BS3882:2007 British Standard Topsoil Explained

The current 2007 version of the British Standard has 2 different grades/specifications -  Multi purpose Topsoil and Specific Purpose Topsoil.  As the name implies, multipurpose topsoil is fit for the majority of needs. The standard includes specific purpose topsoils that have low fertility or are acidic or calcareous for the particular specialist needs where such topsoils are required. When specifying multipurpose or specific purpose topsoil, suppliers, specifiers and users of topsoil should take into account the intended use of the site at which the topsoil is to be deployed so that the particular properties are fit for the intended planting.


Multipurpose topsoil

Multipurpose topsoil includes natural topsoil or manufactured topsoil. If correctly handled, placed over a non-compact subsoil and managed appropriately (including attention to drainage), it is capable of sustainably supporting grass, trees, shrubs, herbaceous plants and other plantings. This is the grade suited to most situations where topsoil is required.


Specific purpose Topsoil

Specific purpose topsoil comprises topsoils with characteristics appropriate for specialist applications, e.g. supporting the growth of certain plants or plant communities. Specific purpose topsoil can be specified by one or more of the following qualifiers.

1) Acidic

2) Calcareous

3) Low fertility

4) Low fertility acidic

5) Low fertility calcareous

 These topsoils are not appropriate for general landscaping projects.

BS3882:1994 VERSION

The now obsolete 1994 version of British Standard Topsoil had three grades/specifications, Premium Grade, General Purpose Grade and Economy Grade. One of the main problems of this system was that many specifiers/users of topsoil simply opted for Premium Grade without a clear understanding of its proposed end-use. In many instances, Premium Grade was specified where General Purpose Grade would have been perfectly satisfactory. The 2007 version has effectively combined these 2 former grades into Multipurpose Grade.

However, some of the tolerances for certain parameters (eg. clay content) were not appropriate in the 1994 version, so the permissible ranges were revised. Overall the 2007 version is much more functional and fitting for today’s landscape industry.

Declaration of Analysis

In order to be compliant with BS3882:2007, topsoil suppliers must get a sample tested for every 5000m3 of soil used/sold. The sample is is sent to a lab where once all tests have been completed, a Declaration of Analysis will be created. This will include:

  • Location of topsoil source, and previous and current land use for Natural Soils only
  • Date of Sampling and Analysis
  • Test results including Contamination Parameters
  • Written confirmation of compliance with the relevant Topsoil Grade in BS3882:2007

This analysis sheet is available on requested from ourselves for our British Standard Grade of Topsoil (Superfine Topsoil)

If you require further information on BS3882:2007 topsoil, you can contact the BSI or please visit their website -