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SUBSURFACE EXPLORATION AND SAMPLING
BORING LOG INTERPRETATION
This topic is a relatively simple subject to study for, it should only take you few minutes to
understand the basics. The things that you really need to know is why would a company do a
boring log, what types of devices are used to create a boring log, and what are the standards
for the sampling tests. Of course the most important is how do you interpret the boring log
but once you know a few concepts interpreting is easy.
So why would a company do a boring log? A company would need to create a boring log in
order to interpret the soil below a surface that they are going to construct something on. The
Federal Highway Administration has put out some pretty good guidelines on what the
minimum boring, sampling and testing criteria should be.
1 per substructure unit under 100 ft wide
2 per substructure unit over 100 ft wide
They have also put out some guidelines on the minimum depths of the borings. Remember
that local guidelines if more stringent will take priority.
For shallow foundations : 2B where L < 2B ; 4B where L >2B
For deep foundations : 20 ft below tip elevation or 2 time max pile dimension
whatever is great
Below is the common sampling methods and the % used in practice. This chart is from the
FHA manual. It is just to show you that the most important method to learn about is the Split-
Barrel and Thin Walled Shelby Tube.
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Split Barrel Sampler
As stated before, the Split spoon sampler is the most widely used sampling technique globally.
It is used to obtain disturbed samples in all types of soils. The sampler is typically used in
conjunction with the Standard Penetration Test (SPT), which the sampler is driven with a
140-lb (63.5-kg) hammer dropping from a height of 30 in (760 mm). The number of drops
are then counted for each half-foot increments until the sampler has been driven 1.5 ft. The
blow count for the first 6 inches are recorded but are not used to calculate the N value. The
blow count will be recorded on the boring log, and the total drops taken to drive the sampler
the last 12 inches is consider the N value. Below is the meaning of the N-values for coarse
and fine grained soils. Also below is a diagram of the split spoon sampler SPT process.
Another great video on this sampling technique can be found at Split spoon YouTube video
between 17:33 21:45.
SUBSURFACE EXPLORATION AND SAMPLING
BORING LOG INTERPRETATION
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In general, the split-barrel samplers are available in standard lengths of 18in and 24in with inside
diameters ranging from 1.5in to 4.5in in 0.5in increments. The 1.5in inside diameter sampler is
popular because correlations have been developed between the number of blows required for
penetration and a few select soil properties. The larger diameter samplers (inside diameter larger
than 2 in are sometimes used when gravel particles are present or when more material is needed
for classification tests. The 1.5in inside diameter standard split-barrel sampler has an outside
diameter of 2.0in and a cutting shoe with an inside diameter of 1.375 in. This corresponds to a
relatively thick-walled sampler with an area ratio of;
Ar = 100 * (D
outside
2
D
inside
2
) / D
inside
2
] = 112 %
The higher the area ratio the more the sampler disturbs the natural characteristics of the soil
being sampled.
SUBSURFACE EXPLORATION AND SAMPLING
BORING LOG INTERPRETATION
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SUBSURFACE EXPLORATION AND SAMPLING
BORING LOG INTERPRETATION
Example from SMS Geotechnical Problems
Q1: A drilling subcontractor proposes to use a standard split-spoon sampler. The
dimensions of the sampler are 1.75in outside diameter and 1.63in cutting-edge diameter.
What is the area ratio?
A1: A
r
= 100 * (D
outside
2
D
inside
2
) / D
inside
2
= 100 * (1.75
2
1.63

2
) / 1.63
2
= 15%
Q2: Commencing from 2ft below the ground surface and using SPT split barrel sampler
driven 18 in , the following blow count data was obtained in increments of 6 in: 10, 15, 19.
What is the N-value to be reported on the boring log for the depth of 3 ft.
A2: To obtain the N-value for the soil from 2ft-3.5ft is you just add up the last two 6in
blow count so, 15 blows + 19 blows = 34 blows/ft
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SUBSURFACE EXPLORATION AND SAMPLING
BORING LOG INTERPRETATION
The boring log is the basic record of geotechnical the subsurface exploration which
provided a detailed record of the work performed. This record will allow the engineers to
assess the soil in the area.
The following are the data that should be included in a boring log:
Topographic survey data including boring location and surface elevation, and bench mark
location and datum, if available.
Identification of the subsoils and bedrock including density, consistency, color, moisture,
structure, geologic origin.
The depths of the various generalized soil and rock strata encountered.
Sampler type, depth, penetration, and recovery.
Sampling resistance in terms of hydraulic pressure or blows per depth of sampler
penetration. Size and type of hammer. Height of drop.
Soil sampling interval and recovery.
Rock core run numbers, depths & lengths, core recovery, and Rock Quality Designation
(RQD)
Type of drilling operation used to advance and stabilize the hole.
Water level observations with remarks on possible variations due to tides and river levels.
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SUBSURFACE EXPLORATION AND SAMPLING
BORING LOG INTERPRETATION
Below is an example boring log: (the red highlights are the most important parts to be
aware of)
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SUBSURFACE EXPLORATION AND SAMPLING
BORING LOG INTERPRETATION
Above is another example of a boring log.
#1: Depth: As you can see in the far left it shows the depth of the sample. This is the
depth from ground level.
#2: Soil Classification and remarks: This area is used to classify the soil type. It can be a
field description or a classification from lab equipment. Also this area can be used for
other field notes ( see note for example ).
#3: Legend: This is just a visual representation of the soil.
#4: Elev: This is the actual elevation above sea level for the sample.
#5: Samples: This section identifies the sampling method used (ex. SPT) and then N-
values. Sometimes the value will just be the N count per ft and sometimes they will
write down all the N count per 6 inch ( like above ). ** For the test this could be very
useful to remember.
#6: PL/LL: This is just some more testing data. Each boring log will represent it
differently.
1 2 3
4
5
7
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SUBSURFACE EXPLORATION AND SAMPLING
BORING LOG INTERPRETATION
Q3: The below soil boring log was presented to the geotechnical engineer for the spot
where a large hotel was proposed. The total load per interior column is expected to be
around 130 kips. What is your best recommendation for the foundation?
Answer:
A. Mat or raft
B. Slab on grade
C. Drilled piers or driven piles
D. Deep spread footings
A3: C Drilled piers or driven piles: Since you can tell at 10 ft deep there is a
clay layer and also the N-counts are very low all the way past 30 ft. This will force
you to drive piles or drill piers to the gravel layer 30 ft deep at elevation 120ft.