ASTM D4253 - 14

    Standard Test Methods for Maximum Index Density and Unit Weight of Soils Using a Vibratory Table

    Active Standard ASTM D4253 | Developed by Subcommittee: D18.03

    Book of Standards Volume: 04.08


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    Significance and Use

    5.1 For many cohesionless, free-draining soils, the maximum index density/unit weight is one of the key components in evaluating the state of compactness of a given soil mass that is either naturally occurring or placed during construction.

    5.1.1 Relative density and percent compaction are commonly used for evaluating the state of compactness of a given soil mass. Density/unit weight index is also sometimes used. See Section 3 for descriptions of terms.

    5.2 It is generally recognized that either relative density or percent compaction is a good indicator of the state of compactness of a given soil mass. However, the engineering properties, such as strength, compressibility, and permeability of a given soil, compacted by various methods to a given state of compactness can vary considerably. Therefore, considerable engineering judgment must be used in relating the engineering properties of soil to the state of compactness.

    5.3 An absolute maximum density/unit weight is not necessarily obtained by these test methods.

    Note 2: In addition, there are published data to indicate that these test methods have a high degree of variability.3 However, the variability can be greatly reduced by careful calibration of equipment, including the vibrating table, and careful attention to proper test procedure and technique.

    Note 3: The quality of the result produced by this standard 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, generally, are considered capable of competent and objective testing/sampling/inspection/etc. Users of this standard 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.

    5.4 The double amplitude of vertical vibration has been found to have a significant effect on the density obtained.3 For a particular vibrating table and mold assembly, the maximum index density/unit weight of a given material may be obtained at a double amplitude of vibration other than the double amplitude of 0.013 ± 0.002 in. (0.33 ± 0.05 mm) at a frequency of 60 Hz or 0.019 ± 0.003 in. (0.48 ± 0.08 mm) at 50 Hz required in this method; that is, dry density/unit weight may initially increase with increasing double amplitude of vibration, reach a peak, and then decrease with further increases in double amplitude of vibration. Furthermore, the relationship between the peak density/unit weight and optimum double amplitude of vibration (double amplitude of vibration where peak density/unit weight occurrs) can vary with various soil types and gradations.

    5.5 The use of the standard molds (6.1.1) has been found to be satisfactory for most soils requiring maximum index-density/unit weight testing. Special molds (6.1.2) shall only be used when the test results are to be applied in conjunction with design or special studies and there is not enough soil to use the standard molds. Such test results should be applied with caution as maximum index densities/unit weights obtained with the special molds may not agree with those that would be obtained using the standard molds.

    1. Scope

    1.1 These test methods cover the determination of the maximum-index dry density/unit weight of cohesionless, free-draining soils using a vertically vibrating table. The adjective “dry before density or unit weight is omitted in the title and remaining portions of this standard to be consistent with the applicable definition given in Section 3 on Terminology.

    1.2 Systems of Units: 

    1.2.1 The testing apparatus described in this standard has been developed and manufactured using values in the gravimetric or inch-pound system. Therefore, test apparatus dimensions and mass given in inch-pound units are regarded as the standard.

    1.2.2 It is common practice in the engineering profession to concurrently use pounds to represent both a unit of mass (lbm) and a unit of force (lbf). This implicitly combines two separate systems of units; that is, the absolute system and the gravitational system. It is scientifically undesirable to combine the use of two separate sets of inch-pound units within a single standard. This standard has been written using the gravitational system of units when dealing with the inch-pound system. In this system, the pound (lbf) represents a unit of force (weight). However, balances or scales measure mass; and weight must be calculated. In the inch-pound system, it is common to assume that 1 lbf is equal to 1 lbm. While reporting density is not regarded as nonconformance with this standard, unit weights should be calculated and reported since the results may be used to determine force or stress.

    1.2.3 The terms density and unit weight are often used interchangeably. Density is mass per unit volume whereas unit weight is force per unit volume. In this standard density is given only in SI units. After the density has been determined, the unit weight is calculated in SI or inch-pound units, or both.

    1.3 Four alternative methods are provided to determine the maximum index density/unit weight, as follows:

    1.3.1 Method 1A—Using oven-dried soil and an electromagnetic, vertically vibrating table.

    1.3.2 Method 1B—Using wet soil and an electromagnetic, vertically vibrating table.

    1.3.3 Method 2A—Using oven-dried soil and an eccentric or cam-driven, vertically vibrating table.

    1.3.4 Method 2B—Using wet soil and an eccentric or cam-driven vertically vibrating table.

    1.4 The method to be used should be specified by the individual assigning the test.

    1.4.1 The type of table to be used (Method 1 or 2) is likely to be decided based upon available equipment.

    Note 1: There is evidence to show that electromagnetic tables yield slightly higher values of maximum index density/unit weight than the eccentric or cam-driven tables.

    1.4.2 It is recommended that both the dry and wet methods (Methods 1A and 1B or 2A and 2B) be performed when beginning a new job or encountering a change in soil types, as the wet method can yield significantly higher values of maximum index density/unit weight for some soils. Such a higher maximum index density, when considered along with the minimum index density/unit weight, Test Methods D4254, will be found to significantly affect the value of the relative density (3.2.8) calculated for a soil encountered in the field. While the dry method is often preferred because results can usually be obtained more quickly, as a general rule the wet method should be used if it is established that it produces maximum index densities/unit weights that would significantly affect the use/application of the value of relative density.

    1.5 These test methods are applicable to soils that may contain up to 15 %, by dry mass, of soil particles passing a No. 200 (75-μm) sieve, provided they still have cohesionless, free-draining characteristics (nominal sieve dimensions are in accordance with Specification E11). Further, these test methods are applicable to soils in which 100 %, by dry mass, of soil particles pass a 3-in. (75-mm) sieve.

    1.5.1 Soils, for the purpose of these test methods, shall be regarded as naturally occurring cohesionless soils, processed particles, or composites or mixtures of natural soils, or mixtures of natural and processed particles, provided they are free draining.

    1.6 These test methods will typically produce a higher maximum dry density/unit weight for cohesionless, free-draining soils than that obtained by impact compaction in which a well-defined moisture-density relationship is not apparent. However, for some soils containing between 5 and 15 % fines, the use of impact compaction (Test Methods D698 or D1557) may be useful in evaluating what is an appropriate maximum index density/unit weight.

    1.7 These test methods will typically produce a lower maximum dry density/unit weight than that obtained by vibrating hammer using Test Method D7382.

    1.8 For many types of free-draining, cohesionless soils, these test methods cause a moderate amount of degradation (particle breakdown) of the soil. When degradation occurs, typically there is an increase in the maximum index density/unit weight obtained, and comparable test results may not be obtained when different size molds are used to test a given soil.

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

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

    1.9.2 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 of reported data to be commensurate with these considerations. It is beyond the scope of this standard to consider significant digits used in analysis methods for engineering design.

    1.10 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.


    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

    C127 Test Method for Density, Relative Density (Specific Gravity), and Absorption of Coarse Aggregate

    D422 Test Method for Particle-Size Analysis of Soils

    D653 Terminology Relating to Soil, Rock, and Contained Fluids

    D698 Test Methods for Laboratory Compaction Characteristics of Soil Using Standard Effort (12 400 ft-lbf/ft3 (600 kN-m/m3))

    D854 Test Methods for Specific Gravity of Soil Solids by Water Pycnometer

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

    D1557 Test Methods for Laboratory Compaction Characteristics of Soil Using Modified Effort (56,000 ft-lbf/ft3 (2,700 kN-m/m3))

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

    D2487 Practice for Classification of Soils for Engineering Purposes (Unified Soil Classification System)

    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

    D4254 Test Methods for Minimum Index Density and Unit Weight of Soils and Calculation of Relative Density

    D4753 Guide for Evaluating, Selecting, and Specifying Balances and Standard Masses for Use in Soil, Rock, and Construction Materials Testing

    D6026 Practice for Using Significant Digits in Geotechnical Data

    E11 Specification for Woven Wire Test Sieve Cloth and Test Sieves

    E177 Practice for Use of the Terms Precision and Bias in ASTM Test Methods

    E691 Practice for Conducting an Interlaboratory Study to Determine the Precision of a Test Method


    ICS Code

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

    UNSPSC Code

    UNSPSC Code 11111501(Soil)


    Referencing This Standard

    DOI: 10.1520/D4253-14

    ASTM International is a member of CrossRef.

    Citation Format

    ASTM D4253-14, Standard Test Methods for Maximum Index Density and Unit Weight of Soils Using a Vibratory Table, ASTM International, West Conshohocken, PA, 2014, www.astm.org

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