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ASTM D1556/D1556M-15

ASTM D1556/D1556M-15

Standard Test Method for Density and Unit Weight of Soil in Place by Sand-Cone Method

2016-01-25 /Historical
Superseeded by:
Significance and Use:

5.1 This test method is used to determine the density and water content of compacted soils placed during the construction of earth embankments, road fill, and structural backfill. It often is used as a basis of acceptance for soils compacted to a specified density or percentage of a maximum density determined by a test method, such as Test Methods D698 or D1557.

5.1.1 Test Methods D698 and D1557 require that mass measurements of laboratory compacted test specimens be determined to the nearest 1 g, so that computed water contents and densities can be reported to three and four significant digits, respectively. This standard is a field procedure requiring mass measurements to the nearest 0.01 lbm [5 g]. As such, water content calculations should only be reported to nearest 1 % and density to three significant digits.

5.2 This test method can be used to determine the in-place density of natural soil deposits, aggregates, soil mixtures, or other similar material.

5.3 The use of this test method is generally limited to soil in an unsaturated condition. This test method is not recommended for soils that are soft or friable (crumble easily) or in moisture conditions such that water seeps into the hand excavated hole. The precision of the test may be affected for soils that deform easily or that may undergo a volume change in the excavated hole from vibration, or from standing or walking near the hole during the test (see Note 1).

Note 1: When testing in soft conditions or in soils near saturation, volume changes may occur in the excavated hole as a result of surface loading, personnel performing the test, and the like. This can sometimes be avoided by the use of a platform that is supported some distance from the hole. As it is not always possible to detect when a volume change has taken place, test results should always be compared to the theoretical saturation density, or the zero air voids line on the dry density versus water content plot. Any in-place density test on compacted soils that calculates to be more than 95 % saturation is suspect and an error has probably occurred, or the volume of the hole has changed during testing.

Note 2: The quality of the test result producted by this test method is dependent on the competence of the personnel performing it, and the suitability of the equipment and facilities used. Agencies that meet the criteria of Practice D3740 are generally considered capable of competent and objective testing/sampling/inspection, and the like. Users of this test method are cautioned that compliance with Practice D3740 does not in itself ensure reliable results. Reliable results depend on many factors; Practice D3740 provides a means of evaluating some of those factors.


1.1 This test method may be used to determine the in-place density and unit weight of soils using a sand cone apparatus.

1.2 This test method is applicable for soils without appreciable amounts of rock or coarse materials in excess of 11/2 in. [38 mm] in diameter.

1.3 This test method may also be used for the determination of the in-place density and unit weight of intact or in situ soils, provided the natural void or pore openings in the soil are small enough to prevent the sand used in the test from entering the voids. The soil or other material being tested should have sufficient cohesion or particle attraction to maintain stable sides on a small hole or excavation, and be firm enough to withstand the minor pressures exerted in digging the hole and placing the apparatus over it, without deforming or sloughing.

1.4 This test method is not suitable for organic, saturated, or highly plastic soils that would deform or compress during the excavation of the test hole. This test method may not be suitable for soils consisting of unbound granular materials that will not maintain stable sides in the test hole, soils containing appreciable amounts of coarse material larger than 11/2 in. [38 mm], and granular soils having high void ratios.

1.5 When materials to be tested contain appreciable amounts of particles larger than 11/2 in. [38 mm], or when test hole volumes larger than 0.1 ft3 [2830 cm3] are required, Test Method D4914 or D5030/D5030M is applicable.

1.6 Units—The values stated in either inch-pound units or SI units [presented in brackets] are to be regarded separately as standard. The values stated in each system may not be exact equivalents; therefore each system shall be used independently of the other. Combining values from the two systems may result in non-conformance with the standard.

1.6.1 The gravitational system of inch-pound units is used when dealing with inch-pound units. In this system, the pound (lbf) represents a unit of force (weight).

1.6.2 It is common practice in the engineering profession to concurrently use units representing both mass and force unless dynamic calculations (F = Ma) are involved. This implicitly combines two separate systems within a single standard. These test methods have been written using inch-pound units (gravitational system); however, conversions are given in the SI system. The use of balances or scales recording pounds of mass (lbm), or the recording of density in lbm/ft3 should not be regarded as nonconformance with this standard.

1.6.3 The sieve designations are identified using the “standard” system in accordance with Specification E11, such as 25 mm and 75 μm, followed by the “alternative” system of 1 in. and No. 200, respectively.

1.7 All observed and calculated values shall conform to the guidelines for significant digits and rounding established in Practice D6026.

1.7.1 For purposes of comparing, a measured or calculated value(s) with specified limits, the measured or calculated value(s) shall be rounded to the nearest decimal or significant digits in the specified limits.

1.7.2 The procedures used to specify how data are collected/recorded or calculated in this standard are regarded as the industry standard. In addition, they are representative of the significant digits that generally should be retained. The procedures used do not consider material variation, purpose for obtaining the data, special purpose studies, or any considerations for the user’s objectives; and it is common practice to increase or reduce significant digits or reported data to be commensurate with these considerations. It is beyond the scope of this standard to consider significant digits used in analytical methods for engineering design.

1.8 This standard does not purport to address all of the safety concerns, if any, associated with its use. It is the responsibility of the user of this standard to establish appropriate safety and health practices and determine the applicability of regulatory limitations prior to use.

acceptance tests; compaction tests; degree of compaction; density tests; earthfill; embankments; field control density; field tests; in-place density; in-place dry density; <emph type="ital">in situ</emph> density; relative density; sand cone; soil compaction; soil tests; unit weight;
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