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Laboratory Testing of Soils

John Huang, Ph.D., PE and John Poullain, PE

This four hour online course discusses guidelines and criteria for laboratory testing of soils. Basic concepts of soil behavior and the selection of appropriate tests for the design of earthwork structures and foundations are considered. Frequently used soil tests include those used to establish index properties of soils, determine strength tests, permeability and consolidation of soils. Tests for index property range from moisture content, specific gravity and unit weight to liquid limits and densification of soils. Strength tests include unconfined compressive, triaxial, shear, R-value and CBR. Also considered is quality assurance for laboratory testing which includes the storage, handling and selection of specimen samples. The AASHTO and ASTM designations for the most frequently used laboratory tests are provided.

The design of building foundations, excavation, fills and slopes requires an understanding of soil strength; soil characteristics and consideration of problem soils and how soil behaves under imposed loads. Laboratory soils tests and in-situ field-testing provide this information. These criteria and guidelines are important so the appropriate tests are selected especially since the laboratory tests can be expensive but not nearly as expensive in case of a project failure.

Because of the large variety of soils and a large variety of applied soil mechanics problems there is also a large variety of soils tests, laboratory and on site, for determining the engineering properties of soils. Before the laboratory tests can be requested the design engineer must define the purpose for a testing program for himself and the laboratory personnel. Accurate measurements are of great importance and the test equipment must be properly maintained, otherwise the test results will be valueless and misleading. Poorly constructed and maintained equipment such as maladjusted liquid limit devices and proving rings, worn liquid limit cups, grooving tools or consolidometer rings will produce serious test errors.

This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course materials.

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NY PE & PLS: You must choose courses that are technical in nature or related to matters of laws and ethics contributing to the health and welfare of the public. NY Board does not accept courses related to office management, risk management, leadership, marketing, accounting, financial planning, real estate, and basic CAD. Specific course topics that are on the borderline and are not acceptable by the NY Board have been noted under the course description on our website.