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Compaction testing certificate using the Perth Sand Penetrometer (PSP)

Updated: Mar 18, 2023

The Perth Sand Penetrometer (PSP) provides a reliable method for testing the compaction of soil for residential or commercial foundations. PSP testing is carried out in accordance with the Australian Standard 1289.6.3.3. As chartered professional engineers, we can assist with compaction testing and provide a compaction test certificate throughout the Perth Metropolitan area. After a site visit has been conducted, we generally provide the compaction test certificate within 24 hours.

The PSP consists of a 16 mm diameter flat ended rod and is driven using a 9 kg hammer dropping 600 mm (AS 1289, Test 6.3.3). This test was developed for testing the density of sands and is not effective on clay sites. A similar device is used in clay sites which is the Dynamic Cone Penetrometer (DCP).

Figure 1 - Typical Perth Sand Pentrometer

Compaction Requirements

When considering compaction requirements for residential structures, retaining walls, swimming pools etc., it is critical to ensure that the natural sand and/or clean fill sand on the base of footings site is be compacted to achieve a minimum density index of 70% (96% of maximum dry density of modified compaction). Typically for sands, which are commonly found in Perth, a minimum of 7 PSP blows for the test depth interval 150 mm to 450 mm is required to achieve the minimum relative compaction of 96% of maximum dry density (modified compaction).

In many situations it is required to import clean sand fill, and the imported material must be well compacted in not more than 300mm thick layers by a vibrating plate or vibrating roller. An adequate compaction result for sand fill not containing gravel sized material is the achievement of a blow count of 7 or more per 300mm using the PSP.

Organic Matter, Tree Roots and Rubble and Compaction Activities

The effort in undertaking the site preparation will often maximise the effectiveness of compaction activities thus ensuring adequate long term performance of the foundation. The Australian Standard 3798 "Guidelines on Earthworks for Commercial and Residential Developments (section 6 – site preparation)" provides the minimum requirements in relation to earthworks and would involve the following:

  • Strip building area and perimeter apron of organic material and rubbish;

  • Removal of any trees and/or tree stumps and back fill with clean compacted sand free of any voids;

  • Removal of any deleterious material such as rock or clay from the building area or apron;

  • Cut and/or fill site to form up pad with clean compacted sand to the required level;

  • Refer to structural drawings for compaction requirements;

  • Construct footings and slab as per the structural footing details.

Compaction test using the Perth Sand Penetrometer for raised sand pad

The presence of tree roots can contribute to subsidence and settlement in the foundations of new dwellings over time. If the foundation material is not free of rubble and deleterious material, it can likely result in localised areas that will not achieve the required compaction. Poorly compacted material will undergo further volume reduction, manifested as settlement at the surface and as localised differential settlement. These observations can be compounded by the presence of organic matter in the soil but only testing in accordance with AS 1289.4 would confirm the proportion of organic material.

Compaction Testing Certificate using the PSP

The compaction requirements are stipulated by the design engineering which in most cases for residential projects is a structural engineer engineer. In most cased the applicable soil compaction requirements are stipulated in AS2870 Residential slabs and footings. A satisfactory test for sand fill not containing gravel sized material is the achievement

of a blow count of 7 or more per 300mm using the penetrometer test described in

AS 1289.6.3.3.

Perth Sand Penetrometer soil compaction testing

Compaction testing can be undertaken by trained engineers and the compaction testing certificate must report the following results and general information, as appropriate:

  • Location of compaction testing.

  • The penetration resistance, (blows per 300 mm penetration).

  • Any variation to the normal testing procedure.

  • Soil description.

  • Moisture condition of soil, i.e. wet, dry or moisture content, if determined.

  • Date of test.

  • Reduced level of ground surface at test site.

  • Reference to Standard, i.e. AS 1289.6.3.3.

Guidelines for backfilling of swimming pools and compaction testing Perth

There are situations where an existing swimming pool is to be filled, for example if the property is to be subdivided or if a new granny flat, extension or building is to be constructed where the swimming pool is currently located.

After removing the swimming pool shell and all the associated services, it is recommended to backfill with imported clean sand which needs to be free of all silty, organic or any other deleterious inclusions. The sand backfill should be placed in layers not exceeding 300mm in loose thickness and should be compacted to 96 percent Maximum Dry Density. As a guide, a target blow count of 8 per 300mm and increasing with depth typically achieves 96% MDD.

Most Perth councils will generally require a Compaction Certificate following the swimming pool removal and this will require a deep compaction test equivalent to the depth of the pool.

For a quick turnaround with a compaction test certificate in Perth and other related engineering services, contact the team at Rotaru Building Consultants Perth today or visit our website for more information.

Deep compaction test using the Perth Sand Penetrometer following swimming pool removal
Deep compaction test using the Perth Sand Penetrometer following swimming pool removal

Compaction Testing in Perth using the Perth Sand Penetrometer

Do you need a compaction test certificate for a new structure in Perth? Our team at Rotaru Building Consultants is able to assist with sand compaction testing and certification throughout the Perth Metropolitan Area.

If you have any questions about compaction testing, get in touch with us to discuss your requirements and to obtain a free quote.

Compaction test using the Perth Sand Penetrometer for installation of retaining wall

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