consecutive depths of 15cm (total 45cm) are noted.
 The SPT N value is the number of blows required to drive the
sampler through the last 30cm.
 If, for N > 50, the sampler penetrates less than 2.5cm, refusal is
said to have been reached and the test is discontinued until the
boring advances to a new depth.
Standard Penetration Test (SPT) per ASTM D 1586
 The standard penetration test is very useful for cohesionless soils
and medium clays.
 For gravels and stiff clays the results are not reliable.
 The SPT test is very popular all over the world. It is simple, not
too expensive, reliable, and generally repeatable.
 It is extensively used in problems such as design of foundations,
settlement analysis and liquefaction studies.
 Among the sources of error are that:
 The hammer should freely and through the correct distance
 The sampler should be held vertically
 The drill rods longer than 15m are likely to whip.
 This test provides a continuous record of resistance offered by a soil to a cone
pushed into it.
 The cone usually has a vertex angle of 60 and a base diameter of 50mm, but cones
of different dimensions are also used.
 It is attached to the end of the drill rod and pushed into the borehole by means of
 The resistance offered and the corresponding depth are recorded. This called a
static cone penetration test.
 In dynamic cone penetration test (DCPT) the cone is driven by the blows of a 65kg
hammer (the same as in the SPT).
 The number of blows required to drive the cone 30cm into the ground is noted.
 The CPT is a useful test for gravel and coarse sand formations, especially below
water table.
 A CPT test is best used to corroborate the results of SPT or other test.
 A sample is said to be representative sample when it truly
represents the characteristics of the stratum from which it is
1. Disturbed Sample:
 A disturbed sample is one having the same particle size distribution as the
in-situ soil but in which natural moisture content is disturbed and soil
structure has been significantly damaged or completely destroyed.
 Disturbed samples, which are used mainly for soil classification tests,
visual classification and compaction tests, can be excavated from trial pits.
2. Undisturbed Sample:
 Undisturbed samples are obtained by techniques which aim at
preserving the in-situ structure and water content of the soil.
 It is impossible to obtain a sample that is completely
undisturbed, no matter how elaborate or careful the ground
investigation and sampling technique might be.
 Undisturbed samples are used to determine the shear strength,
compressibility and permeability of the materials.
 All samples should be clearly labelled to show the project name,
date, location, borehole number, depth and method of sampling.
 Special care is required in the handling, transportation and
storage of samples prior to testing.
1. Sampling by Standard Split Spoon
 When the borehole is advanced to a desired depth, the drilling tools are
removed. The split-spoon sampler is attached to the drilling rod and then
lowered to the bottom of the borehole. The sampler is driven into the soil
at the bottom of the borehole by means of hammer blows. The hammer
blows occur at top of the drilling rod. The hammer weighs 63.5kg (140lb).
For each blow, hammer drops a distance of 30in (.76m). The number of
blows required for the driving the sampler through three 6in interval is
recorded. The sum of the number of blows required for driving the last
two 6in interval is referred to as the Standard Penetration Number, N. It
is commonly called the blow count. The interpretation of the standard
penetration number is given in the following table.
Standard Split-spoon Sampler
2. Sampling by Thin Wall Tube
It is used for obtaining fairly undisturbed soil samples. The thin wall tubes
are made of seamless thin tubes and are commonly referred to as Shelby
Tubes. The sampler is attached to the drilling rod and then lowered to the
bottom of the borehole. After this, it is hydraulically pushed into the soil. It
is then spun to shear off the base and is pulled out. The sampler with the
soil inside is sealed and taken to the laboratory for testing. Most
commonly used thin wall tube samplers have outside diameter of 3in.
 Sample Disturbance
 The degree of disturbance of the sample collected by various method can
be expressed by a term called the area ratio, which is given by
Ar = (Do2 – Di2) / Di2
where Di and Do are inside and outside diameter of sampler respectively.

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