This paper outlines an experimental investigation into seepage-induced failures in soils subjected to static and cyclic loading. Internally stable, marginal and unstable soils are characterised by heave, composite heave-piping and suffusion that develops immediately upon instability. In this study, the stable specimens exhibited heave at larger hydraulic gradients than the unstable specimens failing by suffusion at relatively smaller hydraulic gradients. Under no external load (i.e. self-weight only), the relative density (Rd) and particle size distribution (PSD) in tandem controlled the internal stability of soils, although the effective stress magnitude (σ′vt) also had a role to play under both static and cyclic loading conditions. Instability in soils was governed by specific combinations of their geohydro-mechanical characteristics such as PSD, Rd, stress reduction factor, critical hydraulic gradients and associated effective stress levels. These factors are combined to model the development and inception of instability, and the paper offers visual guides as a practical tool for practitioners. Each soil has a unique critical envelope related to its PSD and Rd, and a critical path with its inclination that depends on the hydro-mechanical conditions. The current results of internal erosion tests conducted by the authors plus those adopted from published literature are used to verify the proposed model.
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