Soil stabilizers: what are they?

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Soil stabilizers improve soil strength and resistance to water, reducing the need for additional support during construction. Ancient Roman stabilizers failed, but modern ones are quick and inexpensive. Additives like cement and lime are used, and stabilizers are injected into the soil through pumps or pre-drilled holes. Inflatable packers plug the holes, creating a network of seams and veins in the soil.

Soil stabilizers help strengthen the soil and increase its resistance to water. This allows the soil to be used later as a durable building material. Their use is quite beneficial, because it reduces movement, thereby eliminating or reducing the need for additional slab support or fill materials during construction. The ancient Romans were the first to experiment with mixing lime with foundation soil to stabilize it. These ancient Roman stabilizers failed, however, because the lime only improved the surface.

Today’s soil stabilizers work quickly and are inexpensive. There are three main ways to use them to improve soil. One such method is to strengthen existing soil, which improves its bearing capacity. Others are used to control dust by preventing it or eliminating it altogether. Finally, waterproofing stabilizers help preserve the natural or artificial strength of the soil by protecting the surface from water.

Additives such as cement, lime and calcium chloride are often found in soil stabilizers. Some also have a concrete-treated base, which further contributes to improved soil quality. These soil-concrete stabilizers are made of pulverized earth, cement and water. The ingredients are compacted to a high density.

Soil stabilizers are usually injected into the soil through a pump regulated at a pressure of 50 to 200 pounds per square inch (psi), or 345 to 1,379 kilopascals. High pressure mud pumps are also sometimes used to inject stabilizers into the soil. The depth of these injections is often 3 to 10 feet (0.91 to 3.1 meters), although they can go as deep as 40 feet (12.2 meters). If the ground is hard, holes are pre-drilled and stabilizers are inserted into the ground.

This ground injection process is completed with inflatable packers that plug the holes dug into the ground. The pressure created by the pump allows a greater flow of the stabilizers to penetrate the soil. When the process is complete, a network of horizontal seams and vertical or angular veins appear in the soil.

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