All rocks weather under hostile environments. The ones that are close to the ground surface become weathered more than the deeper ones. If a rocky stratum is suspected close to the ground surface, the soundness or otherwise of these rocks must be investigated.
Joints are common in all rock masses. This word joint is used by geologists for any plane of structural weakness apart from faults within the mass. Within the sedimentary rock mass the joints are lateral in extent and form what are called bedding planes, and they are uniform throughout any one bed within igneous rock mass. Cooling joints are more closely spaced nearer the ground surface with wider spacings at deeper depths. Tension joints and tectonic joints might be expected to continue depth wise. Within metamorphic masses, open cleavage, open schistose and open gneissose planes can be of considerably further lateral extent than the bedding planes of the sedimentary masses.
Faults and fissures happen in rock masses due to internal disturbances. The joints with fissures and faults reduces the bearing strength of rocky strata.
Since most unweathered intact rocks are stronger and less compressible than concrete, the determination of bearing pressures on such materials may not be necessary. A confined rock possesses greater bearing strength than the rocks exposed at ground level.
Bearing Capacity of Rocks
Bearing capacities of rocks are often determined by crushing a core sample in a testing machine.
Samples used for testing must be free from cracks and defects.
In the rock formation where bedding planes, joints and other planes of weakness exist, the practice that is normally followed is to classify the rock according to RQD (Rock Quality Designation). Table 9.2 gives the classification of the bearing capacity of rock according to RQD. Peck et al, (1974) have related the RQD to the allowable bearing pressure qa as given in Table 12.5
The RQD for use in Table 12.5 should be the average within a depth below foundation level equal to the width of the foundation, provided the RQD is fairly uniform within that depth. If the upper part of the rock, within a depth of about 5/4, is of lower quality, the value of this part should be used.
Table 12.5 Allowable Bearing Pressure qa on Jointed Rock.
Table 9.2 Relation of RQD an in-situ Rock Quality
If rocks close to a foundation base are highly fissured/fractured, they can be treated by grouting which increases the bearing capacity of the material.
The bearing capacity of a homogeneous, and discontinuous rock mass cannot be less than the unconfined compressive strength of the rock mass around the footing and this can be taken as a lower bound for a rock mass with constant angle of internal friction Φ and unconfined compressive strength qur. Goodman (1980) suggests the following equation for determining the ultimate bearing capacity qu.
Recommendations by Building Codes
Where bedrock can be reached by excavation, the presumptive allowable bearing pressure specified by Building Codes. Table 12.7 gives the recommendations of some buildings codes in U.S.