Flowable Fill for Backfilling Trenches: What is it All About?

September 19, 2019

Of some interest to civil engineering consultants, flowable backfills have been in use for years now as void filling substances. The cementitious materials cram old tunnels and mines full of free-flowing aggregates, thus averting ground subsidence issues, cave-ins, and shaft falls. A self-compacting aggregate filler by design, it was only a matter of time before trenching services discovered this amazing backfilling substitute. This remarkable stuff even possesses a self-leveling feature.

Packed With Consistency-Derived Features

That's the best thing about a flowable backfill, the fact that the aggregate flows like water but settles into a densely packed bulking agent. The material mix is rich in ash and cement and other fine aggregates, plus a small amount of water. The fluid binds the powdery mix in place so that it'll compact itself. That means there's no need for compaction service, which would normally be carried out by an excavator. It's the same with a team of tamping workers. Carrying their shovels, these labourers need to climb into a trench to pack the backfill. Well, with a flowable fill pouring out of a mixing vehicles' half-pipe aggregate dispensing mechanism, there's no need for that team of workers; the fine grain filler can compact itself, after all.

Flowable Backfillers: All About the Benefits

Here's an aggregate mix that has an adaptable formula. The cementitious (cement-like) formula can be adapted to fill those massive spaces mentioned earlier. Disused underground fuel tanks are filled with this material. For trenching applications, the "liquid soil" mix changes slightly so that it compacts readily and self-levels. Think how handy those attributes become when a narrow, hard to reach pipe run needs backfilling. There's no room for a bunch of labourers and their shovels, and there's certainly no way an excavator can get in there, but a long mixer pipe, hinged in the middle, can direct a stream of flowable backfill into the narrow ground channel. With additional elements added, this filler can even exhibit hydrophobic attributes, which means it'll displace water.

That last feature shouldn't be downplayed. Imagine a trench after a heavy rain shower has just passed. It's full of water, so there's no way to get any more work done until a pump gets dragged onsite. With a flowable fill taking the place of a regular truckload of backfilled soil and gravel, the cementitious substance displaces the water and takes its place. It doesn't turn into an unmanageable trench-full of mud neither. To the contrary, the all-weather construction material carries right on fulfilling its intended purpose. Intended to reduce equipment and manpower requirements, to provide hard-to-access trenches with a self-compacting facility, these liquid soil substitutes are in high-demand.

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