Moisture Movement Through Cracked Clay Soil Profiles

Delwyn G. Fredlund, Sandra Houston, Quan Nguyen, Murray D. Fredlund

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


A continuum mechanics approach is used for the formulation of unsaturated hydraulic conductivity functions and the water storage functions for fractured or cracked clay soils in this parametric study. Suggested procedures are based on available research literature related to the behavior of cracked unsaturated porous media. The soil-water characteristic curve, hydraulic conductivity and water storage functions take on the character of bi-modal unsaturated soil property functions. The bimodal character arises out of the independent behavior of the cracks and the intact clay soil. Matric suction changes beneath a slab-on-grade foundation placed on a cracked clay soil profile are modeled for varied surface flux conditions using the proposed unsaturated hydraulic conductivity and water storage functions. The impact of various levels of surface cracking on soil suction distributions is discussed. Suction distribution patterns are dependent on the initial soil surface suction. In particular, the results are dependent upon whether the initial matric suction is less than or greater than the air entry of the cracked clay. There is an extremely wide range of possible conditions that could be modeled but the parametric study results presented in this paper are limited to a series of selected crack widths and densities for an exfiltration case and an infiltration case.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)865-888
Number of pages24
JournalGeotechnical and Geological Engineering
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2010


  • Cracked clay
  • Unsaturated flow
  • Unsaturated soil properties
  • Unsaturated soils

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Architecture
  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Soil Science
  • Geology


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