plate load test

plate load test
plate load test

Here’s a comprehensive explanation of the plate load test:

What it is:

  • A field test used in geotechnical engineering to determine the bearing capacity and deformation characteristics of soil.
  • Involves applying a gradually increasing load to a rigid steel plate placed on the ground surface and measuring the resulting settlement.
  • Provides valuable data for designing shallow foundations, pavements, and other structures that bear on the soil.


  • To determine the ultimate bearing capacity of the soil, which is the maximum load it can support before failure.
  • To estimate the settlement of a foundation under a given load.
  • To assess the suitability of the soil for construction.
  • To determine the modulus of subgrade reaction (k), which is a measure of the soil’s stiffness.
  • To evaluate the effectiveness of ground improvement techniques.


  1. Site preparation:
    • Level the ground surface.
    • Excavate a shallow pit if the test is to be conducted below grade.
  2. Plate placement:
    • Position a rigid steel plate of known diameter (typically 300-750 mm) on the prepared ground.
  3. Loading frame setup:
    • Install a loading frame over the plate, capable of applying a vertical load.
  4. Instrumentation:
    • Attach dial gauges or displacement transducers to the plate to measure settlement.
    • Set up a load cell to measure the applied load.
  5. Load application:
    • Apply load in increments, usually doubling every increment.
    • Record load and settlement readings at each increment.
  6. Load holding:
    • Maintain each load increment until settlement stabilizes.
  7. Unloading:
    • Gradually reduce the load to zero.

Data analysis:

  • Plot a load-settlement curve.
  • Determine the ultimate bearing capacity from the curve.
  • Calculate the modulus of subgrade reaction (k).
  • Analyze the results and draw conclusions about the soil’s bearing capacity and settlement characteristics.


  • Relatively simple and quick to perform.
  • Provides direct in-situ measurements of soil behavior.
  • Can be used to test a wide range of soil types.


  • Only tests a small volume of soil, so results may not be representative of the entire site.
  • Can be affected by soil disturbance during test preparation.
  • Requires experienced personnel to conduct and interpret the test correctly.

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