Terzaghi’s analysis and assumptions

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Terzaghi’s analysis and assumptions refer to the work of Karl Terzaghi, a renowned civil engineer and geotechnical engineer. Terzaghi made significant contributions to the field of soil mechanics and is considered one of the pioneers in this discipline.

Terzaghi’s analysis primarily focuses on the behavior of soils under different loading conditions. He developed various theories and assumptions to understand the complex behavior of soils and their response to applied forces. Some of the key aspects of Terzaghi’s analysis include:

1. Effective Stress Principle: Terzaghi introduced the concept of effective stress, which states that the behavior of soil is governed by the effective stress acting on it rather than the total stress. The effective stress is the difference between the total stress and the pore water pressure. This principle forms the basis for understanding soil consolidation, shear strength, and other soil properties.

2. Consolidation Theory: Terzaghi formulated a theory to explain the settlement of saturated cohesive soils under applied loads. According to his theory, when a load is applied to a saturated clay layer, excess pore water pressure is generated due to drainage restrictions. Over time, this excess pore water pressure dissipates through consolidation, resulting in settlement. Terzaghi developed equations to calculate the rate and magnitude of consolidation settlement.

3. Shear Strength Theory: Terzaghi also contributed significantly to understanding the shear strength of soils. He proposed that shear strength depends on two main factors: effective normal stress and cohesion. He developed equations such as the Mohr-Coulomb failure criterion to estimate shear strength parameters for different soil types.

4. Bearing Capacity Analysis: Terzaghi’s work on bearing capacity analysis provides methods for determining the maximum load that can be safely supported by a foundation on soil. He developed equations and charts that consider factors such as soil type, foundation shape, and depth to estimate the ultimate bearing capacity.

5. Slope Stability Analysis: Terzaghi’s analysis also extends to the stability of slopes. He developed methods to assess the stability of natural and man-made slopes, taking into account factors such as soil properties, slope geometry, and groundwater conditions. His work helps engineers design stable slopes and prevent slope failures.

Terzaghi’s assumptions in his analysis are based on simplifications and idealizations to make calculations and predictions more manageable. Some of the common assumptions made in Terzaghi’s analysis include:

1. Homogeneous Soil: Terzaghi often assumed that the soil being analyzed is homogeneous, meaning it has uniform properties throughout. While this assumption simplifies calculations, it may not accurately represent real-world soil conditions.

2. Isotropic Behavior: Terzaghi assumed that soils exhibit isotropic behavior, meaning their properties are the same in all directions. This assumption allows for simpler mathematical models but may not capture the anisotropic behavior observed in some soils.

3. Linear Elasticity: Terzaghi’s analysis often assumes linear elastic behavior of soils, meaning that the relationship between stress and strain is linear within the elastic range. This assumption simplifies calculations but may not hold true for highly deformable or non-linearly behaving soils.

It is important to note that while Terzaghi’s analysis and assumptions have been widely used and form the basis for many geotechnical engineering practices, they are not without limitations. Real-world soil behavior can be highly complex and influenced by various factors that may not be fully captured by Terzaghi’s theories and assumptions. Therefore, engineers often combine Terzaghi’s principles with additional empirical data and advanced numerical modeling techniques to obtain more accurate predictions.

Top 3 Authoritative Reference Publications or Domain Names Used in Answering this Question:

1. “Soil Mechanics in Engineering Practice” by Karl Terzaghi, Ralph B. Peck, and Gholamreza Mesri.
2. “Principles of Geotechnical Engineering” by Braja M. Das.
3. “Geotechnical Engineering: Principles and Practices” by Donald P. Coduto, Man-chu Ronald Yeung, and William A. Kitch.


Arbaj Demrot is the founder of VideRime Online Learning, a leading engineering website. He did his BE Civil and M.Tech Structure from RGPV University, Bhopal and has been working as an Assistant Professor in a reputed college.

Leave a Reply