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About plug formation, plug resistance and internal friction in open profiles

June 2010

The reader is advised to review the research literature on this subject (e.g., papers by Paikowski, Randolph, Raines and
others). Please also note that API makes recommendation regarding static friction calculations in the plugged and
unplugged cases.

The total capacity of the pile is unit shaft resistance times shaft surface area plus unit end bearing times toe area. The shaft
surface area is calculated based on the perimeter values that the user inputs.

Normally for H-piles, the perimeter is computed using 4 sides of the pile cross-section. An argument could be made for
using all 6 sides, but that assumption is highly uncommon. Since H-piles are normally relatively small (typically less than 350
mm or 14 inch) square, the fully plugged area is usually assumed for end bearing calculations. Of course, there are
situations, such as driving through soft into hard soils, where plugging may not develop.

For unplugged open ended pipes, the internal friction is difficult to predict. It would be expected that an unplugged pipe
pile has some inside soil resistance (the soil remains at its location, i.e., it does fill the pile and does not move with the pile
the cookie cutter effect). However, unless the diameter to embedment ratio is relatively large, the effective stresses will be
relatively low inside the pipe and the driving process will reduce the internal friction. Thus for most unplugged analyses only
partial internal friction is normally considered; it can be modeled in GRLWEAP by increasing the perimeter value over that
length of the pile where internal friction is expected (e.g. on an internal driving shoe which is an increased pipe wall
thickness at constant outside diameter). A case could be made for internal friction acting over 10 pile diameters if the pipe
wall thickness is uniform Of course, if a plugged toe resistance is considered, no internal friction should be modeled.

Whether or not plugging can occur for open pile profiles is a complex problem which depends on many factors relating to
pile, soil and even hammer properties. Whether or not it is necessary to use the full toe area rather than the steel annulus
for end bearing calculations often cannot be answered with certainty. Only very general suggestions can be made:

In very dense sands or during restrike testing after a long waiting time, plugging may be expected in smaller pipe piles (say
900 mm (30 inches) or less) unless the penetration into the dense bearing layer is very shallow (say less than 3 diameters).
For large piles (say 1500 mm (60 inches) or more) plugging rarely will occur during driving. There is an intermediate range
where the type of soil, the depth of penetration, the accelerations generated in the pile by the hammer, the presence of pile
non-uniformities, etc. can influence the plug formation and therefore the magnitude of the end bearing.

It is also known that sometimes under static load the full end bearing may be present even though the pile does not plug
during driving.

In general, the GRLWEAP default value for the pile toe area is that of the closed end condition. It is therefore extremely
important that the users carefully review and possibly correct the pile toe area input. In addition, it is also strongly
recommended to perform optimistic (unplugged) and pessimistic (plugged) driveability analyses to establish lower
and upper bound driving resistance values. This will help to prepare for situations where piles reach refusal prior
to a required minimum pile tip penetration. Such preparations may include mobilization of installation aids such as
jets or drilling equipment or, of course, a larger hammer.