Pipe Flotation

May 5th, 2015
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The light weight of HDPE pipe makes it desirable because of the ease of handling and installation but this same benefit also makes HDPE pipe prone to flotation. All pipe products, such as concrete and corrugated metal, are prone to flotation under the right circumstances.

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Pipe FlotationTECHNICAL NOTEPipe FlotationTN 5.05February 2007IntroductionThe light weight of HDPE pipe makes it desirable because of the ease of handling and installation but this same benefit also makes HDPE pipe prone to flotation. All pipe products, such as concrete and corrugated metal, are prone to flotation under the right circumstances. In fact, all pipe materials and other buried structures are subject to flotation. When the uplift on the pipe or structure exceeds the downward force of the weight and load it carries, the pipe (or structure) will rise or heave. Where flotation is a possibility, proper installation and/or anchoring of the pipe is critical. This document provides an analysis on minimum cover heights required to prevent pipe flotation for HDPE pipe sizes 12-60. Buoyant forces due to Controlled low strength material (CLSM) will also be discussed.Hydrostatic Uplift Due to a High Water TableBuoyancy becomes an issue in buried pipe when the groundwater encroaches into the pipe zone. For projects where a high groundwater table or water surrounding the pipe is expected, precautions should be taken to prevent the floatation of HDPE pipe. Under the right conditions and when increased cover heights are possible, providing a minimum amount of cover will help prevent flotation. The vertical hydrostatic uplift force, U, due to the water table can easily be calculated from Equation 1 below: 2 U = D w (1) 4 where U = lb/linear ft of pipe D = O

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