Grading of Aggregates: Their Significance, Types and Analysis

Aggregates are of critical importance in the construction industry because of their function in making buildings strong, stable, and long-lasting. Grading is an important feature of the many that affect the performance of aggregates. Aggregates can be graded according to their particle size distribution. This method guarantees that aggregates used in building projects have a uniform particle size distribution.

This article will go deeply into the topic of aggregate grading, discussing its importance, many types, grading limitations for coarse and fine aggregates, sieve analysis, grading curve, and fineness modulus. You will walk away from this article with an in-depth knowledge of how aggregate grading affects building and highway projects and why it is crucial to guarantee the appropriate particle size distribution.

1. What is Grading of Aggregate?

Aggregate grading is a time-consuming procedure that involves sorting particles depending on their size distribution. Aggregates, which comprise crushed stone, gravel, sand, and slag, make up the majority of concrete and asphalt used in construction. Engineers and construction professionals guarantee that the finished mix has ideal qualities by grading these materials.

The grading process ensures that the coarse and fine particle combinations are acceptable, resulting in a dense and well-compacted mixture. It is critical to obtain the proper particle size balance to guarantee that the construction material functions as intended.

What is Grading of Aggregate?
What is Grading of Aggregate?

2. Different Types of Grading of Aggregates

2.1. Gap-Graded

Gap-graded aggregates have a wide range of particle sizes with visible gaps between them and so, this grading is appropriate for specific construction uses, such as asphalt concrete. The presence of gaps allows for better particle interlocking, which improves the material’s stability.

Gap-graded aggregates
Gap-graded aggregates Photo by Jing

Gap-graded aggregates are very beneficial in pavements and roadways for preventing rutting and enabling proper drainage. Furthermore, the gaps in the particle size distribution produce empty areas, allowing for improved asphalt binder accommodation.

2.2. Well-Graded

Well-graded aggregates, also known as continuously graded aggregates, contain a balanced distribution of particle sizes, including all or most of the required sizes. This type of grading is preferred in general construction projects, as it results in a mix that is dense and well-compacted. Well-graded aggregates significantly contribute to the workability, strength, and durability of the construction material. The interlocking of particles creates a strong and cohesive structure, capable of withstanding heavy loads and environmental stresses.

Well-graded aggregates
Well-graded aggregates Photo by anaterate

In contrast to gap-graded aggregates, well-graded aggregates offer a mix of different particle sizes. This well-balanced distribution ensures that the void spaces between the particles are adequately filled with smaller particles. As a result, the mix exhibits enhanced workability and strength, making it ideal for various construction applications.

2.3. Uniformly Graded

Uniformly graded aggregates consist of particles that are predominantly of one size, with minimal variation. This type of grading is used in applications where a consistent mix is required, such as in precast concrete products. The uniformity simplifies the production process and ensures consistency in the final product. However, it is essential to be cautious with the use of uniformly graded aggregates, as they may lead to increased void content and reduced workability if not combined with other particle sizes in certain applications.

Uniformly graded aggregates
Uniformly graded aggregates – 10mm-aggregate

While uniformly graded aggregates offer consistency, engineers must consider the potential drawbacks. The lack of varied particle sizes can result in decreased workability and increased cement demand in certain applications.

3. Significance of Grading of Aggregates

The significance of grading of aggregates cannot be overstated, as it directly impacts the performance and quality of construction materials. Several key reasons highlight the importance of this process:

3.1. Workability

Workability refers to the ease with which construction material can be mixed, placed, and compacted. Properly graded aggregates enhance the workability of concrete and other construction mixes. The right distribution of particle sizes allows for easy placement and compaction, reducing the need for excessive water to achieve the desired flow.

Excess water in the mix can lead to weaker concrete with higher porosity, compromising the integrity of the structure. Consequently, construction materials with inadequate workability may face issues like segregation and bleeding, affecting the overall performance of the material.

3.2. Strength and Durability

The grading of aggregates significantly influences the strength and durability of the construction material. A well-graded mix ensures better interlocking between particles, resulting in improved strength and resistance to external stresses. Moreover, the presence of various particle sizes helps in filling voids, reducing the potential for crack formation and enhancing the material’s durability over time. The strength and durability of construction materials are vital for the longevity and safety of the structure.

3.3. Economical Mix Design

Achieving an economical mix design is vital in construction projects, as it directly impacts the overall cost and resource consumption. Proper grading of aggregates allows engineers to optimize the mix, reducing the amount of cement and other binders required while maintaining the desired properties. This reduces material costs as well as contributes to sustainable construction practices. Economical mix design involves finding the right balance between different particle sizes to achieve the desired properties without excessive use of cement or other binders.

4. Grading Limit for Coarse-Grained and Fine-Grained Aggregates

4.1. Coarse-Grained Aggregates

The use of single-sized aggregates in concrete results in more voids, but it provides excellent resistance against sudden impact. On the other hand, graded aggregates contain different particle sizes of coarse aggregate, reducing the voids in concrete and enhancing the bond between the aggregates and cement paste. The following are the IS sieve designations and the corresponding percentages passing for single-sized aggregates of nominal sizes:

Table 1: Grading Limit for Coarse Aggregates (Based on Clause 4.1 and 4.2 of IS: 383- 1970)

IS Sieve DesignationPercentage passing for single-sized aggregates of nominal size(mm)Percentage passing for single sized aggregates of nominal size(mm)
63 mm40 mm20 mm16 mm12.5 mm10 mm40 mm20 mm16 mm12.5 mm
80 mm100100 
63 mm85 – 100100 
40 mm0 – 3085 – 10010095 -100100  
20 mm0 – 50 – 2085 – 10010030 – 7095 – 100100 
16 mm85 – 10010090 – 100 
12.5 mm85 – 100100 
10 mm0 – 50 – 50 – 200 – 300 – 4585 – 10010 – 3525 – 5530 – 70 
4.75 mm0 – 50 – 50 – 100 – 200 – 50 – 100 – 10 
2.36 mm0 – 5 

4.2. Fine-Grained Aggregates

The grading of fine aggregates is also specified as per the IS code standards. The percentages passing for different sieve designations in different grading zones are as follows:

Table 2: Grading Limits for Fine Aggregates

IS Sieve DesignationPercentage Passing
Grading Zone IGrading Zone IIGrading Zone IIIGrading Zone IV
10 mm100100100100
4.75 mm90 – 10090 – 10090 – 10095 – 100
2.36 mm60 – 9575 – 10085 – 10095 – 100
1.18 mm30 – 7055 – 9075 – 10090 – 100
600 microns15 – 3435 – 5960 – 7980 – 100
300 microns5 – 208 – 3012 – 4015 – 50
150 microns0 – 100 – 100 – 100 – 15

5. Sieve Analysis in Grading of Aggregates

Sieve analysis is a standard laboratory procedure used to determine the particle size distribution of aggregates. This method involves passing the aggregates through a series of sieves with progressively smaller openings. The amount of aggregate retained on each sieve is measured, and a grading curve is plotted to represent the results visually.

Sieve Analysis for grading of aggregates
Sieve Analysis for grading of aggregates

The sieve analysis provides valuable insights into the distribution of particle sizes in the aggregates and aids in determining the type of grading. Therefore, sieve analysis provides crucial information about the particle size distribution, allowing engineers to make informed decisions about the grading of aggregates. In addition, it helps in determining the type of grading, whether gap graded, well-graded, or uniformly graded.

6. Grading Curve of Aggregates

The grading curve, obtained through sieve analysis, showcases the distribution of particle sizes in the aggregates. The horizontal axis represents the sieve sizes, ranging from the largest openings to the smallest. The vertical axis represents the percentage of aggregate passing through each sieve.

By connecting the points on the graph, a curve is formed, which helps classify the grading as gap-graded, well-graded, or uniformly graded furthermore, grading curves visually represent the distribution of particle sizes in the aggregates, providing engineers with a clear understanding of the particle size distribution. Moreover, they assist in classifying the grading of aggregates, aiding in the selection of the appropriate type for specific construction purposes.

Aggregate Grading Curve
Image of Gradation curve for aggregates (Source –

7. Fineness Modulus in Grading of Aggregates

The fineness modulus is a numerical value derived from the results of the sieve analysis. It serves as a measure of the overall fineness or coarseness of the aggregates. The fineness modulus is calculated by adding the cumulative percentages of aggregate retained on each sieve and dividing the sum by 100. A lower fineness modulus indicates finer aggregates, while a higher value suggests coarser particles.

Engineers use the fineness modulus to assess the suitability of aggregates for various construction applications. Likewise, the fineness modulus provides a numerical value that quantifies the fineness or coarseness of the aggregates, aiding engineers in comparing different aggregates and selecting those suitable for specific construction purposes. Similarly, it serves as a useful tool in determining the suitability of aggregates for achieving the desired properties in various construction mixes.


In conclusion, the grading of aggregates is a crucial factor in the design and performance of construction materials. Whether it’s for concrete, asphalt, or other building applications, ensuring the right particle size distribution is vital for achieving the desired workability, strength, and durability. By understanding the different types of grading, sieve analysis, grading curves, and fineness modulus, engineers and construction professionals can make informed decisions to create robust and long-lasting buildings.

What are the different types of grading of aggregates?

There are three main types of grading: gap-graded, well-graded, and uniformly graded aggregates. Gap-graded aggregates have noticeable gaps between particle sizes, well-graded aggregates have a balanced distribution, and uniformly graded aggregates consist of particles predominantly of one size.

How does grading influence the workability of construction materials?

Properly graded aggregates improve workability by allowing easy placement and compaction, reducing the need for excessive water, which could weaken the final material.

What does the grading curve represent?

The grading curve represents the distribution of particle sizes in the aggregates, enabling engineers to assess the type of grading and make informed decisions about the mix design.

What is the significance of the fineness modulus?

The fineness modulus quantifies the fineness or coarseness of aggregates. It assists in comparing different aggregates and evaluating their suitability for various construction applications.