The effects of a cementing agent on the mechanical behavior of a quartz sand and a natural silt were studied with drained triaxial tests. The cementing agent was a cement fly ash slurry, and the specimens so formed were weakly cemented. The higher stiffness of the cemented specimens can be explained by the presence of structure, but it may not be always valid to equate structure to the contribution of a cementing agent. Special zero effective confinement tests were conducted to directly measure the contribution of bonding between grains to the strength and stiffness of the two cemented soils. Test results unambiguously indicated the occurrence of progressive bond breakage prior to failure. At a stress state remote from failure, a cemented soil has lower dilatancy relative to the parent soil because of the presence of significant bonding. However, bond breakage occurring at higher shear stress led to a more dilatant soil fabric. The shear strength data followed a curved failure surface that merged back, at high stress, to that of the parent soil. This feature can be captured by a failure function that models the contribution of a cementing agent to strength as two parts, true bonding between soil grains and increase in dilatancy at failure. Both parts degrade with increasing effective confining pressure, but at different rates.
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