Analyzing CPT Data

As we've noted in other posts, CPT provides a number of benefits over traditional methods of subsurface soil characterization. These benefits include: Traceability Reports from a specific sounding are easily traced back to the source data, and because CPT is a continuous process, data points in between those reported can be evaluated post-test. This is in contrast to geotechnical boring where individual samples need to be tracked and accounted for from the busy worksite to a remote lab and through to reports and documentation. This can be cumbersome and prone to errors. Immediacy Reports can be generated in near-real-time. This enables customers such as site owners or civil engineers to have visibility to the tests as they are occuring. Having immediacy means that as data is reported and interpreted, any retesting that should be done or any additional soundings that would be useful to clarify or validate data can be called for on the spot. Accuracy Because of the very large volume of soundings that have been done, important factors and relationships have been established that enable the raw CPT data to be translated into useful information. Additionally, as we've noted elsewhere, CPT leaves the soil being tested 'undisturbed' and therefore provides a more accurate assessment than other methods of soil characterization. CPT Data analysis and interpretation can be aided through the use of specialized software Two that our customers have had success with include DataForensics & Datagel. Using software to log, analyze and report your data provides a number of advantages. Traceability, immediacy and accuracy are improved. Additionally, efficiency and therefore your cost structure, benefit as well. With the right software you are able to accelerate your ability to serve customers both more quickly and more accurately. If you are entering or have recently started out in the CPT [...]

What Information Should you Include in a Geotechical Report?

It could be that you've learned everything there is to know about Cone Penetration Testing, but if you don't know about geotechnical reporting, you're missing out on a big step in the process. A geotechnical report is a tool used to communicate site conditions, as well as design and construction recommendations to be relayed to personnel. In other words, you're taking the results of your CPT testing and putting them into an easy-to-understand report along with relevant conclusions. Sound simple? There's more to it than you might think. Geotechnical Report Essentials Of course, you want to include specific information in your geotechnical report like the status of substrate soil, rock and water conditions. It also goes without saying that accuracy in all areas is crucial because the data in the report will be referred to often throughout the design and construction periods, as well as after the completion of the project, primarily for resolving claims. But let's get more specific. Here are some basic must have points that should be included in every geotechnical report; keeping in mind that final content will vary somewhat depending on the business and project: Location and surface conditions: specific address, current use, surface coverings, elevation, drainage, etc. Subsurface exploration data: soil profile, exploration logs, lab or in-situ test results, ground water conditions Interpretation and analysis of data Engineering recommendations for design Anticipated problems and discussed solutions: slope stability, seismic considerations, etc. Any recommended geotechnical special provisions Include other types of geotechnical reports: foundation report, centerline soil report, landslide study report, etc. With these points as a guideline, it's possible to create a geotechnical report that covers all the right points to satisfy all parties involved in a project. This includes any government agencies that require geotechnical reports. For example, the U.S. Department of Transportation [...]

How to Interpret Soil Test Results from CPT Testing

Even if you already have a solid grasp of what Cone Penetration Testing is and how CPT rigs test soils, understanding soil test results is a bigger task. You likely already know that CPT rigs are equipped with automated interpretation programs, but that doesn't mean test results are easily readable right away. Fortunately, even if you aren't a technician, it is possible to gain some understanding into soil test results. Read on to find out how. The basics of soil test results At the most basic level, the results of CPT testing are based on the relationship between cone bearing, sleeve friction and pore water pressure. With these three measurements, you can learn quite a bit about soil composition and conditions. For example, friction ratio measured by the sleeve is used to determine soil type. Soil is then classified according to the Unified Soil Classification System (USCS). CPT can also measure: Soil parameters Computer calculations of interpreted soil behavior types (SBT) Additional geotechnical parameters It's also possible to determine temperature shifts and zero load offset through the use of baseline readings. This essentially means comparing test results to those generated from initial testing before work begins on a site. With careful observation, it's possible to determine even more about the soil tested. Some examples include noting trends in water content to determine the type of soil (ie, sand does not retain water as well as clay) and knowing that larger values of cone resistance and sleeve friction usually indicate coarser soils, while lower values tend to indicate fine-grained soils. Although they won't put you on the level of a trained technician, these basics should make soil test results much easier to understand. More importantly, with this information in mind, you should have a much greater understanding of CPT testing as [...]

CPT 101: Determining Soil Profiles from CPT Data

Cone Penetration Testing allows the tester to identify the nature and sequence of subsurface soil types and to learn the physical and mechanical characteristics of the soil – without necessarily taking a soil sample. How does it work? During a CPT test, a hardened cone is driven vertically into the ground at a fixed rate, while electrical sensors on the cone measure the forces exerted on it. The zone behavior type of the subsurface layers can be extrapolated from two basic readings: cone or tip resistance and sleeve friction. Cone Resistance, denoted qc, represents the ratio of the measured force on the cone tip and the area of the normal projection of the cone tip. The cone resistance indicates the undrained (i.e., including in-situ moisture) shear strength of the soil. Sleeve Friction, denoted fs, is the friction force acting on the sleeve divided by its surface area. The relationship between these two measurements is expressed in the Friction Ratio, denoted Rf and given as a percent. It is the ratio of the sleeve friction to the cone resistance. High friction ratios (high friction, low cone resistance) indicate clayey soils, while low friction ratios indicate sandy soils. The relationship between friction ratio and cone resistance is the simplest method of identifying soil strata with a CPT system, and is especially convenient because the soil behavior type can be extrapolated immediately as the data is collected. An example soil classification chart is given below (though this example uses the corrected cone ratio qt, which we’ll discuss in another blog). As you can imagine, several factors can affect the accuracy of these predictions, for example: Overburden Stress: the pressure exerted on a substrate by the weight of the overlying material Pore Water Pressure: the pressure of the groundwater in the gaps between soil [...]

How to Read a CPT Soil Behavior Type Chart

As you analyze your CPT data, you are likely to come across several different charts designed to classify soil type based on CPT results.If you are new to the field, these charts can be a bit confusing, so here’s a brief overview of one of the more common chart types. Soil behavior classification via CPT is fast, efficient, and frequently automated via software. Still, understanding the classification method is important, as it will help you to recognize and determine the cause of any errors or irregularities in the data. First of all, it is important to note that, since a traditional CPT test does not involve a soil sample, these charts are not designed to tell you the exact makeup of the soil. Instead, CPT tests indicate the soil’s physical and mechanical properties, or how it behaves. Hence, a CPT soil classification chart is technically referred to as a Soil Behavior Type (SBT) chart. Most CPT soil charts are derived from tip resistance (or normalized tip resistance, Qt) and friction ratio data. The tip resistance is measured in some unit of pressure (Bars, Pa, PSI, etc) and is usually plotted on the vertical axis. This axis is logarithmic, meaning it increases by orders of magnitude rather than linearly as it gets further from the origin. Thus you will see units of 10, 100 and 1000 marked an equal distance apart. The friction ratio is given on the horizontal axis. It is the ratio of the sleeve friction divided by the tip resistance: the two units of pressure cancel, so this unitless ratio is multiplied by 100 and given as a percent. This percentage is generally low: 10% would be considered a high friction ratio, since the CPT cone experiences greater pressure on its tip due to the shear strength of [...]

Intro to CPTu: What Can You Learn From Pore Pressure Data?

The most basic CPT tests classify soil based on tip resistance and sleeve friction measurements. In coarse soils and shallow testing depths, this data may be sufficient to accurately characterize the soil behavior. However, most modern CPT cones incorporate a third measurement: pore water pressure. What does this measurement mean and how can it add to our understanding of soil behavior? Pore pressure is simply a measure of the in-situ groundwater pressure, i.e. the water pressure in the “pores” between soil grains. This data is used to determine the compressibility and permeability of the soil, as well as indicating groundwater conditions. It is used to correct or “normalize” the sleeve friction and tip resistance readings in the presence of in-situ moisture and overburden stress. This is especially important in soft, fine-grained soils where in-situ moisture takes longest to dissipate, and in tests at depths greater than 100 feet. A CPT cone that is equipped with one or more pore pressure sensors is called a piezocone, and a CPT test using a piezocone is often indicated with the abbreviation CPTu. Piezocones may have between one and three pore pressure sensors, located on the cone (denoted u1), directly behind the cone (u2), or at the top of the friction sleeve (u3). Most piezocones for everyday applications use one sensor located at u2 (see image below). The pore pressure sensor consists of a porous filter (usually made of plastic resin), a small cavity of incompressible, low-viscosity fluid, and a pressure transducer. The filter and tubing between the filter and transducer must be fully saturated with fluid, usually glycerin or silicon oil, to ensure fast and accurate readings. The filter must be replaced frequently so that it does not become clogged with soil. The procedure for the CPTu test is slightly different than the [...]

CPT 102: Common Corrections in CPT Data Analysis

In a previous blog, we discussed the pore pressure sensor that is common to most modern CPT cones and briefly introduced why this reading is helpful in soil profiling. Today we’ll take a closer look at how pore pressure data is used to correct and analyze CPT data. Pore pressure data is used to correct or “normalize” sleeve friction and cone resistance readings in the presence of in-situ moisture and overburden stress. This is especially important in soft, fine-grained soils where in-situ moisture takes longest to dissipate, and in tests at depths greater than 100 feet. Corrections based on pore pressure data also help standardize soil behavior type characterizations when CPT cones of different shapes and sizes are used. How are these corrections calculated, and how do they work? Correction of cone resistance data: The corrected cone resistance, qt, corrects the cone resistance for pore water pressure effects. qt = qc + u2(1 - a) qc = cone resistance u2 = pore pressure measured directly behind the cone a = cone area ratio (this value is dependent on the design and geometry of the cone, and is determined via lab calibration) Corrected cone resistance is used in calculating the normalized cone resistance, Qt, which indicates the cone resistance as a dimensionless ratio while taking into account the in-situ stress: Qt = (qt – σ­vo)/ σ′­vo σ­vo = total vertical stress σ′­vo = effective vertical stress (the stress in the solid portion of the soil – in other words, the total vertical stress minus the stress due to in-situ water and air) Some geologic knowledge of the test site – for example soil unit weight and groundwater conditions – is necessary to estimate σ­vo and σ′­vo. Correction of sleeve friction data: Sleeve friction data is sometimes corrected for the effects of [...]

Understanding the Relationship between SPT Data and CPT Data

As you know, Cone Penetration Testing is not the only method for determining the mechanical properties of soil. Another method is the Standard Penetration Test, or SPT: in this test, a borehole is drilled to a desired depth, then a hollow sampler is inserted and driven downwards with a hammer. The hammer blows are counted until the sampler travels the desired depth (usually 18”) – this number, denoted NSPT, indicates the mechanical properties of the soil. As with CPT data, a handful of corrections are commonly applied: for example, the N60 value indicates NSPT data corrected for the mechanical efficiency of a manual hammer, estimated at 60% at shallow overburden conditions. Since SPT is one of the most common in-situ soil testing methods, you may find it necessary to compare information from both SPT and CPT tests, or convert from one set of parameters to the other, for example from SPT N60 values to CPT tip resistance values. Several methods have been proposed for calculating this relationship. Below are two of the most frequently used: Robertson and Campanella: This method for correlating SPT and CPT data uses the following relationship between SPT N60 data and CPT tip resistance: (qc/pa)/N60 qc = tip resistance (psi) pa = atmospheric pressure (psi) Soil behavior type can be determined from this equation based on the following table: This is perhaps the simplest method for relating the results of these two tests, but it can cause some confusion when the results fall on the border of two soil behavior type zones, or in situations where the ratio of CPT to SPT data could indicate one of several different soil types. Jefferies and Davies: This is a more robust method for determining SPT N-values based on CPT data, or vice versa. It avoids the discontinuities of [...]