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Determine Particle Size Distribution Of Soil

This test is done to determine the particle size distribution of soil as per IS: 2720 (Part 4) – 1985. The appratus required to do this test :-
i) A set of fine IS Sieves of sizes – 2mm, 600µm, 425µm, 212µm and 75µm
ii) A set of coarse IS Sieves of sizes – 20mm, 10mm and 4.75mm
iii) Weighing balance, with an accuracy of 0.1% of the weight of sample
iv) Oven
v) Mechanical shaker
vi) Mortar with rubber pestle
vii) Brushes
viii) Trays

i) Soil sample, as received from the field, should be dried in air or in the sun. In wet weather, the drying apparatus may be used in which case the temperature of the sample should not exceed 60oC. The clod may be broken with wooden mallet to hasten drying. Tree roots and pieces of bark should be removed from the sample.

ii) The big clods may be broken with the help of wooden mallet. Care should be taken not to break the individual soil particles.

iii) A representative soil sample of required quantity as given below is taken and dried in the oven at 105 to 120oC.


Procedure to determine Particle Size Distribution Of Soil
i) The dried sample is taken in a tray, soaked in water and mixed with either 2g of sodium hexametaphosphate or 1g of sodium hydroxide and 1g of sodium carbonate per litre of water, which is added as a dispersive agent. The soaking of soil is continued for 10 to 12hrs.

ii) The sample is washed through 4.75mm IS Sieve with water till substantially clean water comes out. Retained sample on 4.75mm IS Sieve should be oven-dried for 24hrs. This dried sample is sieved through 20mm and 10mm IS Sieves.

iii) The portion passing through 4.75mm IS Sieve should be oven-dried for 24hrs. This oven-dried material is riffled and about 200g taken.

iv) This sample of about 200g is washed through 75µm IS Sieve with half litre distilled water, till substantially clear water comes out.

v) The material retained on 75µm IS Sieve is collected and dried in oven at a temperature of 105 to 120oC for 24hrs. The dried soil sample is sieved through 2mm, 600µm, 425µm
and 212µm IS Sieves. Soil retained on each sieve is weighed.

vi) If the soil passing 75µm is 10% or more, hydrometer method is used to analyse soil particle size.


i) Particles passed through 75µm IS Sieve along with water are collected and put into a 1000ml jar for hydrometer analysis. More water, if required, is added to make the soil water suspension just 1000ml. The suspension in the jar is vigorously shaken horizontally by keeping the jar in-between the palms of the two hands. The jar is put on the table.

ii) A graduated hydrometer is carefully inserted into the suspension with minimum disturbance.

iii) At different time intervals, the density of the suspension at the centre of gravity of the hydrometer is noted by seeing the depth of sinking of the stem. The temperature of the suspension is noted for each recording of the hydrometer reading.

iv) Hydrometer readings are taken at a time interval of 0.5 minute, 1.0 minute, 2.0 minutes, 4.0 minutes, 15.0 minutes, 45.0 minutes, 90.0 minutes, 3hrs., 6hrs., 24hrs. and 48hrs.

v) By using the nomogram given in IS: 2720 (Part 4) – 1985, the diameter of the particles for different hydrometer readings is found out.

After completing mechanical analysis and hydrometer analysis, the results are plotted on a semi-log graph with particle size as abscissa (log scale) and the percentage smaller than the specified diameter as ordinate


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Kanwarjot Singh

Kanwarjot Singh is the founder of Civil Engineering Portal, a leading civil engineering website which has been awarded as the best online publication by CIDC. He did his BE civil from Thapar University, Patiala and has been working on this website with his team of Civil Engineers.

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21 comments on "Determine Particle Size Distribution Of Soil"

j.j.patel says:

it is very good site for me because i am lecturer.
please do include other aggregate test also.

Prakash Ch. Pant says:

This is a very good and important site for every Civil Engineer.
i feel lucky after finding this site.

thulani says:

why do we have to determine particle ditribution of soil?

Stewart Rotherham says:

Because the particle distribution is critical to the behaviour of the soil under loads and in contact with water. If we know the particle size distribution of a particular soil, we can make a very good prediction of how it will behave as a foundation for – or component of – our works (buildings, dams, roads etc.) As a result of knowing how the soil is likely to behave, we can design our works accordingly to give them durability and safety.

svsr mahesh says:

To know the percentage of sand, silt,morum which is useful for classification of soils

Sulymon, Nurain Adeyinka says:

As a student of civil engineering, I find this site to be very helpful

Idalia says:

I am Happy beause now I will not have to go back searching through all moy notes. I am a postgraduate student of Civil Engineering and I have found this site to be very useful. Thank You

Willem UK says:

how do link the fineness modulus to the soil distribution?

karsh says:

state uses for hydrometer test data?

milind says:

its a very good site.

arif says:

very good site……….want to learn more about the sieve analysis

gunda says:

why do we have to sieve a soil sample before soaking when performing wet sieve analysis

david achea says:

pls i need a full detailed sieve analyses with results, thank

pankaj says:

what is the purpose of using semi log graph in sieve analysis

Pratik Biswas says:


Sujoy roy says:

Can u please brief the Zone of Sand …
How to find the zone ???

Parveen sharma says:

Now i have the details of wet sieve analysis.this site is very good.

Fatima says:

Hi all,
I’ve carried out this experiement at uni but because I was absent for a few classes I’m feeling abit lost. What would be a good conclusion for this experiment?

Many thanks,

anil deep says:

there are no Passing Limits of soil on each sieves.Because its required as per formate of P.M.G.Y.S Project.

dharmendra choubisa says:

Who shows the shape of particle size distribution curve ?

A. Coefficient of uniformity
B. Coefficient of curvature

Agu Assumpta says:

Will the vigorous washing and oven drying of the sample affect the result of a soil sample that has a very finely smooth particles of clay?

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