How to Choose the Right Geosynthetics for a Project

With an umbrella term, covering so many distinct types of products with very different purposes and features, it’s easy to get confused and mistake one type of geosynthetic for another. Making this mistake can cause an otherwise well-designed project fail. If loose soil needs a reinforcement grid to keep it from collapsing, adding a containment layer of impermeable geomembrane could even accelerate soil loss or bank collapse. In other cases, using a particular geosynthetic alone without another backup material could leave the entire structure at risk for failure. Make sure you’re choosing the right kind and combination of geosynthetics for your specific project with these tips.

Identify the Main and Secondary Purposes

Start each soil reinforcement project by identifying all of the primary functions needed. This usually begins with extensive soil and site testing to determine the cohesion of soil particles, the absorption rate of water, and the amount of slope of each area. Once the challenges of the particular soil in question are identified, it’s a simple matter of matching the needed functions to the materials that provide them. It’s not enough to simply follow the minimum standards set by the state for construction or roadway applications. Always perform custom soil testing to determine what a particular site will need for containment, reinforcement, and other geosynthetic functions. Most projects will include one to three main functions and up to three more secondary purposes, depending on the complexity and the number of layers of material being used.

Find a Matching Material

Even after picking the general categories of geosynthetics, you’ll need to narrow down your selections to specific materials. A geomembrane made from PVC won’t perform as well or handle the same conditions as one made from RPE. The same fact is true for all geosynthetics, making product selection a little more complicated than many project managers realize. Set aside at least a week or two for this process, since it begins with a full set of categories and takes multiple stages of selection. Rushing the process will result in geosynthetics that don’t quite meet the requirements of the project, creating further delays and expenses as you order replacements and rework the construction.

Focus in on Features and Characteristics

Don’t expect to find the same features and characteristics listed for each geosynthetic across the various categories. For example, permeability is rarely listed for widely woven geogrids and geonets since they’re designed to let water through the material. In contrast, impermeable materials like geomembranes should definitely list this function for engineering purposes. Consider important secondary characteristics in addition to the primary functions. For example, a liner intended for use in a fish farming pond will need a high safety rating for food use. Chemical leaching from the wrong geomembrane liner could kill off expensive populations of fish, stunt their growth rate, or result in fish that are unsafe to each. Expand your considerations beyond the main five functions to settle on the right geosynthetic for your installation.

Consider a Combination

You may obtain better results from your geosynthetics by installing two or more on the same project. Some areas may need geogrids or geonet to stabilize steep slopes, that are then covered partially with geomembranes, to create a smooth transition into a ditch. Erosion control and bank stabilization, in particular, tend to require multiple types of geosynthetics at the same time. Pond and containment area liners may require a geotextile underlayment to cushion the puncturing effects of uneven ground and sharp buried rocks. Geogrids can be installed under geomembranes and other liners to keep loose soil from shifting and settling unexpectedly as well

Pair with the Right Fill and Cover

Geomembranes and geotextiles perform better, and last longer, when properly covered and hidden from the sun. The constant exposure to UV rays from the sun, when these materials are installed on the surface of the soil, accelerates the breakdown of the polymers. Most liners and stabilizers are designed for covered installation. If you need to install one of these materials in an exposed setting, make sure it’s designed to withstand the UV rays. BTL Liner’s ArmorPro is a good option for long-term, exposed installation that can be relied upon for decades. If cover is needed, soil, sand, gravel, rock dust, and even metal slag can serve as a reliable material for protecting geosynthetics from the sun and other weathering effects.

Read Research Related to Your Usage

Not sure if you’re doing the right thing by using a particular material in an unusual setting? There’s likely at least one applicable piece of research available about the durability, chemical resistance, or longevity of a geosynthetic in a similar project. You may have to combine the results of multiple research projects to find the right solution, but it can lead your engineering team in the right direction to get answers. Complementing the current body of research on geosynthetics, with new tests tailored to your particular purpose, will give you all the data you need to make a unique design. Finding new uses for geosynthetics and geomembranes is a great way to reduce construction or repair costs while increasing the reliability of the finished structure or earthwork.

Choose a Manufacturer

Now that you’ve chosen the right type and material for your geosynthetic, you still need to find a manufacturer you can trust for each product.  BTL Liners is your source for high-quality geosynthetics. Whether you want to line a pond, stabilize soil or bury an impermeable barrier to prevent contamination, our industry leading products will always perform. Since every project is different, BTL offers all sizing to fit your project, allowing for easy installation and increased reliability. 

Liners by BTL

AquaArmor Pond Liner

The most versatile liner on the market today, AquaArmor maximizes protection from harmful UV rays, tear resistance and punctures that cause leaks. Simply the best liner on the market.

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