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In highway engineering, subbase is the layer of aggregate material laid on the subgrade, on which the base course layer is located. It may be omitted when there will be only foot traffic on the pavement, but it is necessary for surfaces used by vehicles.
Subbase is often the main load-bearing layer of the pavement. Its role is to spread the load evenly over the subgrade. The materials used may be either unbound granular, or cement-bound. The quality of subbase is very important for the useful life of the road.
Cement-bound materials come in multiple types. Mass concrete is used where exceptional loads are expected, with thickness usually 100-150 mm, and optional reinforcement with steel mesh or polymer fibers. Other cement bound materials (CBM), with less strength but also lower cost, are used. They are rated by strength, from the weakest CBM 1 (also formerly known as soil cement) through CBM 2 to CBM 3, 4, and 5, which are more similar to concrete and are called "lean mix".
The thickness of subbase can range from 75-100 mm for garden paths through 100-150 mm for driveways and public footpaths, to 150-225 mm for heavy used roads, and more for highways.
Low quality subbase material should not be accepted, including large pieces of rock and concrete.
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