Soil Mechanics

This document is considered by many to be the best single reference on soil mechanics, even though it is now nearly a half century old.

Unified Facilities Criteria UFC 3-220-10N
8 June 2005

We offer two versions of this document, take a careful look before downloading:

  • UFC 3-220-10N, technically the currently issued document on the subject

  • NAVFAC DM 7.01, 1 September 1986. The current document has no different information than DM 7.01, and the version presented here is far superior in graphics and text quality than UFC 3-220-10N

This document is in print; click here for information on how to order

Contents include:

    • Soil Deposits
    • Soil Identification
    • Soil Classification and Properties
    • Rock Classification and Properties
    • Special Materials
    • Published Soil and Geological Maps
    • Remote Sensing Data Methods
    • Geophysical Methods
    • Soil Borings and Test Pits
    • Sampling
    • Penetration Resistance Tests
    • Groundwater Measurements
    • Measurement of Soil and Rock Properties In Situ
    • Field Instrumentation
    • Index Properties Tests
    • Permeability Tests
    • Consolidation Tests
    • Shear Strength Tests
    • Dynamic Testing
    • Tests on Compacted Soils
    • Tests on Rock
    • Stress Conditions at a Point
    • Stresses Beneath Structures and Embankments
    • Shallow Pipes and Conduits
    • Deep Underground Openings
    • Numerical Stress Analysis
    • Analysis of Stress Conditions
    • Instantaneous Settlement
    • Primary and Secondary Settlements
    • Tolerable and Differential Settlement
    • Methods of Reducing or Accelerating Settlement
    • Analysis of Volume Expansion
    • Seepage Analysis
    • Seepage Control by Cut-off
    • Design of Drainage Blanket and Filters
    • Well-point Systems and Deep Wells
    • Linings for Reservoirs and Pollution Control Facilities
    • Erosion Control
    • Types of Failures
    • Methods of Analysis
    • Effects of Soil Parameters and Groundwater on Stability
    • Slope Stabilization
    • Slope Protection

Many thanks to J. Ledlie Klosky for furnishing the improved version of DM 7.01.


Checklist and Guidelines for Review of Geotechnical Reports and Preliminary Plans and Specifications

FHWA ED-88-053
August 1988
Revised February 2003

A set of review check-lists and technical guidelines has been developed to aid engineers in their review of projects containing major and unusual geotechnical features. These features may involve any earthwork or foundation related activities such as construction of cuts, fills, or retaining structures, which due to their size, scope, complexity or cost, deserve special attention. The review check-lists and technical guidelines are provided to assist generalist highway engineers in:

  • Reviewing both geotechnical reports and plan, specification, and estimate (PS&E) packages;
  • Recognizing cost-saving opportunities
  • Identifying deficiencies or potential claim problems due to inadequate geotechnical investigation, analysis or design;
  • Recognizing when to request additional technical assistance from a geotechnical specialist.

At first glance, the enclosed review check-lists will seem to be inordinately lengthy, however, this should not cause great concern. First, approximately 50 percent of the review check-lists deal with structural foundation topics, normally the primary responsibility of a bridge engineer; the remaining 50 percent deal with roadway design topics. Second, the general portion of the PS&E check-list is only one page in length. The remaining portions of the PS&E check-list apply to specific geotechnical features – such as pile foundations, embankments, landslide corrections, etc., and would only be completed when those specific features exist on the project. Third, the largest portion of the check-lists deals with the review of geotechnical reports, with a separate check-list for each of eight geotechnical features. The check-list for each geotechnical feature is only one to two pages in length. Therefore, on most projects, reviewers will find that only a small portion of the total enclosed check-list needs to be completed.

Critical State Soil Mechanics

Andrew Schofield and Peter Wroth
Cambridge University, England

This book is about the mechanical properties of saturated remoulded soil. It is written at the level of understanding of a final-year undergraduate student of civil engineering; it should also be of direct interest to post-graduate students and to practising civil engineers who are concerned with testing soil specimens or designing works that involve soil.

The authors’ purpose is to focus attention on the critical state concept and demonstrate what they believe to be its importance in a proper understanding of the mechanical behaviour of soils. They have tried to achieve this by means of various simple mechanical models that represent (with varying degrees of accuracy) the laboratory behaviour of remoulded soils. They have not written a standard text on soil mechanics, and, as a consequence, they have purposely not considered partly saturated, structured, anisotropic, sensitive, or stabilized soil. They have not discussed dynamic, seismic, or damping properties of soils; they have deliberately omitted such topics as the prediction of settlement based on Boussinesq’s functions for elastic stress distributions as they are not directly relevant to the authors’ purpose.

Durability/Corrosion of Soil Reinforcement Structures

Victor Elias
December 1990

This report is intended to provide criteria in evaluating potential corrosion losses when using coated or uncoated steel reinforcements, and in determining ageing and construction damage losses when using geosynthetic reinforcements. To monitor in-situ corrosion rates of bare or galvanized steel reinforcements, remote electrochemical measurement equipment has been developed, evaluated and demonstrated on 7 field sites. The prototype equipment has been delivered to FHWA for further use.

Evaluation of Soil Suction from Filter Paper

Donald R. Snethen and Lawrence D. Johnson
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Waterways Experiment Station
Miscellaneous Paper GL-80-4
June 1980

Soil suction is a useful parameter for characterizing the effect of moisture on the volume change behavior of cohesive soil. Soil suction can be described as a measure of the pulling or tension force per unit area exerted on pore water. Two often-used energy methods for determining soil suction are the thermocouple psychrometer method and the filter paper method. In this study, laboratory suction tests were performed on 24 undisturbed soil samples to evaluate the filter paper method with respect to the thermocouple psychrometer method. The filter paper method is simple and requires little special equipment; however, the validity of filter paper as a useful tool for characterizing swelling behavior has not been well-established. The results of the study show that the filter paper method, as it was employed in this study, is as reproducible as the thermocouple psychrometer method. For the soils tested, comparisons of parameters generally found useful for characterizing swelling behavior showed that the filter paper method usually indicates less capability for swell than the thermocouple psychrometer method. This conclusion is especially significant since predictions of heave based on suction data from thermocouple psychrometers indicate higher levels of heave
than those actually determined in the field.

Geotechnical Engineering within the Piedmont Physiographic Province

Bryan M. Waisnor, Angelle Ducote-Price, Ben Jarosz, J. Michael Duncan, and Charles J. Smith
Virginia Tech Center for Geotechnical Practice and Research
August 2001

The purpose of the study described in this report is to compile and synthesize information on the geology and engineering properties of Piedmont residual soils, and on geotechnical engineering design methods appropriate for use in these soils. Considerable information was found on geology, classification, sampling, and testing of Piedmont residual soils. Less information has been published concerning geotechnical engineering design methods and the performance of foundations in Piedmont residual soils. Guidelines for anticipating excavatability, for estimating settlements of shallow foundations, and for estimating capacities of drilled shafts have been published, and are summarized and illustrated here. However, many subjects of interest, such as effects of pile driving, behavior of driven piles, and use of ground improvement techniques, have not been treated as extensively in the published literature as might be anticipated, given the size of the Piedmont region and the amount of engineered construction in recent years. It seems likely that a great deal of information regarding geotechnical engineering in the Piedmont has been accumulated, which would be of great value to the profession if published.

Introduction to Soil Moduli

Jean-Louis Briaud
Texas A&M University

The modulus of a soil is one of the most difficult soil parameters to estimate because it depends on so many factors. Therefore when one says for example:”The modulus of this soil is 10,000 kPa”, one should immediately ask: “What are the conditions associated with this number?” The following is a background on some of the important influencing factors for soil moduli. It is not meant to be a thorough academic discourse but rather a first step in understanding the complex world of soil moduli. In a first part, the modulus is defined. In a second part, the factors influencing the modulus and related to the state of the soil are described. In a third part, the factors related to the loading process are discussed. Fourth, some applications of soil moduli are presented. In a fifth and sixth part, the soil modulus is compared to the soil stiffness and to the soil coefficient of subgrade reaction respectively.

An Investigation of the Effects of Grain Crushing on the Engineering Analysis of Calcareous Sediments

Naval Civil Engineering Laboratory CR 83.020
December 1982

Sixteen specially prepared laboratory soil specimens were subjected to model pile driving to induce grain crushing about the pile perimeter and study the effects grain crushing has on the engineering analysis of calcareous sediments. Each specimen constituted a particular material, level of degree of cementation, and density. The parameters measured for each test were the pile driving resistance, pile pull-out resistance, and grain size analysis curves determined before and after pile driving for areas next to and remote from the pile surface. The results of this experiment revealed that crush-ability depends on the interrelated effects of grain harness, pile penetration resistance to driving, cement content, and soil density. A significant finding showed that the pile driving resistance is not a rational parameter in assessing pull-out capacity for piles in calcareous sands.

Laboratory Investigation on Piles in Calcareous Settlements

Naval Civil Engineering Laboratory TN-1714
September 1982

Laboratory tests were performed, using a model pile, to determine what effect pile driving has on calcareous sand. Radiography was used to track the movement of lead shot in the sand during pile driving. Driving energy was also recorded. A test was done to measure the amount of grain crushing that occurs during pile driving. The result of this test shows that the side friction of piles in calcareous sand is low and does not increase with increasing blows. The reason for the low friction component is due to crushing the weak calcareous grains, which reduces the lateral pressures acting on the pile surface. Another test proved that the crushed calcareous sand does not reduce the soil-pile interface friction angle. Several innovative pile system concepts for improving the lateral load carrying capacity of piles in calcareous sand were developed.

Manual on Estimating Soil Properties for Foundation Design

EPRI EL-6800
August 1990

This manual provides foundation engineers with a comprehensive reference on estimating engineering soil parameters from field or laboratory test data. Empirical correlations are used extensively to evaluate soil parameters. The manual describes the most important of these correlations completely and systematically with an emphasis on the correlations of relatively common tests, including those that are seeing increased usage in practice.

fm-5-410-coverMilitary Soils Engineering

We also have the previous version of this document, FM 5-410, Change 1

TM 3-34.64 (FM 5-410/23 Dec 1992)/MCRP 3-17.7G
September 2012

Construction in the theatre of operations is normally limited to roads, airfields, and structures necessary for military operations. This manual emphasizes the soils engineering aspects of road and airfield construction. The references give detailed information on other soils engineering topics that are discussed in general terms. This manual provides a discussion of the formation and characteristics of soil and the system used by the United States (US) Army to classify soils. It also gives an overview of classification systems used by other agencies. It describes the compaction of soils and quality control, settlement and shearing resistance of soils, the movement of water through soils, frost action, and the bearing capacity of soils that serve as foundations, slopes, embankments, dikes, dams, and earth-retaining structures. This manual also describes the geologic factors that affect the properties and occurrences of natural mineral/soil construction materials used to build dams, tunnels, roads, airfields, and bridges. Theater-of-operations construction methods are emphasized throughout the manual.

This manual has an excellent treatment of basic geology as it relates to soil mechanics, a subject not well covered in most soils texts (including many of the documents on this website.)

Offshore Soil Mechanics

Arnold Verruijt
University of Delft, The Netherlands
1994, 2005

This book is an excellent introduction to soil mechanics as it is applied to offshore structures, such as offshore oil platforms. Topics covered include the following:

  • Soil Properties
  • Theory of Consolidation
  • Sea Bed Response to Cyclic Loads
  • Cutting Forces in Sand
  • Beams on Elastic Foundation
  • Axially Loaded Piles
  • Development of Pile Plug
  • Laterally Loaded Piles
  • Pile in Layered Elastic Material
  • Waves in Piles
  • Gravity Foundations

Rapid Stabilization of Thawing Soils for Enhanced Vehicle Mobility

Maureen A. Kestler, Sally A. Shoop, Karen S. Henry,
Jeffrey A. Stark, and Rosa T. Affleck
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
CRREL Report 99-3
February 1999

Thawing soil presents a formidable challenge for vehicle operations cross-country and on unsurfaced roads. To mitigate the problem, a variety of stabilization techniques were evaluated for their suitability for rapid employment to enhance military vehicle operations. A combination of mechanical stabilization methods including several lightweight fills, geosynthetics, and tire and wood mats, were constructed and tested during the annual training exercises of the 229th Engineers of the Wisconsin National Guard during the difficult conditions of spring thaw. The techniques were evaluated for their expediency, ease of construction, traffic-ability, and durability. In general, chunk-wood was an excellent replacement for gravel fill in forested area; tree slash (or other vegetation) was effective but labour intensive; wood mats and pallets were effective and reasonably durable; tire mats were extremely rugged and effective. A loader or crane was needed to place the large wood mats, tire mats, and fascines. Geocomposite materials (Geonet) were quickly installed and could withstand limited traffic (50 passes) without additional cover material. Geosynthetics reduced the amount of cover material and enhanced placement, effectiveness and removal when used under other materials to spread the load and keep them from sinking into the mud. All materials were damaged during the severe motion of a tank cornering except the large, smooth wood mats, but these were slippery on slopes. Results are summarized in a decision matrix for choosing the best technique depending on site conditions, material and equipment availability, and utilization criteria.

Shear Modulus and Damping Ratio Values of Soils Found in Adama

Abu Gemechu Feyissa
Addis Ababa Institute of Technology
November 2011

In this study an attempt was done to determine shear modulus and damping ratio of soils found in Adama city. The city is located in Main Ethiopian Rift where occurrence of earthquake is expected. The response of soils for incoming earthquake is measured with the dynamic properties of soils (shear modulus and damping ratio) which are important parameters to study ground motion, site response of soil deposits under cyclic loading and soil -structure interaction. These parameters are also important for design of machine foundation. Therefore it is essential to study dynamic properties of soils under cyclic loading condition using cyclic simple shear machine. The values of normalized shear modulus and damping ratio are compared with already known curves in literature. The study showed that the values of normalized shear modulus, G/Gmax plotted against shear strain, show scatter when compared with curves of Seed and Idriss. For sand the scattered of results are observed. For saturated clay, all the measured points are close to the known curves. The values of damping ratio are also compared with curves given by Seed and Idriss. For strain less than 1% most of the measured points are located within range of the curves given for sand and clay soils. For strain greater than and equal to 1%, the points lay within the range for clays and outside the range for sand.

Soil Mechanics

Note: the software that accompanies this book is available here.

Arnold Verruijt
University of Delft, The Netherlands

What do you think of the soil mechanics textbook you have (or had) has an undergraduate? Good or bad, one thing you didn’t like about it — the price! We are thus pleased to present a really first class textbook by a well known authority in geotechnical engineering. Topics include the following:

  • Introduction
  • Classification
  • Particles, water, air
  • Stresses in soils
  • Stresses in a layer
  • Darcy’s law
  • Permeability
  • Groundwater flow
  • Floatation
  • Flow net
  • Flow towards wells
  • Stress strain relations
  • Tangent-moduli
  • One-dimensional compression
  • Consolidation
  • Analytical solution
  • Numerical solution
  • Consolidation coefficient
  • Secular effect
  • Shear strength
  • Triaxial test
  • Shear test
  • Cell test
  • Pore pressures
  • Undrained behaviour of soils
  • Stress paths
  • Elastic stresses and deformations
  • Boussinesq
  • Newmark
  • Flamant
  • Deformation of layered soil
  • Lateral stresses in soils
  • Rankine
  • Coulomb
  • Tables for lateral earth pressure
  • Sheet pile walls
  • Blum
  • Sheet pile wall in layered soil
  • Limit analysis
  • Strip footing
  • Prandtl
  • Limit theorems for frictional materials
  • Brinch Hansen
  • Vertical slope in cohesive material
  • Stability of infinite slope
  • Slope stability
  • Soil exploration
  • Model tests
  • Pile foundations

You can contact the author by clicking here.

Stresses in Soils

Don C. Warrington
June 2015

Many undergraduate civil engineering students find their required geotechnical courses strange. They enter into a new world of soil classifications, granular mechanics and porous materials, and a raft of empirical formulae. There seems to be little connection between the topics and a unifying theory is hard to find. Other enter geotechnical engineering in the course of their work as equipment suppliers, owners and the like, who may not have specific training in the field and find many of the concepts baffling. This article attempts to approach one of the important topics in geotechnical engineering in a different way. In the past, presentation of theory was just that–presentation–and it was difficult to apply the theory in a practical way except for the simplest of cases. Now, with finite element analysis, this theory can become practical reality. Many practising civil engineers, however, look on FEA as a “black box” where one puts in (hopefully meaningful) data and gets out answers which are at best no more meaningful than the data. Hopefully this article will bridge the gap between the two and make learning the essentials of stresses in soils easier.

A Summary of the Prevost Effective Stress Soil Model

Naval Civil Engineering Laboratory TR-913
September 1984

This report presents a summary of the Prevost effective stress soil model. A summary of the model formulation is given with its implementation into the DYNAFLOW finite element code. Test data are compared with code prediction. Several boundary value problems are solved as a demonstration of capability.

Theory and Problems of Poroelasticity

We also offer the software that accompanies this text.

Arnold Verruijt

This text details the theory of poroelasticity, better known as consolidation. It begins by an extensive discussion of one-dimensional theory, and then proceeds to two- and three-dimensional problems. In addition to closed form solutions, finite element ones are discussed as well. Topics include the following:

  • Theory of Poroelasticity
  • One-Dimensional Problems
  • Elementary problems
  • Seabed response to water waves
  • Flow to wells
  • Plane Strain Half Space Problems
  • Plane Strain Layer
  • Axially Symmetric Half Space Problems
  • Plane Strain Finite Elements
  • Axially Symmetric Finite Elements