Although the assessment of the expansive potential of clay soils has been the subject of active research for the past 40 years, its treatment in routine geotechnical practice around the world remains inconsistent. This paper describes the shrink swell test, which is used routinely in Australian geotechnical practice as the principal method for the experimental assessment of the expansive potential of clay soils. The test procedure and its underlying assumptions are described and discussed in the context of the historical development of the test and its routine application. It is shown that the shrink swell test is a simple and economical means of assessing soil expansiveness, which is achieved largely through the adoption of several simplifying assumptions that effectively circumvent the measurement of soil suction. The significance of these assumptions is discussed, and it is concluded that the shrink swell test can be conveniently and reliably employed to guide the routine design of foundations in expansive soils.
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