ASTM D1556/D1556M-15

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


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    1. Scope

    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.


    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

    C136 Test Method for Sieve Analysis of Fine and Coarse Aggregates

    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))

    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

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

    D4253 Test Methods for Maximum Index Density and Unit Weight of Soils Using a Vibratory Table

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

    D4643 Test Method for Determination of Water (Moisture) Content of Soil by Microwave Oven Heating

    D4718 Practice for Correction of Unit Weight and Water Content for Soils Containing Oversize Particles

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

    D4914 Test Methods for Density and Unit Weight of Soil and Rock in Place by the Sand Replacement Method in a Test Pit

    D4944 Test Method for Field Determination of Water (Moisture) Content of Soil by the Calcium Carbide Gas Pressure Tester

    D4959 Test Method for Determination of Water Content of Soil By Direct Heating

    D5030/D5030M Test Methods for Density of Soil and Rock in Place by the Water Replacement Method in a Test Pit

    D6026 Practice for Using Significant Digits in Geotechnical Data

    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)


    Referencing This Standard
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    DOI: 10.1520/D1556_D1556M-15

    Citation Format

    ASTM D1556 / D1556M-15, Standard Test Method for Density and Unit Weight of Soil in Place by Sand-Cone Method, ASTM International, West Conshohocken, PA, 2015, www.astm.org

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