A Few Things to Know About Soil Compaction

While you might think dirt is just dirt, the reality is that soil is a complicated substance, especially when it comes to engineering. There are times where it’s difficult to measure the properties of soil and understand the challenges of working with it. Soil compaction testing is part of the field of soil engineering and goes along with testing other aspects of soil, including its strength, permeability and stiffness.

What is soil compaction?

Geotechnical engineers understand the complexities of soil consolidation and soil compaction. Soil compaction involves the mechanical densification of soil, whereas soil consolidation involves the densification of soil related to adding fill or foundation loads.

The amount of water and air along with the level of initial density all play roles in the impact of these processes. Geotechnical engineers are brought in to evaluate existing soil formations for construction projects and assess the shrink-swell capacity of the soil. If there isn’t enough soil compaction, this can lead to pipes breaking and potentially hazardous erosion problems. If you’ve seen a sinkhole cause a disaster on the news, then you’ve seen a soil compaction problem that went unnoticed until it was too late.

Soil types are specific to each region and site

How dense a given soil is will determine the amount of soil compaction necessary for building. Soil varies in terms of grain size, grain shape, grain distribution, levels of clay, levels of minerals and more. Certain regions tend to have similar types of soil, but there’s still considerable variation from site to site.

Devising a construction materials testing (CMT) plan

A CMT plan is designed to minimize problems during a project’s construction. It provides information for making decisions on utilities, structures and earthwork. Many aspects of the CMT plan will pertain to soil. Testing the density and compaction of soil is a key component to moving forward on a given building project.

Testing for soil compaction

Preliminary testing for soil compaction is typically done at the site. Then, at a laboratory, additional testing is done. Sometimes this testing is required by regulatory agencies. Proctor compaction tests are most commonly used by labs. These range from static to vibration testing to impact, among other tests.

Soil testing serves as the foundation for any building project. It’s critical to grasp the characteristics of the soil at the site to understand how it will hold up under stress. Knowing the compressibility, permeability, strength and water absorption of a soil sample is the first step. The soil’s characteristics will be the key for engineering guidelines used for any project, from a new building to a bridge, dam or other structure.

If you want soil compaction explained further, then turn to the pros. EMC2 Inc. is a civil engineering firm that offers services to municipal and commercial customers. We serve the structural and geo-structural engineering needs of a range of customers. We do it all, from construction to pos-construction services, pre-demolition and more. Call us today so we can discuss your project in greater detail.