Standard Active Last Updated: Dec 27, 2016 Track Document
ASTM D4254-16

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

Standard Test Methods for Minimum Index Density and Unit Weight of Soils and Calculation of Relative Density D4254-16 ASTM|D4254-16|en-US Standard Test Methods for Minimum Index Density and Unit Weight of Soils and Calculation of Relative Density Standard new BOS Vol. 04.08 Committee D18
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Significance and Use

5.1 The density/unit weight of a cohesionless soil may be determined by various in-place methods in the field or by the measurement of physical dimensions and masses by laboratory soil specimens. The dry density/unit weight of a cohesionless soil does not necessarily, by itself, reveal whether the soil is loose or dense.

5.2 Relative density/unit weight expresses the degree of compactness of a cohesionless soil with respect to the loosest and densest condition as defined by standard laboratory procedures. Only when viewed against the possible range of variation, in terms of relative density/unit weight, can the dry density/unit weight be related to the compaction effort used to place the soil in a compacted fill or indicate volume change and stress-strain tendencies of soil when subjected to external loading.

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

Note 1: In addition, there are published data to indicate that these test methods have a high degree of variability.4 However, the variability can be greatly reduced by careful calibration of equipment, and careful attention to proper test procedure and technique.

5.4 The use of the standard molds (6.2.1) has been found to be satisfactory for most soils requiring minimum index density/unit weight testing. Special molds (6.2.2) 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 minimum index densities/unit weights obtained with the special molds may not agree with those that would be obtained using the standard molds.

Note 2: 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 assure reliable results. Reliable results depend on many factors; Practice D3740 provides a means of evaluating some of those factors.


1.1 These test methods cover the determination of the minimum-index dry density/unit weight of cohesionless, free-draining soils. The adjective “dry” before density or unit weight is omitted in the title and remaining portions of this standards to be be consistent with the applicable definitions given in Section 3 on Terminology.

1.2 System 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 test method 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 Three alternative methods are provided to determine the minimum index density/unit weight, as follows:

1.3.1 Method A—Using a funnel pouring device or a hand scoop to place material in mold.

1.3.2 Method B—Depositing material into a mold by extracting a soil filled tube.

1.3.3 Method C 2—Depositing material by inverting a graduated cylinder.

1.4 The method to be used should be specified by the agency requesting the test. If no method is specified, the provisions of Method A shall govern. Test Method A is the preferred procedure for determining minimum index density/unit weight as used in conjunction with the procedures of Test Methods D4253. Methods B and C are provided for guidance of testing used in conjunction with special studies, especially where there is not enough material available to use a 0.100 ft3 (2830 cm3) or 0.500 ft3 (14 200 cm3) mold as required by Method A.

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).

1.5.1 Method A is applicable to soils in which 100 %, by dry mass, of soil particles pass a 3-in. (75-mm) sieve and which may contain up to 30 %, by dry mass, of soil particles retained on a 11/2-inch (37.5-mm) sieve.

1.5.2 Method B is applicable to soils in which 100 %, by dry mass, of soil particles pass a 3/4-inch (19.0-mm) sieve.

1.5.3 Method C is applicable only to fine and medium sands in which 100 %, by dry mass, of soil particles pass a 3/8-in. (9.5-mm) sieve and which may contain up to 10 %, by dry mass, of soil particles retained on a No. 10 (2.00-mm) sieve.

1.5.4 Soils, for the purposes 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 All observed and calculated values shall conform to the guidelines for significant digits and rounding established in Practice D6026.

1.6.1 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.

1.6.2 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.

1.7 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.

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Book of Standards Volume: 04.08
Developed by Subcommittee: D18.03
Pages: 9
DOI: 10.1520/D4254-16
ICS Code: 93.020