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Sand cone test is normally carried out to determine the in-situ and compacted
density of soils.
Importance of not losing any soil from the excavated pit during the sand
replacing method
Sand cone test actually is used to measure the volume of excavated soil. The
density of the testing soil is determined by dividing weight excavated soil by volume
of excavated soil which was obtained by Sand cone test. Therefore loss of soil will
alter the results.
Importance of using specially graded sand for the sand cone method
Since density of sand is using for calculation it is important to have a constant
density throughout sand. Uniform distribution of gain sizes results constant density
thought the sand. If sand containing different densities was used for the test it
would give a different volume of excavated pit than actual volume. Moreover sand
consisting of clean, dry, free flowing particles, not degrade under repeated use.
Therefore specially graded sand is used for the sand cone method. Beach sand
containing deliquescent salts or sand having any hygroscopic properties are not
acceptable because those results tolerances in weight. Ottawa sand (passing the
20-mesh and retained on the 50-mesh sieve) is commonly used for the test.
Errors that can happen during this experiment
There might have been losses of sand during calibration of apparatus (when
measuring the weight of sand collected to the cone and then pouring).Losses result
different density of sand than actual therefore errors in the result.
Parallax error might have occurred in measuring the diameter of calibration
container. There might me an expansion of ruler due temperature increase in
environment than specified by manufacture. There also a possibility of human errors
.Those might have collected error in determination of density of sand.
There might have been equipment errors in balance due to temperature increase,
long term use. Which also accumulates errors and affect final result.
This testing method is not suitable for granular soils with high void ratio because
they contain large voids and openings which provide an access for sand to enter
these holes during the test which gives more weight than actual weight of soil
sample. Moreover, soils under testing should have sufficient cohesion so as to
maintain the stability of the sides of excavation during the excavation step in sand
cone (replacement) test. In addition, organic or highly plastic soils are also
considered not suitable for this test because they tend to deform readily during the
excavation of holes and they may be too soft to resist the stress arising from
excavation and from placing the apparatus on the soils.

Any soils that can be excavated with hand tools is suitable provided that the void or
pore openings in the soil mass are small enough to prevent the calibrated sand used
in the test from getting into the natural voids. Moreover, the soils being tested
should have sufficient cohesion or particle interlocking to maintain side stability
during excavation of the test pit. Furthermore, it should also be firm enough not to
deform or slough due to the pressures exerted in digging the hole and pouring the
Application of sand cone method in the field of construction industry
Sand cone method is used to determine the density and water content of
compacted soils placed during the construction of earth embankments, road fill, and
structural backfill. It often is used as a basis of acceptance for soils compacted to a
specified density or percentage of a maximum density determined by a test
method, such as soil compaction test.
The sand cone method consider as an easy, simple and inexpensive
method of determining the field unit weight.
In summary errors that would occurred in the experiment can be listed
Losses of sand
human errors
error in balancing