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6.

Soil Classification
(Das, chapter 5)

Sections: All except 5.1

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Purpose
Classifying soils into groups or sub-groups with similar engineering
behavior.
Classification systems were developed in terms of simple indices
(GSD and plasticity).
These classifications can provide geotechnical engineers with
general guidance about engineering properties of the soils
through the accumulated experience.
Communicate
between
engineers
Classification Estimate Achieve
Simple indices
system engineering engineering
GSD, LL, PI (Language) properties purposes
Use the
accumulated
experience 2
Classification Systems
Two commonly classification system used are:

1. Unified Soil Classification System (USCS) (preferred


by geotechnical engineers).

2. American Association of State Highway and


Transportation Officials (AASHTO) System (preferred
by Transportation engineers).

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1. Unified Soil Classification System (USCS)
i. Definition of Grain Size No specific
grain size-use
Atterberg limits

Silt and
Boulders Cobbles Gravel Sand Clay
Coarse Fine Coarse Medium Fine

300 mm 75 mm No.4 No.200


4.75 mm 0.075
19 mm No.10 No.40 mm
2.0 mm 0.425 mm

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1. Unified Soil Classification System (USCS)
% Passing sieve No. 200 (0.075 mm)

< 50% > 50%


Coarse-grained soils Fine-grained soils
Silt (M)
Clay (C)

Grain size distribution Use Plasticity chart


LL, PL

Required tests: Sieve analysis


Atterberg limit 5
1. Unified Soil Classification System (USCS)
Used for Fine grained soils to determine whether silt (M) or clay
(C)
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Comparing soils at equal liquid limit
50 Toughness and dry strength increase e
" lin
with increasing plasticity index
"A
40
Plasticity index

CH
30

20 OH
CL or
10 CL OL
or MH
ML
0 ML
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
Liquid limit
Plasticity chart
for laboratory classification of fine grained soils

Below A-line is silt use symbol M LL > 50 High plasticity


Above A-line is clay use symbol C LL< 50 low plasticity
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1. Unified Soil Classification System (USCS)
% Passing sieve No. 200 (0.075 mm)

< 50% > 50%


Coarse-grained soils Fine-grained soils
Silt (M)
Clay (C)

Grain size distribution Use Plasticity chart


ML, MH, CL, CH

Required tests: Sieve analysis


Atterberg limit 7
1. Unified Soil Classification System (USCS)
% Passing sieve No. 200 (0.075 mm)

< 50% > 50%


Coarse-grained soils Fine-grained soils
Silt (M)
% Coarse soil (Co) = 100 - % Passing # 200 Clay (C)
% Gravel (G) = 100 - % Passing # 4

G > 1/2 Co G < 1/2 Co Use Plasticity chart


Gravel (G) Sand (S) LL, PL

% Passing sieve No. 200

< 5% GW, GP, SW or SP Use Cu, Cc W : well graded P: poorly graded


5% -12 % GW-GM, GW-GC, GP-GM, GP-GC, SW-SM, SW-SC, SP-SM, SP-SC
> 12% GM, GC, SM, SC Use plasticity charts 8
1. Unified Soil Classification System (USCS)
To determine if well graded (W) or poorly graded (P), calculate
Cu and Cc
D60
Coefficient of uniformity Cu
D10

D302
Coefficient of gradation Cc
( D60 D10 )

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1. Unified Soil Classification System (USCS)

D60
Coefficient of uniformity Cu
D10

D302
Coefficient of gradation Cc
( D60 D10 )

Conditions for Well-graded soils


For gravels Cu > 4 and Cc is between 1 and 3
For Sand W if Cu > 6 and Cc is between 1 and 3

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1. Unified Soil Classification System (USCS)

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1. Unified Soil Classification System (USCS)
60
Comparing soils at equal liquid limit
50 Toughness and dry strength increase
line
with increasing plasticity index "
"A
40
Plasticity index

CH
30

20 OH
CL or
10 CL OL
CL-ML or MH
ML
0 ML
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
Liquid limit
Plasticity chart
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for laboratory classification of fine grained soils
Unified soil classification (including identification and description)

Field identification procedures Group Information required for Laboratory classification


(Excluding particles larger than 75mm and basing fractions on symbols Typical names
1 describing soils criteria
estimated weights)

Depending on percentages of fines (fraction smaller than .075mm


D

Bordeline case requiring use of dual symbols


Wide range of grain size and substantial GW Well graded gravels, gravel-
Clean gravels

C U = --- 60 Greater than 4

Determine percentages of gravel and sand from grain size curve


Give typical names: indicate ap-
(little or no

amounts of all intermediate particle sand mixtures, little or no proximate percentages of sand D 10
fines)

sizes fines 2
and gravel: maximum size: (D30 )
More than half of coarse

C c = ---------------------
fraction is larger than

Predominantly one size or a range of angularity, surface condition, Between 1 and 3


GP Poorly graded gravels, gravel- D10 x D60

sieve size) coarse grained soils are classified as follows


sizes with some intermediate sizes sand mixtures, little or no and hardness of the coarse
More than half of material is larger than

missing fines grains: local or geological name Not meeting all gradation requirements for GW
2.36mm
Gravels

and other pertinent descriptive


amount of fines)

Use grain size curve in identifying the fractions as given under field identification
Gravels with

Non-plastic fines (for identification GM Silty gravels, poorly information and symbol in
(apreciable

procedures see ML below) graded gravel-sand-silt mixtures parentheses. Atterberg limits below Above "A" line with
fines
The .075mm sieve size is about the smallest particle visible to the naked eye
Coarse grained soils

"A" line or PI less than 4 PI between 4 and 7


.075mm sieve size

Plastic fines (for identification pro- GC Clayey gravels, poorly graded For undisturbed soils add infor- are borderline cases
Atterberg limits above "A" requiring use of dual

GM, GC, SM, SC


cedures see CL below) gravel-sand-clay mixtures mation on stratification, degree

GW, GP, SW, SP


of compactness, cementation, line with PI greater than 7 symbols
Wide range in grain sizes and sub- moisture conditions and drain- D
SW Well graded sands, gravelly
C U =--- 60 Greater than 6
Clean sands
(little or no

stantial amounts of all intermediate age characteristics.


particle sizes sands, little or no fines D 10
fines)
More than half of coarse

(D 30 )2
fraction is smaller than

Example:
Predominantely one size or a range of SP Poorly graded sands, gravelly C c = --------------------- Between 1 and 3
Silty sand, gravelly; about 20% D 10 x D60
sizes with some intermediate sizes missing sands, little or no fines hard angular gravel particles
2.36mm
Sands

12.5mm maximum size; rounded Not meeting all gradation requirements for SW

More than 12%


amount of fines)

Non-plastic fines (for identification pro- SM Silty sands, poorly graded and subangular sand grains
(appreciable

Less than 5%
Sands with

cedures, see ML below) sand-silt mixtures coarse to fine, about 15% non- Atterberg limits below Above "A" line with

5% to 12%
fines

plastic lines with low dry "A" line or PI less than 4 PI between 4 and 7
Plastic fines (for identification pro- SC Clayey sands, poorly graded strength; well compacted and are borderline cases
cedures, see CL below) sand-clay mixtures moist in places; alluvial sand; Atterberg limits above "A" requiring use of dual
(SM) line with PI greater than 7 symbols
Identification procedure on fraction smaller than .425mm
sieve size
Dry strength Dilatency Toughness
More than half of material is smaller than

Silts and clays

crushing (consistency
less than 50

(reaction
liquid limit

character- to shaking) near plastic


istics limit)
Inorganic silts and very fine sands, Give typical name; indicate degree
None to Quick to None rock flour, silty or clayey
ML
Fine grained soils

and character of plasticity,


.075mm sieve size

slight slow fine sands with slight plasticity 60


amount and maximum size of Comparing soils at equal liquid limit
Medium to None to very Inorganic clays of low to medium coarse grains: colour in wet con- 50 Toughness and dry strength increase
high slow
Medium CL,CI plasticity, gravelly clays, sandy dition, odour if any, local or in
e
clays, silty clays, lean clays with increasing plasticity index "l
geological name, and other pert- "A
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Plasticity index
Slight to Slow Slight Organic silts and organic silt- inent descriptive information, and
medium OL clays of low plasticity symbol in parentheses CH
30 CI
inorganic silts, micaceous or
Silts and clays

Slight to Slow to Slight to For undisturbed soils add infor-


greater than
liquid limit

medium none medium MH dictomaceous fine sandy or mation on structure, stratif- OH


silty soils, elastic silts 20
ication, consistency and undis-
50

High to very Inorganic clays of high or


None High turbed and remoulded states, CL OL
high CH plasticity, fat clays moisture and drainage conditions 10
MH
CL-ML or
ML
Medium to None to very Slight to Organic clays of medium to Example 0
high high medium OH high plasticity Clayey silt, brown: slightly plastic: 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
Liquid limit
Readily identified by colour, odour small percentage of fine sand:
Highly organic soils spongy feel and frequently by fibrous Pt Peat and other highly organic soils numerous vertical root holes: firm Plasticity chart

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and dry in places; loess; (ML) for laboratory classification of fine grained soils
texture
Organic Soils
Highly organic soils- Peat (Group symbol PT)
A sample composed primarily of vegetable tissue in

various stages of decomposition and has a fibrous to


amorphous texture, a dark-brown to black color, and an
organic odor should be designated as a highly organic soil
and shall be classified as peat, PT.

Organic clay or silt (group symbol OL or OH):


The soils liquid limit (LL) after oven drying is less than 75

% of its liquid limit before oven drying. If the above


statement is true, then the first symbol is O.
The second symbol is obtained by locating the values of PI

and LL (not oven dried) in the plasticity chart.


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Borderline Cases (Dual Symbols)
Coarse-grained soils with 5% - 12% fines.
About 7 % fines can change the hydraulic conductivity of the

coarse-grained media by orders of magnitude.


The first symbol indicates whether the coarse fraction is well or

poorly graded. The second symbol describe the contained fines.


For example: SP-SM, poorly graded sand with silt.

Fine-grained soils with limits within the shaded zone. (PI between 4
and 7 and LL between about 12 and 25).
It is hard to distinguish between the silty and more claylike

materials.
CL-ML: Silty clay, SC-SM: Silty, clayed sand.

Soil contain similar fines and coarse-grained fractions.


possible dual symbols GM-ML

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Example 1
100

80
% Finer

60

40

20

0
0.0001 0.001 0.01 0.1 1 10 100
Particle size (mm)

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Example 1

100

80
% Finer

60

40

20

0
0.0001 0.001 0.01 0.1 1 10 100
Particle size (mm)

%fines (% finer than 75 mm) = 11% - Dual symbols required 17


Example 1
100

80
% Finer

60

40

20

0
0.0001 0.001 0.01 0.1 1 10 100
Particle size (mm)

%fines (% finer than 75 mm) = 11% - Dual symbols required


D10 = 0.06 mm, D30 = 0.25 mm, D60 = 0.75 mm
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Example 1
100

80
% Finer

60

40

20

0
0.0001 0.001 0.01 0.1 1 10 100
Particle size (mm)

Particle size fractions: Gravel 17%


Sand 73%
Silt and Clay 10% 19
Example 1
Of the coarse fraction about 80% is sand, hence Prefix is S
Cu = 12.5, Cc = 1.38
Suffix1 = W
From Atterberg Tests
LL = 32, PL = 26
Ip = 32 - 26 = 6

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Example 1
60
Comparing soils at equal liquid limit
50 Toughness and dry strength increase
line
with increasing plasticity index "
"A
40
Plasticity index

CH
30

20 OH
CL or
10 CL OL
or MH
ML
0 ML
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
Liquid limit
Plasticity chart
for laboratory classification of fine grained soils 21
Example 1
Of the coarse fraction about 80% is sand, hence Prefix is S
Cu = 12.5, Cc = 1.38
Suffix1 = W
From Atterberg Tests
LL = 32, PL = 26 & Ip = 32 - 26 = 6
From Plasticity Chart point lies below A-line
Suffix2 = M

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Example 1
Of the coarse fraction about 80% is sand, hence Prefix is S
Cu = 12.5, Cc = 1.38
Suffix1 = W
From Atterberg Tests
LL = 32, PL = 26
Ip = 32 - 26 = 6
From Plasticity Chart point lies below A-line
Suffix2 = M
Dual Symbols are SW-SM
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Example 1
Of the coarse fraction about 80% is sand, hence Prefix is S
Cu = 12.5, Cc = 1.38
Suffix1 = W
From Atterberg Tests
LL = 32, PL = 26 & Ip = 32 - 26 = 6
From Plasticity Chart point lies below A-line
Suffix2 = M
Dual Symbols are SW-SM
To complete the classification the Symbols should be accompanied by a description
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Example 2

Classify the following soils Using Unified Classification


System.

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1. Unified Soil Classification System (USCS)
% Passing sieve No. 200 (0.075 mm)

< 50% > 50%


Coarse-grained soils Fine-grained soils
Silt (M)
% Coarse soil (Co) = 100 - % Passing # 200 Clay (C)
% Gravel (G) = 100 - % Passing # 4

G > 1/2 Co G < 1/2 Co Use Plasticity chart


Gravel (G) Sand (S) LL, PL

% Passing sieve No. 200

< 5% GW, GP, SW or SP Use Cu, Cc W : well graded P: poorly graded


5% -12 % GW-GM, GW-GC, GP-GM, GP-GC, SW-SM, SW-SC, SP-SM, SP-SC
> 12% GM, GC, SM, SC Use plasticity charts 26
Example 2

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Example 3

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Summary of the USCS

coarse grain soils fine grain soils


[>50% larger than 0.075 mm] [>50% smaller than 0.075 mm]
% of fines
0 5 12 CoF 50 FP 100

e.g., SM e.g., CH
CoGr
CoGr - CoF
e.g., GP
e.g., GP-GC

Co: Coarse F: Fines Gr: Gradation P: Plasticity

G = Gravel M = Silts W = well graded H = LL > 50

S = Sands C = Clays P = poorly graded L = LL < 50


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Symbols
Soil symbols: Liquid limit symbols:
G: Gravel H: High LL (LL>50)
S: Sand L: Low LL (LL<50)
M: Silt
C: Clay Gradation symbols:
O: Organic W: Well-graded
Pt: Peat P : Poorly-graded
Well graded soil
Example: SW, Well-graded sand
1 Cc 3 and C u 4
SC, Clayey sand
(for gravels )
SM, Silty sand, 1 Cc 3 and C u 6
MH, Elastic silt (for sands )
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2. American Association of State Highway
and Transportation Officials system
(AASHTO)
Origin of AASHTO: (For road construction)

This system was originally developed by Hogentogler and


Terzaghi in 1929 as the Public Roads Classification System.

Afterwards, there are several revisions. The present AASHTO


(1978) system is primarily based on the version in 1945.
(Holtz and Kovacs, 1981)

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2. AASHTO
i. Definition of Grain Size No specific
grain size-use
Atterberg limits

Silt and
Boulders Cobbles Sand Clay
Gravel

300 mm 75 mm No.4 No.200


4.75 mm 0.075
19 mm No.10 No.40 mm
2.0 mm 0.425 mm

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2. AASHTO
ii. General guidance
8 major groups: A1~ A7 (with several subgroups) and organic soils A8
The required tests are sieve analysis and Atterberg limits.
The group index, an empirical formula, is used to further evaluate soils within a
group (subgroups).

A1 ~ A3 A4 ~ A7

Granular Materials Silt-clay Materials


35% pass No. 200 sieve 36% pass No. 200 sieve

Using LL and PI separates silty materials Using LL and PI separates silty materials
from clayey materials (only for A2 group) from clayey materials

The original purpose of this classification system is used for road construction
(subgrade rating).
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2. AASHTO
iii. Classification

Classification starts from left to right 37


2. AASHTO
iii. Classification

Note:
The first group from the left to fit the test data is the
correct AASHTO classification. 38
Group Index
Used to evaluate the quality of a soil as a highway subgrade material.
This index is written in parentheses after the group or subgroup
designation [e.g. A-4(3)].
The first term is determined by the LL

GI (F200 35)0.2 0.005(LL 40)


0.01(F200 15)( PI 10) (1)
The second term is determined by the PI

For Groups A-2-6 and A-2-7

GI 0.01(F200 15)(PI 10) use the second term only


F200: percentage passing through the No.200 sieve

In general, the rating for a pavement subgrade is inversely proportional


to the group index, GI. 39
Some rules of Group Index GI
1. If Eq. (1) yields a negative value for GI, it is taken as 0.

2. The group index is rounded off to the nearest whole


number (for example, GI 3.4 is rounded off to 3; GI 3.5
is rounded off to 4).

3. There is no upper limit for the group index.

4. The group index of soils belonging to groups A-1-a, A-1-b,


A-2-4, A-2-5, and A-3 is always 0.

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Example 1

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Example 1 [Soil B]

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Example 2

Classify the following soil Using


AASHTO System.
Given:
% passing No. 10 = 100;
% passing No. 40 = 80;
'% passing No.200 = 58
LL = 30; PI = 10.
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Example 2

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