ASTM D2487 - 11

    Standard Practice for Classification of Soils for Engineering Purposes (Unified Soil Classification System)

    Active Standard ASTM D2487 | Developed by Subcommittee: D18.07

    Book of Standards Volume: 04.08


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    Significance and Use

    This standard classifies soils from any geographic location into categories representing the results of prescribed laboratory tests to determine the particle-size characteristics, the liquid limit, and the plasticity index.

    The assigning of a group name and symbol(s) along with the descriptive information required in Practice D2488 can be used to describe a soil to aid in the evaluation of its significant properties for engineering use.

    The various groupings of this classification system have been devised to correlate in a general way with the engineering behavior of soils. This standard provides a useful first step in any field or laboratory investigation for geotechnical engineering purposes.

    This standard may also be used as an aid in training personnel in the use of Practice D2488.

    This standard may be used in combination with Practice D4083 when working with frozen soils.

    Note 5—Notwithstanding the statements on precision and bias contained in this standard: The precision of 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. Users of this test method are cautioned that compliance with Practice D3740 does not in itself assure reliable testing. Reliable testing depends on several factors; Practice D3740 provides a means for evaluating some of those factors.

    1. Scope

    1.1 This practice describes a system for classifying mineral and organo-mineral soils for engineering purposes based on laboratory determination of particle-size characteristics, liquid limit, and plasticity index and shall be used when precise classification is required.

    Note 1—Use of this standard will result in a single classification group symbol and group name except when a soil contains 5 to 12 % fines or when the plot of the liquid limit and plasticity index values falls into the crosshatched area of the plasticity chart. In these two cases, a dual symbol is used, for example, GP-GM, CL-ML. When the laboratory test results indicate that the soil is close to another soil classification group, the borderline condition can be indicated with two symbols separated by a slash. The first symbol should be the one based on this standard, for example, CL/CH, GM/SM, SC/CL. Borderline symbols are particularly useful when the liquid limit value of clayey soils is close to 50. These soils can have expansive characteristics and the use of a borderline symbol (CL/CH, CH/CL) will alert the user of the assigned classifications of expansive potential.

    1.2 The group symbol portion of this system is based on laboratory tests performed on the portion of a soil sample passing the 3-in. (75-mm) sieve (see Specification E11).

    1.3 As a classification system, this standard is limited to naturally occurring soils.

    Note 2—The group names and symbols used in this test method may be used as a descriptive system applied to such materials as shale, claystone, shells, crushed rock, etc. See Appendix X2.

    1.4 This standard is for qualitative application only.

    Note 3—When quantitative information is required for detailed designs of important structures, this test method must be supplemented by laboratory tests or other quantitative data to determine performance characteristics under expected field conditions.

    1.5 This standard is the ASTM version of the Unified Soil Classification System. The basis for the classification scheme is the Airfield Classification System developed by A. Casagrande in the early 1940s. It became known as the Unified Soil Classification System when several U.S. Government Agencies adopted a modified version of the Airfield System in 1952.

    1.6 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.

    1.7 This practice offers a set of instructions for performing one or more specific operations. This document cannot replace education or experience and should be used in conjunction with professional judgment. Not all aspects of this practice may be applicable in all circumstances. This ASTM standard is not intended to represent or replace the standard of care by which the adequacy of a given professional service must be judged, nor should this document be applied without consideration of a project's many unique aspects. The word Standard in the title of this document means only that the document has been approved through the ASTM consensus process.


    2. Referenced Documents (purchase separately) The documents listed below are referenced within the subject standard but are not provided as part of the standard.

    ASTM Standards

    C117 Test Method for Materials Finer than 75-m (No. 200) Sieve in Mineral Aggregates by Washing

    C136 Test Method for Sieve Analysis of Fine and Coarse Aggregates

    C702 Practice for Reducing Samples of Aggregate to Testing Size

    D420 Guide to Site Characterization for Engineering Design and Construction Purposes

    D422 Test Method for Particle-Size Analysis of Soils

    D653 Terminology Relating to Soil, Rock, and Contained Fluids

    D1140 Test Methods for Amount of Material in Soils Finer than No. 200 (75-m) Sieve

    D2216 Test Methods for Laboratory Determination of Water (Moisture) Content of Soil and Rock by Mass

    D2488 Practice for Description and Identification of Soils (Visual-Manual Procedure)

    D3740 Practice for Minimum Requirements for Agencies Engaged in Testing and/or Inspection of Soil and Rock as Used in Engineering Design and Construction

    D4083 Practice for Description of Frozen Soils (Visual-Manual Procedure)

    D4318 Test Methods for Liquid Limit, Plastic Limit, and Plasticity Index of Soils

    D4427 Classification of Peat Samples by Laboratory Testing

    D6913 Test Methods for Particle-Size Distribution (Gradation) of Soils Using Sieve Analysis

    E11 Specification for Woven Wire Test Sieve Cloth and Test Sieves


    ICS Code

    ICS Number Code 93.020 (Earth works. Excavations. Foundation construction. Underground works)

    UNSPSC Code

    UNSPSC Code 11111501(Soil)


    DOI: 10.1520/D2487-11

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