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To determine the particle size distribution of a soil sample

1. A series of nested B.S test sieves 19mm, 9.5mm, 4.75mm, 2.36mm, 1.18mm, 0.6m, 0.3mm, 0.15mm, 0.075mm
2. Balance , one of approximate capacity 3kg accurate to 1g and another of approximate capacity 1500g accurate to
3. A pan approximately 300mm diameter and 75mm deep
4. Drying apparatus
5. Brush
6. Dish

6. Dish

1. B.S Sieves

5. Brush
2. Balance

1. Tap Water
2. Soil

Dry the prepared sample to constant mass at a temperature of 105 oC to 110 oC.


1. A sample of 500g of dried soil was measured and placed into a pan.
2. The soil sample was emptied into the dish.
3. Clean tap water was added to the soil sample until soil immersed and covered completely in water.
4. The soil sample was washed using the palms of our hands.
5. The wash water was decanted over a 0.75 mm BS sieve.
6. The bottom of the sieve was gently patted to remove blockages.
7. Clean tap water was used to wash the retained material on sieve back into the dish.
8. More clean water was added to the soil sample in the dish.
9. The process of washing and decanting was repeated until the water was clear.
10. The washed soil sample was dried in an oven at a temperature between 105 oC - 110 oC.
11. The mass of the dried sample was then weighed using a balance and recorded in table A as mass
of dry sample.
12. Record the mass difference between mass of wet sample and mass of dry sample.

1. The dry sample was added to the series of sieves arranged in descending order of size.
2. The sieve on top was closed with a lid and a receiving pan at the bottom of all sieves.
3. The series of sieves were listed on the apparatus to be used.
4. Care was taken to avoid overloading the sieves.
5. The nested sieves were shaken gently using both hands for about two minutes.
6. Shaking was done with lateral movement and vertical motion accompanied by a jarring action.
7. This was done until all the finer particles of a particular sieve had passed that sieve.
8. The 4.75mm sieve on top was removed and the contents were poured into a pan.
9. The contents that remained on the sieve were brushed into the pan.
10. The back of the sieve was tapped gently at the back with the brush until no particles of the soil
sample were left on the sieve.
11. The material was returned back into the 2.36mm sieve.
12. The contents of the sieve were measured and the masses recorded in table A.
13. The above procedure was repeated for each of the remaining sieves.


Mass of dried sample before washing /g 500

Mass of dried sample after washing /g 178.09
Mass of washed material though 0.075mm sieve /g 321.91

19 0 0.00 100.00 0
9.5 8.64 1.73 98.27 0.67
4.75 4.79 0.96 97.31 2.69
2.36 13.73 2.75 94.56 5.44
1.18 28.72 5.74 88.82 11.18
0.6 32.14 6.43 82.39 17.61
0.3 26.53 5.31 77.08 22.92
0.15 25.86 5.17 71.91 28.09
0.075 25.21 5.04 66.87 33.13
-0.075D (dry) 2.17 0.43 66.44 33.56
-0.075W(wet) 332.21 66.44 0.00 100
-0.075T (total) 334.38 66.88
TOTAL 500 100.00 255.29

Fineness index = 100

= 255.29 /100
= 2.5529
= 2.55
The sum of the masses retained in each sieve and that collected in the pan below the sieves should
be equal to the mass of the washed and dried sample. However due to some errors which may arise
from spillage, sieves and the balance a deviation between 0.1g to 0.3g is acceptable. The deviation
can be distributed according the potential source of error. If the variation is >0.3g, the experiment
should be repeated.
Sieve may break on initial contact with sample when it is added to the sieve depending on force it
hits the sieve with
Overloading the sieve with too much water may result in loss of soil sample.
Water spillage in the dish could result in loss of soil sample
Particle have a tendency of sticking on hands during washing hence it is advisable to rinse hands
inside dish after washing the soil

Error due to particles hanging on sieves.
Zero error when taking readings on the balance/scale.
Spilling of sample due to mishandling during shaking.
Using hanging particles from a previous experiment.

a) Only water should be added to the sieve during wet sieving.
b) Sieve should not be overloaded during wet sieving to avoid spillage and loss of soil particles.
c) Water should be added only to cover the soil in the dish to ensure complete washing with reduced
d) Brush off stuck particles using a brush to ensure recording of correct masses.
Range of Fineness modulus Type of soil
2.5 to 2.80 Medium sand

Since the fineness modulus calculated (2.55) falls within the range 2.5-2.80 the soil analyzed is
medium sand. The soil is also poorly graded as it does not show a variety of particle sizes as
evidenced by the plotted graph.
1. https://www.humboldtmfg.com/product-images/std/H-
2. http://www.pavementinteractive.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Pouring_sample.jpg
3. Engineer Shumba, Material Science and Engineering Soils notes, pg 50