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Introduction to

Soil Stabilization

Understanding the Basics of Soil Stabilization:


An Overview of Materials and Techniques

Table of Contents
Introduction to Soil Stabilization ................................................................................3
Brief History ..................................................................................................................3
Document Purpose ......................................................................................................3
Defining Soil Stabilization ............................................................................................4
What is Soil Stabilization? ............................................................................................4
Why and when is it used? ............................................................................................5
Applications ..................................................................................................................6
About Soil ......................................................................................................................7
What kind of soil is that, anyway? ................................................................................7
Standards help identify soil types ................................................................................7
USDA ........................................................................................................................8
USCS ........................................................................................................................8
AASHTO....................................................................................................................9
Chemical Soil Stabilization ..........................................................................................10
Additives ......................................................................................................................11
Portland Cement ......................................................................................................11
Quicklime/Hydrated Lime ..........................................................................................12
Fly Ash ......................................................................................................................12
Calcium Chloride ......................................................................................................12
Bitumen ....................................................................................................................12
Chemical and Bio Remediation ................................................................................13
Mechanical Soil Stabilization ......................................................................................14
Compaction ..............................................................................................................14
Soil Reinforcement ....................................................................................................14
Addition of Graded Aggregate Materials ..................................................................15
Mechanical Remediation ..........................................................................................15
The Basic Soil Stabilization Process ..........................................................................16
Assessment and Testing ..........................................................................................16
Site Preparation ........................................................................................................16
Introduce Additives ....................................................................................................17
Mixing ........................................................................................................................17
Compaction and Shaping/Trimming ..........................................................................17
Curing........................................................................................................................17
Glossary ........................................................................................................................18-21
Appendix ........................................................................................................................22
Acknowledgements/References ..................................................................................23
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Introduction

Introduction to
Soil Stabilization
A land-based structure of any type is only as strong as its foundation. For
that reason, soil is a critical element influencing the success of a
construction project. Soil is either part of the foundation or one of the
raw materials used in the construction process. Therefore, understanding
the engineering properties of soil is crucial to obtain strength and
economic permanence. Soil stabilization is the process of maximizing the
suitability of soil for a given construction purpose.
Brief History
The necessity of improving the engineering properties of soil has been
recognized for as long as construction has existed. Many ancient
cultures, including the Chinese, Romans, and Incas, utilized various
techniques to improve soil stability, some of which were so effective that
many of the buildings and roadways they constructed still exist today.
Some are still in use.
In the United States, the modern era of soil stabilization began during the
1960s and 70s, when general shortages of aggregates and petroleum
resources forced engineers to consider alternatives to the conventional
technique of replacing poor soils at building sites with shipped-in
aggregates that possessed more favorable engineering characteristics.
Soil stabilization then fell out of favor, mainly due to faulty application
techniques and misunderstanding. More recently, soil stabilization has
once again become a popular trend as global demand for raw materials,
fuel, and infrastructure has increased. This time, however, soil
stabilization is benefiting from better research, materials and equipment.
Document Purpose
The purpose of this manual is to provide a general overview of soil
stabilization practices used in the construction and maintenance of
structures designed for supporting motor vehicle use. It is not meant as a
guidebook or to provide application advice. Only a qualified geotechnical engineer can make recommendations on the techniques and
materials required for suitable sub-base design.
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Defining Soil Stabilization

ABOVE: Rotary mixer mixing dry cement into the soil

Defining Soil Stabilization


What is Soil Stabilization?
Soil is one of natures most abundant construction materials. Almost all
construction is built with or upon soil. When unsuitable construction
conditions are encountered, a contractor has four options:
(1) Find a new construction site
(2) Redesign the structure so it can be constructed on the poor soil
(3) Remove the poor soil and replace it with good soil
(4) Improve the engineering properties of the site soils
In general, Options 1 and 2 tend to be impractical today, while in the
past, Option 3 has been the most commonly used method. However, due
to improvement in technology coupled with increased transportation
costs, Option 4 is being used more often today and is expected to
dramatically increase in the future.
Improving an on-site (in situ) soils engineering properties is referred to
as either soil modification or soil stabilization. The term
modification implies a minor change in the properties of a soil, while
stabilization means that the engineering properties of the soil have been
changed enough to allow field construction to take place.
There are two primary methods of soil stabilization used today:
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mechanical
chemical or additive

Defining Soil Stabilization


Nearly every road construction project will utilize one or both of these
stabilization techniques. The most common form of mechanical soil
stabilization is compaction of the soil, while the addition of cement,
lime, bituminous, or other agents is referred to as a chemical or
additive method of soil stabilization. There are two basic types of
additives used during chemical soil stabilization: mechanical additives
and chemical additives. Mechanical additives, such as soil cement,
mechanically alter the soil by adding a quantity of a material that has the
engineering characteristics to upgrade the load-bearing capacity of the
existing soil. Chemical additives, such as lime, chemically alter the soil
itself, thereby improving the load-bearing capacity of the soil.
Why and when is it used?

ABOVE: Compaction is a form of mechanical soil


stabilization

Traditionally, stable sub-grades, sub-bases and/or bases have been


constructed by using selected, well-graded aggregates, making it fairly
easy to predict the load-bearing capacity of the constructed layers. By
using select material, the engineer knows that the foundation will be able
to support the design loading.
Gradation is an important soil characteristic to understand. A soil is
considered either well-graded or uniformly-graded (also referred to
as poorly-graded). This is a reference to the sizes of the particles in the
materials. Uniformly-graded materials are made up of individual
particles of roughly the same size. Well-graded materials are made up of
an optimal range of different sized particles.
It is desirable from an engineering standpoint to build upon a foundation
of ideal and consistent density. Thus, the goal of soil stabilization is to
provide a solid, stable foundation. Density is the measure of weight by
volume of a material, and is one of the relied-upon measures of the
suitability of a material for construction purposes. The more density a
material possesses, the fewer voids are present. Voids are the enemy of
road construction; voids provide a place for moisture to go, and make the
material less stable by allowing it to shift under changing pressure,
temperature and moisture conditions.

ABOVE: The addition of lime slurry is a form of chemical soil


stabilization

Uniformly-graded materials, because of their uniform size, are much less


dense than well-graded materials. The high proportion of voids per
volume of uniformly-graded material makes it unsuitable for
construction purposes. In well-graded materials, smaller particles pack in
to the voids between the larger particles, enabling the material to achieve
high degrees of density. Therefore, well-graded materials offer higher
stability, and are in high demand for construction.
With the increased global demand for energy and increasing local
demand for aggregates, it has become expensive from a material cost and
energy use standpoint to remove inferior soils and replace them with
choice, well-graded aggregates. One way to reduce the amount of select
material needed for base construction is to improve the existing soil
enough to provide strength and conform to engineering standards. This is
where soil stabilization has become a cost-effective alternative.

Defining Soil Stabilization


Essentially, soil stabilization allows engineers to distribute a larger load with
less material over a longer life cycle. There are many advantages to soil
stabilization:

Stabilized soil functions as a working platform for the project


Stabilization waterproofs the soil
Stabilization improves soil strength
Stabilization helps reduce soil volume change due to temperature
or moisture
Stabilization improves soil workability
Stabilization reduces dust in work environment
Stabilization upgrades marginal materials
Stabilization improves durability
Stabilization dries wet soils
Stabilization conserves aggregate materials
Stabilization reduces cost
Stabilization conserves energy

Applications
Soil stabilization is used in many sectors of the construction industry. Roads,
parking lots, airport runways, building sites, landfills, and soil remediation all
use some form of soil stabilization. Other applications include waterway
management, mining, and agriculture.

About Soil

ABOVE: Rotary mixer adds emulsion to soil while a road grader grades the treated and compacted material

About Soil
Soil mechanics is a complicated subject, and for good reason: the
methods that are used to improve the engineering characteristics of a
soil will have a heavy influence on the success of the project. This
publication, for the sake of brevity, only touches on the subject of soil.
For in-depth information, it is recommended that you consult a geotechnical engineer.
What kind of soil is that, anyway?
Ask a person from Malaysia and a person from Texas to describe soil,
and you will get two completely different answers. And so it is in the
world of soil: a soils characteristics can not be reliably understood based
on its name. Soil types that may be similar often are referred to by
different names depending on what region you are in. Some of the names
are colloquial and only known locally. And, naturally, the opposite is
true: similar names can mean different soil types depending on where
you are.
Standards help identify soil types

ABOVE: the USDA Soil Texture Triangle is used to classify


soils by weight of three unique particles: sand, clay and silt
see Appendix A

Because engineers rely on the predictability of soil behavior to


accurately design and build their projects, various organizations
worldwide have created standards to help engineers identify soil types
scientifically. It would be impractical to show them all in this document,
so here is a general look at how it is done in the United States.
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About Soil
In the U.S., there are three standards that are generally the most accepted
for road construction purposes. These standards do not classify soil in
exactly the same way, but one or more of them may be used on the
average project.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) soil
classification system, typically used by farmers, classifies a soil by sieve
analysis to find the percentage by weight of three unique particles: sand,
clay, and silt. The percentages of the three particles are plotted on the
USDA Soil Texture Triangle (Appendix A, page 22), which determines
the classification. For example: a soil sample that contains 40% sand,
40% silt, and 20% clay is classified as Loam. Since the USDA system
only considers the particle sizes of a soil sample, it does not evaluate the
mineralogy of the clay and its potential water capacity or plasticity.

ABOVE: USCS sieve analysis of soil

The Unified Soil Classification System (USCS), used by geo-technical


engineers, applies to soil particle sizes of less than 3 inches in diameter.
This system classifies soils based on their engineering properties, such as
shear strength, permeability, and settlement potential. Utilizing a number
of tests, such as sieve analysis and the Atterberg Limits, a soil sample is
classified by particle or grain size (coarse, fine, organic, and peat), grainsize distribution (well-graded or uniformly-graded), and how the
particles interact with moisture. Laboratory tests are also required for
accurately determining soil type under the USCS classification system.
These tests measure the plasticity, cohesiveness and bonding
characteristics of a soil sample.

About Soil
American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials
(AASHTO) classification system, used by transportation engineers, is a
soil classification system specifically designed for the construction of
roads and highways. The system uses the grain-size distribution and
Atterberg Limits, such as Liquid Limit (LL) and Plasticity Index (PI), to
classify soils. This classification system is defined by AASHTO standard
M 145-91 (1995) and consists of a symbol and group number.
The AASHTO classification system applies to soil particles smaller than
3 inches. Soils are classified into one of two general groups:
(1) Granular materials (coarse-grained) with 35% or less by weight
fines passing the #200 sieve
(2) Silts and clays (fine-grained) soils with more than 35% passing
the #200 sieve
The soil is then further classified into one of 7 sub-classifications: A1,
A2 and A3 for granular soils; A4, A5, A6, and A7 for silts and clays.
These classifications provide the engineers with very accurate
engineering property information.

Chemical Soil Stabilization

ABOVE: Mixing lime slurry into the base soil of a future parking lot

Chemical Soil Stabilization


One method of improving the engineering properties of soil is by adding
chemicals or other materials to improve the existing soil. This technique
is generally cost effective: for example, the cost, transportation, and
processing of a stabilizing agent or additive such as soil cement or lime
to treat an in-place soil material will probably be more economical than
importing aggregate for the same thickness of base course.
Additives can be mechanical, meaning that upon addition to the parent
soil their own load-bearing properties bolster the engineering
characteristics of the parent soil. Additives can also be chemical,
meaning that the additive reacts with or changes the chemical properties
of the soil, thereby upgrading its engineering properties. Placing the
wrong kind or wrong amount of additive or, improperly incorporating
the additive into the soil can have devastating results on the success of
the project. So, in order to properly implement this technique, an
engineer must have:
1)
2)
3)

4)
5)
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A clear idea of the desired result


An understanding of the type(s) of soil and their characteristics
on site
An understanding of the use of the additive(s), how they react
with the soil type and other additives, and how they interact with
the surrounding environment
An understanding of and means of incorporating (mixing) the
additive
An understanding of how the resulting engineered soil will
perform

Chemical Soil Stabilization


Combining the additives with the soil is typically done with various
machines. The method used is usually based on three factors: what
machines are available, the location (urban or rural), and the additives
that are being used. The mixing should be as uniform as possible.
The most economic and time-efficient method is to use a rotary mixer, a
large machine that incorporates additives with the soil by tumbling them
in a large mixing chamber equipped with a rotor designed to break up
and mix the materials. It is capable of uniformly introducing additives
and water while breaking up the soil into an optimal homogenous grade.
The rotary mixer does all mixing in place, and is unrivaled in production
by other methods.
For some applications that require more precision, a pugmill is used. A
pugmill is essentially a large mixing chamber that is similar to a cement
mixer. Measured pre-graded aggregates, additives, and usually water are
mixed in the pugmill and then applied to uniform thickness. Pugmills
produce high quality stabilization, but at higher costs and slower
production.
Blade mixing is done with the use of a motor grader. Blade mixing is not
nearly as efficient as the previously described systems, but it is far less
complex. Essentially, the additive is placed in flat windrows and the
blade of the grader mixes the additive with the soil in a series of turning
and tumbling actions. Other machines are similarly used for mixing as
well, including scarifiers, plows, and disks. It is very difficult to
uniformly control mixing percentages and mixing depth using this
technique.

ABOVE: Rotary mixer

ABOVE: Motor graders are often used for blade mixing


additives

Additives
There are many kinds of additives available. Not all additives work for
all soil types, and a single additive will perform quite differently with
different soil types. Generally, an additive may be used to act as a binder,
alter the effect of moisture, increase the soil density or neutralize the
harmful effects of a substance in the soil. Following are some of the
most widely used additives and their applications:
Portland Cement
Portland cement is a mechanical additive that can be used for soil
modification (to improve soil quality) or soil stabilization (to convert the
soil to a solid cement mass). The amount of cement used will dictate
whether modification or stabilization has occurred. Nearly all types of
soil can benefit from the strength gained by cement stabilization.
However, the best results have occurred when used with well-graded
fines that possess enough fines to produce a floating aggregate matrix.

ABOVE: Truck spreading dry cement

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Chemical Soil Stabilization


Quicklime/Hydrated Lime
Lime is a chemical additive that has been utilized as a stabilizing agent
in soils for centuries. Experience has shown that lime will react well
with medium, moderately fine, and fine-grained clay soils. In clay soils,
the main benefit from lime stabilization is the reduction of the soils
plasticity: by reducing the soils water content, it becomes more rigid. It
also increases the strength and workability of the soil, and reduces the
soils ability to swell. It is very important to achieve proper gradation
when applying lime to clay soils. By breaking up the clay into smallsized particles, you allow the lime to introduce homogeneously and
properly react with the clay.
ABOVE: Tanker spreading lime slurry

Lime can be applied dry to the soil, but if blowing dust is of concern or
the work is being done in a populated area, the lime can be mixed with
water to form slurry. A curing time of 3 to 7 days is normal to allow the
lime to react with the soil, during which the surface of the stabilized soil
should be wetted periodically.

ABOVE: Fly ash adds strength by reducing air


voids, increasing the density of soil.

Fly Ash
Fly ash, a chemical additive consisting mainly of silicon and aluminum
compounds, is a by-product of the combustion of coal. Fly ash can be
mixed with lime and water to stabilize granular materials with few fines,
producing a hard, cement-like mass. Its role in the stabilization process is
to act as a pozzolan and/or as a filler product to reduce air voids. A
common application is as part of a lime/cement/fly ash mixture (LCF) to
stabilize coarse-grained soils that possess little or no fine grains. Because
it is essentially a waste product, it can be obtained rather inexpensively.
Calcium Chloride
Calcium chloride is a chemical additive that has the ability to absorb
moisture from the air until it liquifies into a solution. The presence of
calcium chloride in the moisture of a soil lowers the freezing temperature
of that moisture. For this reason, calcium chloride is a proven stabilizing
additive for cold-climate applications. If the water in the soil cant
freeze, there is less soil movement (i.e., frost heaves), making it much
more stable. Calcium chloride also works well as a binder, making the
soil easier to compact and reducing dust.

ABOVE: Rotary mixer adds bituminous emulsion


to reclaimed roadbed.

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Bitumen
Bitumen is a mechanical additive that occurs naturally or as a by-product
of petroleum distillation. It is the black pitch used to make asphalt.
Asphalt cement, cutback asphalt, tar, and asphalt emulsions are all used
to achieve bituminous soil stabilization. Soil type, construction method
and weather are all factors in choosing which bitumen to use. Bitumen
makes soil stronger and resistant to water and frost. The use of bitumen
can lead to fewer weather-related delays during construction, and makes
compaction easier and more consistent.

Chemical Soil Stabilization


Chemical or Bio Remediation
Our industrial society produces many benefits, but occasionally there are
unintentional, accidental, or criminal problems that occur. Petroleum
hydrocarbons, lead, PCBs, solvents, pesticides, and other hazardous
natural and man-made substances often contaminate soil. Because even
contaminated real estate can be valuable and because pollution is
undesirable to begin with efforts are made to return contaminated soil
to an acceptable condition for human habitation.
The goal of chemical or bio remediation is to convert hazardous
substances into inert ones and to prevent hazardous substances from
spreading or leaching. The type of additive depends on the
contaminant(s) and the environment. Chemical additives are often
proprietary chemical cocktails, but the science is well understood and
they are quite effective at neutralizing hazardous substances. Bio
remediation is typically done by the introduction of natural means:
bacteria or insects that eat contaminants and convert them to inert waste,
or plants that filter out contaminants and convert them to natural
substances.

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Mechanical Soil Stabilization

ABOVE: Soil compactors mechanically stabilize soil by increasing density

Mechanical
Soil Stabilization
Mechanical soil stabilization refers to either compaction or the
introduction of fibrous and other non-biodegradable reinforcement to the
soil. This practice does not require chemical change of the soil, although
it is common to use both mechanical and chemical means to achieve
specified stabilization. There are several methods used to achieve
mechanical stabilization:
Compaction
Compaction typically employs a heavy weight to increase soil density by
applying pressure from above. Machines are often used for this purpose;
large soil compactors with vibrating steel drums efficiently apply
pressure to the soil, increasing its density to meet engineering
requirements. Operators of the machines must be careful not to overcompact the soil, for too much pressure can result in crushed aggregates
that lose their engineering properties.

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Soil Reinforcement
Soil problems are sometimes remedied by utilizing engineered or nonengineered mechanical solutions. Geo-textiles and engineered plastic
mesh are designed to trap soils and help control erosion, moisture
conditions and soil permeability. Larger aggregates, such as gravel,
stones, and boulders, are often employed where additional mass and
rigidity can prevent unwanted soil migration or improve load-bearing
properties.

Mechanical Soil Stabilization


Addition of Graded Aggregate Materials
A common method of improving the engineering characteristics of a soil
is to add certain aggregates that lend desirable attributes to the soil, such
as increased strength or decreased plasticity. This method provides
material economy, improves support capabilities of the subgrade, and
furnishes a working platform for the remaining structure.
Mechanical Remediation
Traditionally, mechanical remediation has been the accepted practice for
dealing with soil contamination. This is a technique where contaminated
soil is physically removed and relocated to a designated hazardous waste
facility far from centers of human population. In recent times, however,
chemical and bio remediation have proven to be a better solution, both
economically and environmentally. It is often cheaper to solve the
problem where it exists rather than relocate the problem somewhere else
and possibly need to deal with it again in the future.

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The Basic Soil Stabilization Process

ABOVE: Soil stabilization during the reclamation process can often occur without re-directing traffic

The Basic
Soil Stabilization
Process
Both new construction and rehabilitation projects are candidates for soil
stabilization. While the precise stabilization procedures will vary
depending on many factors including location, environment, time
requirements, budget, available machinery, and weather the following
process is generally practiced:
Assessment and Testing
The soils of the site are thoroughly tested to determine the existing
conditions. Based on analysis of existing conditions, additives are
selected and specified. Generally, a target chemical percentage by weight
and a design mix depth are defined for the sub-base contractor. The
selected additives are subsequently mixed with soil samples and allowed
to cure. The cured sample is then tested to ensure that the additives will
produce the desired results.

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Site Preparation
The existing materials on site, including existing pavement if it is being
reclaimed, is pulverized utilizing a rotary mixer. Any additional
aggregates or base materials are introduced at this time. The material is
brought to the optimal moisture content by drying overly wet soil or
adding water to overly dry soil. The grade is shaped if necessary to
obtain the specified material depth.

The Basic Soil Stabilization Process


Introduce Additives
Cement, lime or fly ash can be applied dry or wet. When applied dry, it
is typically spread at a required amount per square yard (meter) or
station utilizing a cyclone spreader or other device. When lime is applied
as slurry, it is either spread with a tanker truck or through the rotary
mixers on-board water spray system. Calcium chloride is usually
applied by a tanker truck equipped with a spray bar.
Bituminous additives are typically added utilizing an on-board emulsion
spray system on a rotary mixer. It can also be sprayed on the surface, but
this method requires several applications and additional mixing.

ABOVE: Padfoot compactor follows rotary mixer

Mixing
To fully incorporate the additives with the soil, a rotary mixer makes
several mixing passes until the materials are homogenous and wellgraded. It is crucial that the rotary mixer maintains optimal mixing
depth, as mixing too shallow or too deep will create undesirable
proportions of soil and additive. Inappropriate proportions of soil and
additive will decrease the load-bearing properties of the cured layer.
Some projects require multiple layers of treated and compacted soil.
When applying cement and fly ash, it is important to finish mixing as
soon as possible due to the quick-setting characteristics of the additives.
Compaction and Shaping/Trimming
Compaction usually follows immediately after mixing, especially when
the additive is cement or fly ash. Some bituminous additives require a
delay between mixing and compaction to allow for certain chemical
changes to occur.
Compaction is accomplished through several passes using different
machines. Initial compaction is begun utilizing a vibratory padfoot
compactor. The surface is then shaped and trimmed to remove pad marks
and provide a more suitable profile. Intermediate compaction follows
utilizing a pneumatic compactor, which provides a certain kneading
action that further increases soil density. A tandem drum roller is used on
the finishing pass to provide a smooth surface. A final shaping gives the
material a smooth finish and a proper crown and grade.
Curing
Sufficient curing will allow the additive to fully achieve its engineering
potential. For cement, lime, and fly ash stabilization, weather and
moisture are critical factors, as the curing can have a direct bearing on
the strength of the stabilized base. Bituminous-stabilized bases often
require a final membrane of medium-curing cutback asphalt or slowcuring emulsified asphalt as a moisture seal. Generally, a minimum of
seven days are required to ensure proper curing. During the curing
period, samples taken from the stabilized base will reveal when the
moisture content is appropriate for surfacing.

ABOVE: Track-type tractor used for shaping

ABOVE: Pneumatic Compactor

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Glossary
AASHTO (America Association of State Highway and Transportation
Officials) Soil Classification System a set of standards that helps
transportation engineers determine soil characteristics for the purpose of
designing and building roads, highways and associated traffic-supporting
structures. It utilizes grain-size distribution and Atterberg Limits to define soils.
Additive a manufactured substance that is added to existing materials in
order to improve engineering properties.
Additive Stabilization A method of improving the engineering properties of
a material by adding chemical substances.
Aggregate the granular, load-bearing mineral component of a road structure,
usually sand, gravel, shell, slag, crushed stone or fines.
Atterberg Limits Method a set of standards that describe seven stages of
soil characteristics as it moves from a solid to a liquid. The most important
stages are the Plastic Limit and the Liquid Limit.
Base also referred to as the base course a layer of specified or selected
material of planned thickness constructed on the sub-base for the purpose of
serving one or more functions including distributing the load, providing
drainage and minimizing frost action.
Binder a material used to bind the aggregate particles together, prevent the
entrance of moisture, act as a cushioning agent, and, in some cases, waterproof
the entire road surface.
Chemical Additive a substance utilized as an additive in chemical
stabilization that chemically alters the parent soil to improve its load-bearing
properties.
Chemical Stabilization A method of improving the engineering properties of
a material by adding chemical substances or by altering the gradation of the
particles in the material.
Clay a fine-grained mineral material (soil) that uses electro-chemical surface
charges to bond well with water.
Coarse-grained Soil a USCS classification for soil comprised of particles
(grains) that lack cohesion. Sand and gravel are considered coarse-grained
soils. Coarse-grained soils are defined as well-graded or poorly-graded, which
reflect the soils ability to be compacted.
Cohesion the ability of a material to maintain its strength when unconfined;
i.e., cling together and maintain its form through changes in moisture content
or submersion.
Compaction the process of reducing voids in a material through the use of
mechanical manipulation; increasing the density.
Cure, Curing the process of allowing a chemical reaction to continue to
completion.
Cutback Asphalt asphalt residues that are blended with distillates.

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Glossary
Cyclone Spreader a device that typically attaches to the rear of a hauling
vehicle that distributes fine-grained materials in relatively uniform patterns by
depositing specific volumes of the material on a spinning disc that disperses the
material via centrifugal force.
Density the measure of mass per volume.
Emulsion in the context of soil stabilization, an emulsion is a mixture of
water, a bitumen additive such as asphalt cement, and an emulsifier which
enables the water and bitumen additive to combine. Emulsions act as a binder
for the parent material, giving the parent material additional load-bearing
strength as well as a degree of moisture resistance.
Fines generally, materials of small particle size; defined by USCS as those
particles passing through a #200 sieve.
Fine-grained Soils soils composed predominantly of fines.
Floating Aggregate Matrix a desirable quality of a material to contain a
homogenous distribution of particles of varying size throughout its mass. In
terms of load-bearing materials, this quality produces the most strength.
Geo-textiles manufactured materials that are designed to lend reinforcement
to geological materials; i.e., prevent erosion or provide a moisture barrier.
Grade the inclination of a surface.
Gradation a reference to the level of uniformity to which a soil has been
pulverized.
Grain a mineral particle.
Grain-size Distribution the measure of the range and distribution of
different particle sizes in a soil.
Gravel a coarse-grained mineral material; defined by the USCS as those
particles less than 3 inches in diameter not passing through a #4 sieve.

ABOVE: Padfoot Compactors apply pressure to the soil


with pads instead of a smooth drum

Liquid Limit a highly significant Atterberg Limit; the point at which a soil
contains so much water that it is considered a liquid.
Mechanical Additive a substance utilized as an additive in chemical
stabilization that lends its own engineering properties to the parent soil, thereby
upgrading the load-bearing properties of the soil.
Mechanical Stabilization any of several methods that employ mechanical
means to improve the engineering properties of a soil.
Moisture Content the amount of liquid (water) per volume of a mass.
Padfoot Compactor A machine that applies compaction force with a
vibrating steel roller that has small pads welded to the surface of the roller that
are designed to deliver the load in small, patterned areas rather than as a static
linear load.

19

Glossary
Permeability a materials ability to allow the passage of a gas or liquid.
Plasticity the property of a fine-grain soil that allows it to deform beyond the
point of recovery without cracking or appreciable volume change. Plasticity is
a critical factor during soil stabilization.
Plasticity Index the difference between the Liquid Limit and the Plastic
Limit of a soil. This measure is used to determine the extent of soil
stabilization required for fine-grained soils.
Plastic Limit a highly significant Atterberg Limit; the point at which a soil
retains enough moisture to become plastic.
ABOVE: Rotary Mixer

Poorly-graded also referred to as uniformly-graded; the quality of coarsegrained soils to contain particles of relatively uniform size, making it difficult
to compact.
Pozzolan any of various natural or man-made substances that possess
characteristics similar to pozzolana, a volcanic ash used to make hydraulic
cement.
Pugmill a mechanical device used for mixing materials, usually with paddles
attached to rotating shafts.
Rotary Mixer a large machine, similar in operation to a garden tiller, used to
pulverize materials in place. Usually self-propelled, but sometimes towed by a
tractor.
Sand a mineral particle defined by USCS as a coarse-grained particle passing
a #4 sieve but not passing a #200 sieve.
ABOVE: Motor Grader with Scarifier

Scarifier a ground-breaking device with claw-like tines that is attached to or


towed by a heavy machine.
Silt a non-cohesive fine-grained mineral material (soil).
Slurry a semi-liquid mixture; typically, lime or cement suspended in water.
Soil unconsolidated material composed of mineral particles that may or may
not contain organic substances.
Soil Stabilization the process of maximizing the suitability of soil for a
given construction purpose.
Soil Modification the process of changing the characteristics of soil enough
to provide a non-significant increase in soil strength and durability.
Station a non-standard area defined by engineers and marked by stakes at the
site for the purpose of controlling preparation by manageable sections.
Sub-base a layer between the sub-grade and base.
Sub-grade the soil prepared to support a traffic structure. Essentially, it
performs as the foundation of the structure, and is sometimes referred to as
basement soil or foundation soil.

20

Glossary
Uniformly-graded also referred to as poorly-graded; the quality of coarsegrained soils to contain particles of relatively uniform size, making it difficult
to compact.
USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) Soil Classification
System a soil classification system based on particle size utilized primarily
for agricultural purposes but often used for construction purposes to define
soils.
USCS (Unified Soil Classification System) widely utilized by engineers,
this soil classification system categorizes soils into groups with distinct
engineering properties, such as shear strength, permeability and settlement
potential.
Voids the space in a mass not occupied by solid mineral material. Voids are
bad for traffic structures because they allow the migration of mineral materials,
moisture or gases that can disrupt the stability of the structure. Uniformlygraded soil has many voids; well-graded soil has few voids.
Well-graded the quality of coarse-grained soils to contain particles of many
sizes, making it easier to compact.
Windrow a continuous uniform pile of material that allows for the even
distribution of materials over the length of a site.

21

Appendix
Appendix A: USDA Soil Texture Triangle

Example:
A soil sample that contains 40% sand,
40% silt, and 20% clay is classified as
Loam.

Appendix B: Cutaway view of typical asphalt road


construction project

Surface Course, or Pavement

Surface Base Course, or Binder Course


Base

22

Sub-Base

Acknowledgements
Many thanks for your expertise and assistance to:
Stan Vitton, Ph.D, P.E.
Director, Institute for Aggregate Research
Michigan Technological University
References:
Soil Stabilization for Pavements: EM 1110-3-137. Washington DC: US Army Corps of Engineers, 1984.
Huffman, John E. Base/Subgrade Stabilization. Salina, KS: The Asphalt Institute, Kansas State University at Salina, 1995

23

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