Topsoil is an important component of most landscape projects and to maintain standards the British Standards Institute produced and published BS 3882. The first version of the standard was introduced in 1965 and was intended to provide a simple description and classification of topsoil for use in landscape work. Updated in 1994, BS 3882:2007, supersedes BS 3882:1994 and is the third edition of the Specifications for Topsoil.

Released in November 2007, it specifies requirements for topsoils that are moved or traded. This standard is not intended (or appropriate) for the grading, classification or standardisation of topsoil or subsoil that remains in situ.

BS 3882:2007 describes the performance requirements for Multipurpose Topsoil and Specific Purpose Topsoil.

Multipurpose Topsoil

Mulitpurpose Topsoil  is fit for the majority of needs. It is described as that which includes natural top-soil or manufactured topsoil. When handled and managed appropriately and placed over a permeable subsoil it is capable of supporting grass, trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants. This grade should be suitable for most planting situations.

Specific Purpose Topsoil

Specific Purpose Topsoil  includes natural or manufactured top soil with characteristics appropriate for specialist planting situations. These are split into the following groups:

  • Acidic

  • Calcareous

  • Low fertility

  • Low fertility acidic

  • Low fertility calcareous

BS 3882 also gives guidance on sourcing, handling, storing, sampling and analysis. Furthermore, it outlines the requirements that are necessary to ensure compliance with the specifications within the standard.

When specifying multipurpose or specialist purpose topsoil, suppliers, specifiers and users should take into account how the topsoil will be used at the site.

The aim of all this is to ensure that the particular topsoil properties are fit for the intended planting.