What Is Soil Nailing?Stabilization of Slope in Loose Soil Using Soil Nails


Soil stabilization is a crucial aspect of construction and geotechnical engineering, especially in urban areas where excavation in loose soil is inevitable. Ensuring slope stability is vital to prevent landslides, soil erosion, and structural failures, which can have catastrophic consequences. At present, there are many support methods in the process of excavation and support, such as soil nail walls, ground anchors, concrete gravity walls, etc. Among these, soil nailing has emerged as an effective technique for stabilizing slopes and excavations, particularly in loose soil conditions. This article will introduce the type of soil nails and project cases used in loose soil.

1. What Is Soil Nailing?

Definition of Soil Nailing

Soil nailing is a geotechnical reinforcement technique that stabilizes slopes and excavations by inserting closely spaced steel bars, known as soil nails, into the ground. This technique works on a "top-down" approach, where the nails are installed incrementally from the top of the slope to the bottom. The system is often complemented with a surface layer of shotcrete, reinforced mesh, and necessary waterproofing systems to enhance stability and prevent erosion. This passive reinforcement system repairs unstable natural slopes or builds a new or existing ultra-steep slope with closely spaced steel inclusions.

soil nail wall

 Historical Background and Development

The concept of soil nailing has evolved over several decades. It originated in the 1960s in France, where it was first used for temporary excavation support. Over time, the technique has been refined and adapted for permanent slope stabilization projects worldwide. The development of new materials and installation methods, such as self-drilling soil nails, has significantly improved the efficiency and effectiveness of soil nailing.

Basic Principles and Mechanisms of Soil Nailing

Soil nailing works by creating a composite mass of soil and nails that acts as a coherent and stable structure. The soil nails increase the shear strength of the soil and reduce the likelihood of slope failure by reinforcing the in-situ soil. The process involves drilling holes at predetermined intervals, inserting the soil nails, and grouting them in place to ensure a strong bond with the surrounding soil. The shotcrete layer on the surface helps to distribute the load evenly and protect the slope from weathering and erosion.

Applications in Various Types of Soil and Projects

Soil nailing is versatile and can be applied in various soil types and construction projects. It is particularly effective in:

- Stabilizing slopes in loose, granular soils.
- Supporting deep excavations in urban areas.
- Reinforcing embankments and retaining walls.
- Repairing landslides and preventing soil erosion.
- Strengthening existing structures and foundations.

Its adaptability to different soil conditions and ease of installation make soil nailing a preferred choice for many geotechnical engineers.

2. Common Types of Soil Nails

Driven Soil Nails

Description and Usage

Driven soil nails are solid bars or pipes driven into the ground without pre-drilling. These nails can be made from steel or other durable materials. They are often used in soils that are stable enough to allow for the driving process without causing significant disturbance.

Installation Process

The installation of driven soil nails involves using heavy machinery, such as hydraulic hammers or vibratory drivers, to drive the nails into the soil. This method is straightforward and quick, making it suitable for projects with tight timelines.

Advantages and Disadvantages

- No need for pre-drilling, reducing installation time.
- Minimal soil disturbance.
- Suitable for cohesive soils that can support the driving process.

- Limited to soil types that can withstand the driving forces.
- Lower friction strength and bearing capacity compared to grouted nails.
- Not suitable for loose or collapsing soils.

Grouted Soil Nails

Description and Usage

Grouted soil nails involve drilling holes into the soil, inserting the nails, and then filling the holes with grout. The grout provides additional bonding and increases the nail's load-bearing capacity. This method is suitable for a wide range of soil conditions, including loose and collapsing soils.

Installation Process

The installation process for grouted soil nails includes:
1. Drilling holes at specified intervals.
2. Inserting the steel bars or pipes into the holes.
3. Pumping grout into the holes to fill the voids and ensure a strong bond between the nails and the soil.

Advantages and Disadvantages

- Higher load-bearing capacity due to the grouting process.
- Suitable for various soil types, including loose and collapsing soils.
- Enhanced stability and durability.

- Requires more equipment and time compared to driven nails.
- Potential for grout leakage and wastage.
- More complex installation process.

Self-Drilling Soil Nails

Description and Usage

Self-drilling soil nails are hollow bars with a drill bit attached to the end, allowing for simultaneous drilling and grouting. This method integrates drilling, grouting, and anchoring into a single step, making it highly efficient. Self-drilling soil nails are particularly useful in challenging soil conditions, such as loose or collapsing soils, where traditional methods may fail.

Installation Process

The installation of self-drilling soil nails involves:
1. Drilling the nail into the ground using a rotary-percussive drilling method.
2. Pumping grout through the hollow center of the nail to fill the drilled hole and bond with the surrounding soil during the drilling process.
3. Allowing the grout to cure and form a strong, stable reinforcement.
4. Install the plate and the nut to enhanced stabilized.

Advantages and Disadvantages

- High efficiency and speed of installation.
- Suitable for a wide range of soil conditions, including loose and collapsing soils.
- Enhanced bonding and load-bearing capacity due to the grouting process.
- Reduced equipment and manpower requirements.

- Higher initial cost for specialized equipment.

3. Advantages of Self-Drilling Soil Nails

Efficiency and Speed

Self-drilling soil nails offer significant advantages in terms of efficiency and speed compared to traditional soil nails. By combining drilling, grouting, and anchoring into a single operation, the installation process is streamlined, reducing the time required for each nail. This efficiency is particularly beneficial in large-scale projects or when working under tight schedules.

Comparison with Traditional Soil Nails:
- Traditional soil nails require separate steps for drilling, inserting the nail, and grouting, which can be time-consuming.
- Self-drilling nails complete all three steps in one operation, significantly reducing installation time.

Reduced Installation Time:
- The integrated process minimizes downtime between steps.
- Faster installation means reduced labor costs and shorter project timelines.


Self-drilling soil nails are highly versatile and can be adapted to various soil conditions and project requirements. Their ability to drill and grout simultaneously makes them suitable for a wide range of applications, from loose, collapsing soils to more stable conditions.

Adaptability to Different Soil Conditions:

- Effective in loose, granular soils where traditional methods might struggle.
- Suitable for cohesive soils and rock formations with proper drill bit selection.

Use in Confined and Difficult-to-Access Areas:
- Compact equipment and efficient installation process allow for use in confined spaces.
- Ideal for urban environments where space and access are limited.

Improved Load-Bearing Capacity

The grouting process in self-drilling soil nails enhances their load-bearing capacity by creating a strong bond between the nail and the surrounding soil. This improved bonding increases the overall stability and support provided by the nails.

Enhanced Bonding with Surrounding Soil:
- Grout fills voids and irregularities, ensuring a tight bond.
- Greater friction and shear resistance compared to non-grouted nails.

Greater Stability and Support:
- Enhanced load distribution and resistance to soil movement.
- Increased durability and long-term performance.


Despite the higher initial cost of specialized equipment, self-drilling soil nails can be more cost-effective in the long run due to their efficiency, reduced labor requirements, and improved performance.

Lower Overall Project Costs:
- Faster installation reduces labor and equipment rental costs.
- Fewer delays and downtime lead to savings in project timelines.

Reduction in Manpower and Machinery Needs:
- Integrated installation process requires fewer workers.
- Less equipment needed on-site compared to traditional methods.

4. Slope Stabilization in Loose Soil Using Soil Nails

Challenges of Loose Soil

Loose soil presents unique challenges for slope stabilization due to its low cohesion, high susceptibility to erosion, and tendency to collapse under load. These characteristics make it difficult to achieve stable slopes without proper reinforcement.

Characteristics and Problems Associated with Loose Soil:
- Low shear strength and high compressibility.
- Prone to liquefaction and slope failures during seismic events.
- High erosion potential, leading to surface instability.

Common Risks and Failures in Slopes with Loose Soil:
- Landslides and soil slippage.
- Structural damage to adjacent buildings and infrastructure.
- Increased maintenance and repair costs due to ongoing instability.

Design Considerations for Soil Nailing in Loose Soil

Effective slope stabilization in loose soil requires careful design and planning to ensure safety and stability. Key considerations include geotechnical investigation, soil testing, and determining appropriate design parameters and safety factors.

Geotechnical Investigation and Soil Testing:

- Comprehensive soil analysis to determine properties such as shear strength, compressibility, and moisture content.
- Identification of potential failure planes and critical zones requiring reinforcement.

Design Parameters and Safety Factors:
- Calculation of nail length, spacing, and inclination based on soil properties and slope geometry.
- Incorporation of safety factors to account for uncertainties and variations in soil conditions.

Installation Process

The installation process for soil nails in loose soil involves several steps to ensure proper reinforcement and stability.

Site Preparation and Planning:
- Clearing and grading the site to provide a stable working platform.
- Marking the locations for soil nail installation based on the design plan.

Drilling and Insertion of Soil Nails:
- Drilling holes at the marked locations using appropriate equipment.
- Inserting the soil nails into the drilled holes, ensuring proper alignment and depth.

Grouting and Anchoring Techniques:
- Pumping grout through the soil nails to fill the drilled holes and bond with the surrounding soil.
- Allowing the grout to cure and achieve the desired strength and stability.

Case Studies

Project Case 1: Civilian House Slope Stabilization

A residential project involved stabilizing a steep slope with an 80° incline and a height of 18 meters. The slope, composed of loose backfill material, posed a significant risk to the adjacent 11-story building. Self-drilling soil nails (R32) were chosen for their efficiency and effectiveness in loose soil.

design drawing

Project Details:

Slope inclination: 80°
Slope height: 18 meters
Support width: 20 meters
Adjacent structure: 11-story residential building
Solution and Implementation:

Self-drilling soil nails were installed at regular intervals.
Grouting was performed simultaneously with drilling to ensure strong bonding.
A shotcrete layer was applied to the slope surface for additional protection.
Outcome and Benefits:

Significant improvement in slope stability.
Protection of the residential building from potential slope failure.
Efficient installation with minimal disruption to the surrounding area.

Project Case 2: Highway Embankment Stabilization

A highway embankment required stabilization due to ongoing erosion and the risk of slope failure. The embankment consisted of loose, sandy soil, making it challenging to achieve stability with traditional methods.

Project Details:

Embankment height: 12 meters
Soil type: Loose, sandy soil
Traffic volume: High
Solution and Implementation:

Self-drilling soil nails were selected for their adaptability to loose soil.
Nails were installed at a slight angle to maximize resistance to lateral forces.
Grouting was used to enhance bonding and increase load-bearing capacity.
Outcome and Benefits:

Improved embankment stability and reduced risk of failure.
Minimal disruption to highway traffic during installation.
Long-term performance with reduced maintenance requirements.
Lessons Learned and Best Practices
Through these case studies, several key lessons and best practices have emerged:

Comprehensive geotechnical investigation is essential for accurate design and successful implementation.
Self-drilling soil nails provide significant advantages in loose soil conditions, including efficiency, adaptability, and enhanced performance.
Proper planning and coordination are crucial to minimize disruption and ensure safety during installation.
Regular monitoring and maintenance are necessary to ensure the long-term stability of stabilized slopes.


Soil nailing is a highly effective technique for stabilizing slopes and excavations, particularly in loose soil conditions. Self-drilling soil nails, in particular, offer numerous advantages, including efficiency, versatility, improved load-bearing capacity, and cost-effectiveness. By addressing the unique challenges posed by loose soil and incorporating best practices in design and installation, soil nailing can significantly enhance slope stability and prevent catastrophic failures.

Proper slope stabilization is essential for the safety and longevity of construction projects, and the use of advanced techniques like self-drilling soil nails ensures that even the most challenging soil conditions can be managed effectively. As a leading expert in ground support, Sinorock provides comprehensive geotechnical engineering services and high-quality self-drilling anchor bolts to meet the diverse needs of modern construction projects. For more information or to discuss your specific project requirements, contact Sinorock at sinorock@sinorockco.com

Return The List

latest news