American Society of Civil Engineers

Shrinkage of Clays

by Amy B. Cerato, (Assistant Professor, University of Oklahoma, Department of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science, 202 W. Boyd St., Rm. 334, Norman, OK 73019 E-mail: and Alan J. Lutenegger, (Professor, University of Massachusetts, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, 27 Marston Hall, Amherst, MA 01003 E-mail:
Section: Laboratory Studies of Shrinkage Soil Behavior, pp. 1097-1108, (doi:

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Document type: Conference Proceeding Paper
Part of: Unsaturated Soils 2006
Abstract: In many parts of the world the shrink-swell characteristics of fine-grained material is of considerable importance and of potential economic significance. Expansive soils cause significant damage to structures and roadways by cyclically shrinking and swelling within the active zone, which is defined as the depth in a soil to which periodic changes of moisture occurs. In the U.S., expansive soils cover large parts of Texas, Oklahoma and the upper Missouri Valley, and are typically montmorillonitic in nature. Traditionally there are two ways to identify the shrink-swell potential of the clay deposit: measure the shrinkage characteristics or measure the swelling characteristics. This paper discusses the shrinkage characteristics of fine-grained soils. Four natural and pure clays were tested to determine shrinkage characteristics and the respective shrinkage curves are presented and discussed. The direct measurement of the limit of shrinkage from the shrinkage curves of the Linear Shrinkage and Shrinkage Limit tests are discussed and compared to the calculated Shrinkage Limit from the ASTM D-427 Shrinkage Limit test. It is shown that the Linear Shrinkage and the Shrinkage Limit tests produce similar shrinkage curves and a consistent Limit of Shrinkage. The calculated Shrinkage Limit from the Shrinkage Limit test underpredicts the limit of shrinkage for the soils tested and is extremely operator dependent.

ASCE Subject Headings:
Fine-grained soils