Standard Historical Last Updated: Feb 18, 2021
ASTM D5321-12

Standard Test Method for Determining the Shear Strength of Soil-Geosynthetic and Geosynthetic-Geosynthetic Interfaces by Direct Shear

Significance and Use

5.1 The procedure described in this test method for determination of the shear resistance of the soil and geosynthetic or geosynthetic and geosynthetic interface is intended as a performance test to provide the user with a set of design values for the test conditions examined. The test specimens and conditions, including normal stresses, are generally selected by the user.

5.2 This test method may be used for acceptance testing of commercial shipments of geosynthetics, but caution is advised as outlined in 5.2.1.

5.2.1 The shear resistance can be expressed only in terms of actual test conditions (see Note 4 and Note 5). The determined value may be a function of the applied normal stress, material characteristics (for example, of the geosynthetic), soil properties, size of sample, drainage conditions, displacement rate, magnitude of displacement, and other parameters.

Note 4In the case of acceptance testing requiring the use of soil, the user must furnish the soil sample, soil parameters, and direct shear test parameters. The method of test data interpretation for purposes of acceptance should be mutually agreed to by the users of this standard.
Note 5Testing under this test method should be performed by laboratories qualified in the direct shear testing of soils and meeting the requirements of Practice D3740, especially since the test results may depend on site-specific and test conditions.

5.2.2 This test method measures the total resistance to shear between a geosynthetic and a supporting material (substratum) or a geosynthetic and an overlying material (superstratum). The total shear resistance may be a combination of sliding, rolling and interlocking of material components.

5.2.3 This test method does not distinguish between individual mechanisms, which may be a function of the soil and geosynthetic used, method of material placement and hydration, normal and shear stresses applied, means used to hold the geosynthetic in place, rate of shear displacement, and other factors. Every effort should be made to identify, as closely as practicable, the sheared area and failure mode of the specimen. Care should be taken, including close visual inspection of the specimen after testing, to ensure that the testing conditions are representative of those being investigated.

5.2.4 Information on precision among laboratories is incomplete. In cases of dispute, comparative tests to determine whether a statistical bias exists among laboratories may be advisable.

5.3 The test results can be used in the design of geosynthetic applications, including but not limited to: the design of liners and caps for landfills, mining heap leach pads, tailings impoundments, cutoffs for dams and other hydraulic barriers, geosynthetic-reinforced retaining walls, embankments, and base courses; in applications in which the geosynthetic is placed on a slope; for determination of geosynthetic overlap requirements; or in other applications in which sliding may occur between soil and a geosynthetic or between two geosynthetic materials.

5.4 The displacement at which peak strength and post-peak strength occurs and the shape of the shear stress vs. shear displacement curve may differ considerably from one test device to another due to differences in specimen mounting, gripping surfaces and material preparation. The user of results from this standard is cautioned that results at a specified displacement may not be reproducible across laboratories and that the relative shear displacement measured in this test at peak strength may not match relative shear displacement at peak strength in a field condition.


1.1 This test method covers a procedure for determining the shear resistance of a geosynthetic against soil, or a geosynthetic against another geosynthetic, under a constant rate of deformation.

1.1.1 The test method is intended to indicate the performance of the selected specimen by attempting to model certain field conditions. Results obtained from this method may be limited in their applicability to the specific conditions considered in the testing.

1.2 The test method is applicable for all geosynthetics, with the exception of geosynthetic clay liners (GCLs) which are addressed in Test Method D6243.

1.3 The test method is not suited for the development of exact stress-strain relationships for the test specimen due to the non-uniform distribution of shearing forces and displacement.

1.4 The values stated in SI units are to be regarded as the standard. The values given in parentheses are for information only.

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

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Book of Standards Volume: 04.13
Developed by Subcommittee: D35.01
Pages: 8
DOI: 10.1520/D5321-12
ICS Code: 59.080.70