Dispersive soils are prevalent in many areas of South Africa, and the presence of these
soils has always posed a problem on road construction sites. The use of dispersive soils in
roadway embankments and structures can lead to serious engineering problems if the soils
are not accurately identified before use and appropriate mitigation measures taken. The
current identification methods include the pinhole, double hydrometer, crumb and chemical
tests, which are commonly used in combination to obtain the most reliable outcome.
These laboratory tests, however, have not always been entirely consistent, whether used
in combination or individually, and it is possible that the reason lies in the actual testing
procedures. This paper discusses the observations made during a detailed investigation into
the current methods used for testing and identification of dispersive soils. The test methods
were thoroughly analysed and shortcomings identified. The differences resulting from different
test techniques are examined and solutions to overcome the problems proposed. The paper
concentrates mainly on the modification of the physical tests. The recommended solutions and
process of identification are also proposed.