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Mohd For Mohd Amin

Associate Professor, Faculty of Civil Engineering, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, 81310 Skudai, Johor.
Ong Heng Yau
Application Engineer, W-One Marketing Sdn. Bhd., Marsiling Industrial Estate Road 1, #01-11, Singapore 739279.
Chan Sook Huei
M.Sc. Student, Faculty of Civil Engineering, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, 81310 Skudai, Johor.

ABSTRACT: Filled joints, particularly those formed by in situ deposition of infill material in joint aperture, are among the most critical
discontinuities in rock. Since the infill is usually much weaker than joint blocks therefore, it controls the behaviour of the host joint. As
such, in terms of behaviour, filled joint differs significantly from unfilled/clean joint. This paper highlights a laboratory study on the filled
joint and its impacts on stabilisation method using rock bolt. In comparison to clean joint, filled joint exhibits higher compressibility and
lower shear strength. High deformability and low stiffness exhibited by filled joint may induce significant anisotropy in the host rock mass.
This critical discontinuity may also induce negative impacts on the reinforcement mechanisms of rock bolt. Loss in bolt tension, and low
stiffness ratio between the rock bolt system and the reinforced rock mass are thought to be among the impacts.

Keywords: Filled joint; deformability; shear strength; rock bolt; tension loss.


Joints are fracture/discontinuity planes in rock and are Filled joint (Fig. 1) can be classified according to origin of
generally classified into 2 types; unfilled/clean and filled its infill (Chernyshev & Dearman, 1991); (a) minerals
joints. Intense and continuous weathering effect under deposits caused by hydrothermal solutions; (b) products of
tropical climate can lead to formation of filled joint through differential weathering of joint and host rock, and (c) in-
two processes; differential weathering of joint and in situ washed surface residual soil (RS). Type (c), the focus of
deposition of infill in joint aperture. As such filled joints are this paper, is commonly encountered in jointed rock at
common discontinuities in rock outcrops in Malaysia. For shallow depth or exposed on the surface, and the infills may
both modes of formation, the infills are often much weaker vary from clayey to granular material. Field study
than the joint blocks, consequently the infill controls the conducted on granite outcrop in Lahat, Ipoh (Mohd Amin et
deformation and strength of the host joint. It is the infill that al., 2007a) shows that the infill is commonly comprises
makes filled joint exhibiting properties that are very well-graded silty-SAND, granite residual RS.
different from unfilled joint. Rock bolt is a method
commonly used to stabilise unstable joints in rock.
However, such a disparity in behaviour of filled joint may
induce a different response on the stabilising mechanisms
of rock bolt. High compressibilty of filled joint may have
negative impacts on pre-tension applied on rock bolt. It is
also thought that low stiffness ratio between filled joint and
rock bolt may reduce the effectiveness of this rock
reinforcement system.

Fig. 1. Filled joint, infilling in between joint blocks

2.1 Shear Behaviour of Filled Joint
Since the behaviour of granular material (when acting as
infill alone), is affected by its texture (size, shape, strength
and grading of its particles) therefore, when joint is filled
with such material, its shear behaviour is certainly be
affected by the texture of the infill.

For rough joint with granular infill, the reduction in shear

strength reduction is more gradual with increasing infill
thickness (De Toledo & De Freitas, 1995). The peak Fig. 2. Boundary effect at infill and joint interface (after De
strength was also found to decrease and become less Toledo & De Freitas, 1995)
defined with increasing infill thickness (Phien-wej et al.,
1991). For a given joint roughness, the shear strength of the 2.2 Uniaxial Deformation of Filled Joint
filled joint increases with increasing amount of coarse and Deformational behaviour of joints under uniaxial
angular grains in the infill (Pereira, 1990). The controlling compression depends on joint types (Bandis, 1993). The
effect of the infill becomes significant when there is typical deformation for matched and mis-matched joint, in
minimal interaction of the joint walls. A gradual reduction comparison to intact rock, is shown in Fig. 3. Mis-matched
in shear strength with increasing infill thickness reflects a joint displays a larger axial deformation and consequently
steady reduction in the frictional resistance of the infill due giving a lower value of Youngs modulus (E). This is due to
to less constraint imposed by the joint surfaces. Lack of significant crushing of the joint surface particularly at the
peak shear strength verifies the storage of elastic energy in asperity contacts (the weakest points).
the shear direction, as long as frictional contact existed
between particles and between infill and joint walls (Mohd
Amin et al. 2007b).

Shear behaviour of joint with granular infill is not only

affected by the infill texture and thickness but also by the
surface roughness of the joint (Mohd Amin & Kassim,
1999). The roughness of joint surface depends on scale and
rock type, typically for tension joint it is characterised by
wavy to planar profile (Bandis, 1993; Barton and Choubey,
1977). For granular infill, the effect of infill thickness (t) on
shear strength of joints depends on the roughness amplitude
(a) of the joint surface. For a given (a), the strength
approaches that of the infill with increasing (t). For very
thin infill (t < a), the joint walls set the boundary limits for
the failure surface and therefore, the roughness of the joint
walls controls the failure. The interaction of the joint walls, Fig. 3. Deformation of different types of joint (after Bandis, 1993)
it is often observed when the difference between (t) and (a)
approaches zero, the strength of the joint then tends to
increase above that of the infill. When t > a, failure can A higher axial deformation has been observed for joint
occur along a continuous surface within the infill without filled with weak granular infilling (Mohd Amin & Kassim,
any interaction of the joint wall hence, the strength 1999), and this is attributed to the compressibility and
approaches that of the infill (De Toledo and De Feitas, crushability of the weak infill grains. This results in a much
1995). Planar joint with frictional infill can also exhibit lower E, as compared to mis-matched joint. Using a
failure at planes of the lowest resistance (Pereira, 1990) composite homogeneous model, it has been shown that 5
particularly at the interface between the infill and the joint mm infill in joint can lead to deformation of 50 % larger
wall, resulting in joint strength lower than the infill alone. than intact rock of similar dimensions. Verification on the
This phenomenon known as boundary effect and is due to deformation modulus of rock body exhibiting similar filled
the difference in surface roughness between the infill joint showed that the value of E drops as much as 1/10 of
(represented by its particle size grading) and the joint (Fig. that of intact rock. This implies a significant drop in the
2). As shown in Fig. 2(b), planar joint surface facilitates gross stiffness of a rock body if it exhibits filled joints.
grains rearrangement by rotation thus, only rolling friction
has to be overcome for failure to occur.

2.3 Reinforcement Mechanisms of Rock Bolt tested are shown in Fig. 5. Full description of the test is
To understand the impacts of filled joint on rock bolt it is mentioned in Ong (2006).
essential to understand the reinforcing mechanisms of this
common reinforcement method for jointed rock. Stabilising Normal Stress
effect of the rock bolt greatly relies on the level of its Upper shear box
service tension (also termed as designed pre-tensioning). (Fixed position)
Concrete Block
This is achieved by pre-tensioning the bolt to about 60 to 70
% of its ultimate tensile strength (fpu) during installation. Infill
The bolt can be subjected to an additional tension if there is Lower shear box Concrete Block Stress
shear movement along the reinforced joint (Haas, 1981). (Sliding)
This positive effect is possible only if the bolt intersects
rough unfilled joint which dilates upon shearing. It has also Fig. 4. Filled joint model for shear test
been inferred by Spang & Egger (1990) that the
effectiveness of rock bolt relies on stiffness ratio between
the rock bolt system and the surrounding rock, and the Table 1. Shear test program
recommended stiffness ratio (Ebolt : Erock) is about 10 to 15.
Type of test Joint condition Normal Infill
It is for this reason that rock bolt is not suitable for weak stress thickness (t)
rock such as schists and weathered granite. Infill alone (I) Not applicable A, B, C t = 30 mm
Unfilled joint:
Smooth unfilled Smooth (planar) A, B, C Not
(SU). Rough (saw- applicable
Laboratory tests were conducted on various models of filled Rough unfilled tooth) A, B, C
joint with the objective of understanding their behaviour (RU).
under various loading conditions. The models were based Filled joint:
on the characteristics of filled joints observed at the study Smooth filled Smooth (planar) A, B, C t = 5 mm
(SF). t = 10 mm
site in Lahat, Ipoh (see Mohd Amin et al., 2007a). t = 15 mm
t = single
The preparation of the various joint models is discussed in grain size
Ong (2006). The infill for the model filled joint was a well-
graded silty-SAND (granular material with > 60 % medium Rough filled Rough (saw- A, B, C
t = 5 mm
to fine sand). Grade 60 (60 MPa UCS) cast concrete blocks (RF). tooth) t = 10 mm
(30030040 mm) were used as joint blocks. Only two t = 15 mm
surface textures of the joint blocks are discussed here; Note: Normal stress A = 133 kPa, B = 264 kPa and C = 396 kPa
planar representing smooth joint (Joint Roughness
Coefficient, JRC value 0 to 4), and saw-toothed
representing rough joint (JRC 16 to 20). The saw-tooth
consisted of 5 mm peak height (amplitude) and 15 mm
distance between each peak.

3.1 Shear Test

For an appropriate loading simulation and reliability of
data, the shear tests were conducted on a specially
fabricated servo-controlled large shear box apparatus (see
Mohd Amin et al., 2007b and Ong, 2006). The test program
is shown in Table 1, and the typical test set-up for filled Fig. 5. Types of joint for compression test; (a) intact rock, (b)
joint is shown in Fig. 4. Tests on the infill material alone matched joint, (c) unmatched joint, (d) filled joint
and unfilled joints were also conducted mainly for
comparison purpose in highlighting the distinctive 3.3 Creep Test on Rock Bolt
behaviour of filled joint under shear load. This laboratory test is to verify any tension creep (loss) for
rock bolt intersecting a filled joint. It involved monitoring
3.2 Uniaxial Deformation of tensioned rebar (at 75 % fpu) for 90 days. The bolt used
The tests are to verify the deformational behaviour of joints is a 20 mm diameter instrumented steel rebar of tensile
under uniaxial compression and were conducted on Matest strength of 200 kN. Test set-up is shown in Fig. 6 and
500 kN compression machine and with measurement on consists of specially facbricated pull-out box (
both uniaxial stress and strain. The various models of joint m), model of bolted filled joint (concrete blocks), stressing-
head system, hydraulic pump and various transducers for

monitoring movement of joint blocks and changes of bolt implies that during shear, the peaks of the interfacing
tension. The bolt was bonded (using fast-setting resin) only surfaces simply glided passing each other, instead of being
to the lower joint block. This allows for the free movement sheared off. The lower strengths occur shortly after the
of the joint blocks due the compressibility of the infill. Full interfacing peaks slide over each other.
description of the test is given in Mohd Amin et al. (2008).

Fig. 8. Shear stress-displacement curve for rough joint (unfilled

Fig. 6. Test set-up for monitoring tension creep for bolt and filled)
intersecting filled joint.
The shear tests on smooth filled joint were undertaken with
infill thickness (t) = 5mm (1), 10mm (2) and 15 mm (3) and
are shown as SFC(1), SFC(2) and SFC(3) in Fig. 7. No
More than 30 shear tests were conducted but only those visible influence of t on the shear strength is observed. The
conducted at the highest normal stress (C = 396 kPa) are strength increases abruptly during initial shear and remains
discussed. The shear stress-displacement curves for smooth constant thereafter. In contrast to unfilled joint, SFC is lack
unfilled joint (SUC) and smooth filled joint (SFC) are of clear peak strength. The vertical displacement during
shown in Fig. 7. For rough unfilled joint (RUC) and rough shear is mainly compressive (the plot not shown) and
filled joint (RFC) are shown in Fig. 8. For comparison, the exhibits two distinctive stages. Within the first few mm of
plot for the infill material alone (IC) is also included. shear, the initially loose infill compresses upon shearing.
The amount of joint closure, at this stage, is proportional to
the normal stress and the initial t. As the rearrangement of
the infill particles continues, voids are eventually reduced.
At this second stage, the subsequent contraction of the filled
joint occurs at a slower rate.

The curve TFC in Fig. 7 represents test on smooth joint

with very thin infill (t = single grain size). The curve is
generally similar to that of the SFC. With very thin infill in
between the smooth joint, shearing is controlled by rolling
and rotating of the sub-angular infill particles and this leads
to irregular shear strength.

Behaviour of filled joint with t = 5, 10 and 15 mm is shown

by curve RFC(1), RFC(2) and RFC(3) in Fig. 8. A
Fig. 7. Shear stress-displacement curve for smooth joint (unfilled sinusoidal curve of distinctive peaks and troughs for
and filled) RFC(1) indicates the effect of the joint roughness on joint
with thinner infill. The effect decreases with thicker infill.
Under shear loading, the infill material (IC) exhibits strain- When the thickness of the infill exceeds the height of the
hardening behaviour and the strength remains constant peaks, the irregular compression of the infill caused by the
throughout the shearing (up to 20 mm shear). The peak undulating joint surface, is being over-shadowed by the
strength for SUC is mobilised immediately upon shearing. gross settlement due to the infill particles rearrangement.
The RUC shows sinusoidal curve throughout shear and this Hence, the curves for RFC(2) and RFC(3) are smoother and
is similar to the saw-tooth profile of its surface. This more gradual. However, there were instances (throughout

the shearing) where the strength of the thin filled joint bonded length, and consequently this triggers a reduction in
(RFC(1)) is lower than the thicker infill (RFC(2)) and the applied pre-tension.
(RFC(3)). This can be attributed to the sliding down of the
saw-toothed surface, and this signifies the importance of
surface texture in rough joint with thin infill.

Results from the uniaxial compression tests on unfilled and

filled joints are shown in Fig. 9 and Table 2. Fig. 9 shows
that filled joint with thicker infill (t = 20mm) exhibits the
lowest strength (50 % lower than intact rock) and the
largest strain at failure (160 % larger than intact rock).
Verification on the deformation modulus (see Table 2)
showed that E value drops as much as 1/6 of that of intact
rock of the same dimensions. This implies a reduction in
the overall stiffness of a rock body if it displays joints with
weak and highly compressible infilling. Fig. 10. Loss of bolt tension due to joint compressibility

It can be inferred that a higher compressibility of filled joint

can be expected when it is subjected to shear movement, as
discussed previously. Consequently, a larger % of tension
loss is inevitable during the service life of rock bolt. In
contrast to rough unfilled joint, subsequent shearing of
filled joint can lead to further closure/compression (due to
weak infill), as explained in Fig. 11.

Fig. 9. Uniaxial stress-strain curve for various types of joint

(unfilled and filled)

Table 2. Properties of model joints under uniaxial compression

Sample type Avg. UCS Strain at Avg. E Fig. 11. Loss in bolt tension (Tw) due to compressibility of filled
(MPa) failure (%) (GPa) joint when subjected shear movement
Intact Rock 95.1 3.4 4.1
Matched-Joint 61.5 4.5 2.0 5. CONCLUSION
Mis-Matched-Joint 58.0 4.1 1.6
Filled Joint (10mm) 56.3 4.4 1.1 The following conclusions can be derived from the study on
Filled Joint (20mm) 43.7 8.9 0.7 the behaviour of filled joint:

Result from the tension creep tests on rock bolt intersecting 1. Infill affects the strength and behaviour of joint. For
unfilled and filled joint (t = 15 mm) is shown in Fig. 10. Up granular infill the effect depends on roughness of joint,
to 60 days monitoring, creep of bolt tension does occur. For texture and thickness of the infill.
unfilled joint, the tension creep only occurs after few days 2. With increasing infill thickness, the interaction of the
of installation (10 to 12 % of the pre-tension level) and the joint surface decreases consequently, the strength of
tension remains constant there after. This is expected and filled joint approaches that of the infill and display
can be attributed to the minor readjustment of the bolt and compressive behaviour.
joint. However, the tension loss for bolt intersecting filled 3. Compressibility of weak infill tends to reduce the
joint continues to occur even after 2 months of monitoring. overall rigidity (E) of host rock mass.
Up to 60 days, about 30 % loss in bolt tension has been 4. Creep in bolt tension and lower stiffness ratio, between
noted. The higher loss in bolt tension can be ascribed to the the rock bolt system and the surrounding rock mass,
higher compressibility (closure) displayed by filled joint. are among the negative impacts imposed by filled joint
This closure leads to shortening of the bolt, along its de- on the performance of rock bolt.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Spang, K. & Egger, P. (1990). Action of fully-grouted bolts
in jointed rock and factors of influence, Rock Mech. &
This study is part of the research funded by IRPA Grant
Rock Eng., V. 23 part 3, pp.201-229.
Vot 74105 and Research Management Centre (RMC) UTM
Grant Vot 71825.

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