- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
Last edited 05 Apr 2018
Soil nailing is a ground stabilisation technique that can be used on either natural or excavated slopes. It involves drilling holes for steel bars to be inserted into a slope face which are then grouted in place. Mesh is attached to the bar ends to hold the slope face in position.
They are commonly used as a remedial measure to stabilise embankments, levees, and so on. Other applications for soil nailing include:
- Temporary excavation shoring.
- Tunnel portals.
- Roadway cuts.
- Under bridge abutments.
- Repair and reconstruction of existing retaining structures.
The main considerations for deciding whether soil nailing will be appropriate include; the ground conditions, the suitability of other systems, such as ground anchors, geosynthetic materials, and so on and cost.
Although soil nails are versatile and can be used for a variety of soil types and conditions, it is preferable that the soil should be capable of standing – without supports – to a height of 1-2 m for no less than 2 days when cut vertical or near-vertical.
Soils which are particularly suited to soil nailing include clays, clayey silts, silty clays, sandy clays, glacial soils, sandy silts, sand, gravels. Soil nailing can be used on weathered rock as long as the weathering is even (i.e. without any weakness planes) throughout the rock.
Soils which are not well-suited to soil nailing include those with a high groundwater table, cohesion-less soils, soft fine-grained soils, highly-corrosive soils, loess, loose granular soils, and ground exposed to repeated freeze-thaw action.
- Strength limit: The limit state at which potential failure or collapse occurs.
- Service limit: The limit state at which loss of service function occurs resulting from excessive wall deformation.
- Height and length.
- Vertical and horizontal spacing of the soil nails.
- Inclination of the soil nails.
- Ground properties.
- Nail length, diameter and maximum force.
- Drainage, frost penetration, external loads due to wind and hydrostatic forces.
A drainage system may be inserted once all the nails are in place. This involves a synthetic drainage mat placed vertically between the nail heads, which extends to the wall base and is connected to a footing drain.
Some of the advantages of using soil nailing include:
- They are good for confined spaces with restricted access.
- There is less environmental impact.
- They are relatively quick and easy to install.
- They use less materials and shoring.
- They are flexible enough to be used on new constructions, temporary structures or on remodelling processes.
- The height is not restricted.
Limitations of using soil nailing include:
- They are not suitable for areas with a high water table.
- In soils of low shear strength, very high soil nail density may be required.
- They are not suitable for permanent use in sensitive and expansive soils.
- Specialist contractors are required.
- Extensive 3D modelling may be required.
 Find out more
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
Featured articles and news
What should be evaluated to assess building peformance?
BIM standards BS 1192:2007+A2:2016 and PAS 1192-2:2013 have been superceded.
What is biophilic design and how can it increase wellbeing?
80 experts come up with the top 7 mistakes the industry makes with BREEAM.
Compliance cannot be verified by inspection on delivery.
Some electric cars have batteries that give a range of over 350 miles.
Assembling, curating, caring for, and designing the future.
A sensitive approach to renovating a building of historic stature.
UK energy policy uncertainty as Welsh project put on hold
What collaborative working achieves and how it can be put in place.
BSRIA publishes the 2019 edition of its small but concise annual databook.
Using QSAND to measure the performance of disaster response.
What U-values are, why they matter and how they are calculated.