Influence of soil cracking on the soil-water characteristic curve of clay soil

M. M. Abbaszadeh, Sandra Houston, Claudia Zapata

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The hydraulic conductivity for unsaturated soil conditions is more difficult to estimate than for the saturated condition. In addition, as the soil transitions from intact to cracked, the difficulty in estimating the unsaturated hydraulic conductivity increases. One critical step in the determination of unsaturated flow hydraulic conductivity is the evaluation of the Soil-Water Characteristic Curve (SWCC). In this paper, a series of laboratory studies of direct measurements of cracked soil SWCCs is presented, including challenges associated with the control of very low suction levels associated with crack dewatering. An oedometer-type SWCC apparatus, capable of suction and net normal stress control, and volume change measurement, was used in these experimental studies. It is common that SWCCs are comprised of matric suction values below about 1500 kPa, and total suction values for suctions higher than about 1500 kPa (Fredlund et al., 2012). In this study, all measured or controlled suction values were less than 1500 kPa and obtained using the axis translation method, and the curve in the higher suction range was projected by forcing the SWCC through 106 kPa for completely dried conditions (Fredlund et al., 2012). Volume change corrections were made to the reported volumetric water contents, which is of particular importance when the soil under consideration undergoes volume change in response to wetting or drying. A technique for the determination of the SWCC for cracked clay soils is presented. Test results validated the fact that the SWCC of a cracked soil can be represented by a bimodal function due to the Air Entry Value (AEV) of the cracks being much lower than the AEV of the soil matrix. It was also found that differences between the SWCC for cracked and intact soil appears only in the very low suction range.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)49-58
Number of pages10
JournalSoils and Rocks
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2015


  • Air Entry Value
  • Bimodal Behavior
  • Cracked Soil
  • Laboratory Testing
  • SWCC
  • Unsaturated Soil Mechanics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology


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