Standard Active Last Updated: Apr 27, 2021 Track Document
ASTM D4546-21

Standard Test Methods for One-Dimensional Swell or Collapse of Soils

Standard Test Methods for One-Dimensional Swell or Collapse of Soils D4546-21 ASTM|D4546-21|en-US Standard Test Methods for One-Dimensional Swell or Collapse of Soils Standard new BOS Vol. 04.08 Committee D18
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Significance and Use

5.1 The wetting-induced swell/collapse strains measured from Test Methods A and B can be used to develop estimates of heave or settlement of a confined soil profile (1-4).4 They can also be used to estimate the magnitudes of the swell pressure (Fig. 3) and the free swell strain (percent swell under a pressure of 1 kPa (20 lbf/ft2)). The load-induced strains after wetting from Test Method C can be used to estimate stress-induced settlement following wetting-induced heave or settlement. Selection of test method, loading, and inundation sequences should, as closely as possible, simulate field conditions because relatively small variations in density and water content, or sequence of loading and wetting can significantly alter the test results (1, 5 and 6).

FIG. 3 Stress Versus Wetting-Induced Swell/Collapse Strain, Test Method A

Stress Versus Wetting-Induced Swell/Collapse Strain, Test Method AStress Versus Wetting-Induced Swell/Collapse Strain, Test Method A

Note 1: The quality of the result produced by this standard is dependent on the competence of the personnel performing it and the suitability of the equipment and facilities used. Agencies that meet the criteria of Practice D3740 are generally considered capable of competent and objective testing. Users of this standard are cautioned that compliance with Practice D3740 does not in itself assure reliable results. Reliable results depends on several factors; Practice D3740 provides a means of evaluating some of these factors.


1.1 This standard covers two laboratory test methods for measuring the magnitude of one-dimensional wetting-induced swell or collapse of unsaturated soils and one method for measuring load-induced compression subsequent to wetting-induced deformation.

1.1.1 Test Method A is a procedure for measuring one-dimensional wetting-induced swell or hydrocompression (collapse) of reconstituted specimens simulating field condition of compacted fills. The magnitude of swell pressure (the minimum vertical stress required to prevent swelling), and free swell (percent swell under a pressure of 1 kPa or 20 lbf/ft2) can also be determined from the results of Test Method A.

1.1.2 Test Method B is a procedure for measuring one-dimensional wetting-induced swell or collapse deformation of intact specimens obtained from a natural deposit or from an existing compacted fill. The magnitude of swell pressure and free swell can also be determined from the results of Test Method B.

1.1.3 Test Method C is a procedure for measuring load-induced strains on a reconstituted or intact specimen after the specimen has undergone wetting-induced swell or collapse deformation.

1.2 In Test Method A, a series of reconstituted specimens duplicating compaction condition of the fine fraction of the soil in the field (excluding the oversize particles) are assembled in consolidometer units. Different loads corresponding to different fill depths are applied to different specimens and each specimen is given access to free water until the process of primary swell or collapse is completed (Fig. 1) under a constant vertical total stress (Fig. 2). The resulting swell or collapse deformations are measured. This test method can be referred to as wetting-after-loading tests on multiple reconstituted specimens. The data from these tests can be used to estimate one-dimensional ground surface heave or settlement that can occur due to full wetting after fill construction. In addition, the magnitude of swell pressure and the magnitude of free swell can be interpreted from the test results.

FIG. 1 Time-Swell Curve

Time-Swell CurveTime-Swell Curve

FIG. 2 Deformation Versus Vertical Stress, Test Method A

Deformation Versus Vertical Stress, Test Method ADeformation Versus Vertical Stress, Test Method A

1.3 Test Method B is commonly used for measuring one-dimensional wetting-induced swell or hydrocompression of individual intact samples. This method can be referred to as single-point wetting-after-loading test. The vertical pressure at wetting for the specimen is chosen equal to the vertical in-situ stress (overburden stress plus structural stress, if any) corresponding to the sampling depth. The test result indicates the amount of heave or hydrocompression that can result when the soil at a given fill depth is wetted from the current moisture condition to full inundation condition. If intact specimens from various depths are tested, the swell or collapse strain data can be used to estimate heave or settlement of the ground surface. If the objective of the test is to measure swell pressure for an expansive soil, a series of intact specimens from a given depth zone can be wetted under a range of pressures (similar to Test Method A) and the results interpreted to determine the magnitude of the swell pressure.

1.4 Test Method C is for measuring load-induced strains after wetting-induced swell or collapse deformation has occurred. This method can be referred to as loading-after-wetting test. The test can be performed on either intact or reconstituted specimens, and can be on one specimen or a series of specimens. The results would apply to situations where new fill, additional structural loads, or both, are applied to the ground that has previously gone through wetting-induced heave or settlement. The first part of the test is the same as in Test Method A or B. After completion of the swell or collapse under a given vertical load, additional vertical load increments are applied to the specimen in the same manner as in a consolidation test (Test Methods D2435/D2435M) and the load-induced strains are measured.

1.5 It shall be the responsibility of the agency requesting this test to specify the magnitude of each load for Test Method A and Test Method B. For Test Method C, the agency requesting the test should specify the magnitude of the stress under which the specimen is wetted, and the magnitudes of the additional stress increments subsequent to wetting.

1.6 These test methods do not address the measurement of soil suction and suction-controlled swell-collapse tests. The addition of suction-controlled wetting does not constitute nonconformance to these test methods.

1.7 These test methods have a number of limitations and their results can be affected by one or a combination of factors including the effect of significant amounts of oversize particles (in Test Method A), sampling disturbance (in Test Method B) and differences between the degree of wetting in the laboratory test specimens and in the field. For details of these and other limitations, see Section 6.

1.8 The values stated in SI units are to be regarded as standard. The values given in parentheses after SI units are provided for information only and are not considered standard. Test results recorded in units other than SI shall not be regarded as nonconformance with this standard. Figures depicting the test results can be either in SI units or in inch-pound units.

1.8.1 The converted inch-pound units use the gravitational system of units. In this system, the pound (lbf) represents a unit of force (weight), while the unit for mass is slugs. The slug unit is not given, unless dynamic (F = ma) calculations are involved.

1.8.2 It is common practice in the engineering/construction profession to concurrently use pounds to represent both a unit of mass (lbm) and of force (lbf). This implicitly combines two separate systems of units; that is, the absolute system and the gravitational system. It is scientifically undesirable to combine the use of two separate sets of inch-pound units within a single standard. As stated, this standard includes the gravitational system of inch-pound units and does not use/present the slug unit for mass. However, the use of balances or scales recording pounds of mass (lbm) or recording density in lbm/ft3 shall not be regarded as nonconformance with this standard.

1.8.3 The terms density and unit weight are often used interchangeably. Density is mass per unit volume whereas unit weight is force per unit volume. In this standard density is given only in SI units. After the density has been determined, the unit weight is calculated in SI or inch-pound units, or both.

1.9 All observed and calculated values shall conform to the guidelines for significant digits and rounding established in Practice D6026.

1.9.1 The procedures used to specify how data are collected/recorded, or calculated, in this standard are regarded as the industry standard. In addition, they are representative of the significant digits that generally should be retained. The procedures used do not consider material variation, purpose for obtaining the data, special purpose studies, or any consideration for the user’s objectives; and it is common practice to increase or reduce significant digits of reported data to be commensurate with these considerations. It is beyond the scope of this standard to consider significant digits used in analysis methods for engineering design.

1.10 This standard does not purport to address all of the safety concerns, if any, associated with its use. It is the responsibility of the user of this standard to establish appropriate safety, health, and environmental practices and determine the applicability of regulatory limitations prior to use.

1.11 This international standard was developed in accordance with internationally recognized principles on standardization established in the Decision on Principles for the Development of International Standards, Guides and Recommendations issued by the World Trade Organization Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Committee.

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Book of Standards Volume: 04.08
Developed by Subcommittee: D18.05
Pages: 10
DOI: 10.1520/D4546-21
ICS Code: 93.020