Cement-Modified Soil (CMS)

A cement-modified soil (CMS) is a soil material that has been treated with a relatively small proportion of portland cement – less cement than is required to produce hardened soil-cement. The objective of the treatment is to amend undesirable properties of problem soils or substandard materials so that they are suitable for use in construction.

A good foundation is important for any structure, especially pavements. The pavement base provides the thickness and stiffness necessary to carry heavy traffic loadings. View or download a CMS fact sheet.

Cement-treated bases have provided economical, long-lasting pavement foundations for over 70 years. These pavements combine soil and/or aggregate with cement and water, which are then compacted to high density.

The advantages of stabilization are many:

  • Cement stabilization increases the stiffness and strength of the base material. A stiffer base reduces deflections due to traffic loads, which results in lower strains in the asphalt surface. This delays the onset of surface distress, such as fatigue cracking, and extends pavement life.

  • The strong uniform support provided by cement stabilization results in reduced stresses applied to the subgrade. A thinner cement-stabilized section can reduce subgrade stresses more than a thicker layer of untreated aggregate base. Subgrade failures, potholes, and road roughness are thus reduced.

  • Moisture intrusion is the nemesis pavement bases. Cement-stabilized pavements form a moisture-resistant base that keeps water out and maintains higher levels of strength, even when saturated.

  • A cement-stabilized base also reduces the potential for pumping of subgrade fines.

With the small quantities of cement generally used, CMS becomes caked or slightly hardened. However, it still functions essentially as a soil, although an improved one. The degree of improvement depends on the quantity of cement used and the type of soil. Therefore, by the addition of varying amounts of cement, it is possible to produce cement-modified soils with a wide range of engineering properties.

The improvement in engineering properties of a soil due to the addition of small quantities of cement can be measured in several ways including:

  • Reduction in plasticity characteristics as measured by Plasticity Index (PI)

  • Reduction in the amount of silt and clay size particles

  • Increase in the California Bearing Ratio (CBR)

  • Increase in shearing strength

  • Decrease in volume-change properties

Cement-modified soils are usually classified into two groups according to the predominant grain size as follows:

  • Cement-modified silt-clay soils are soils that contain more than 35 percent silt and clay (defined as material passing a No. 200 (75 µm) sieve in accordance with ASTM D4318). The general objective is to improve soils that are otherwise unsuitable for use in subgrades or subbase layers. Specific objectives may be to decrease plasticity and volume change characteristics, to increase the bearing strength, or to provide a stable working platform on which pavement layers may be constructed.
  • Cement-modified granular soils are soils that contain less than 35 percent silt and clay (defined as material passing a No. 200 (75 µm) sieve in accordance with ASTM D4318). The usual objective is to alter substandard materials so that they will meet requirements specified for pavement base or subbase layers.